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Show Notes

Are you ready to unlock the secrets of self-aware leadership and truly understand how to harness your strengths as a leader? In this enlightening episode, join host David Hall as he sits down with Dr. Nia Thomas, an expert in self-aware leadership and the director of a children’s charity. Listen in as they explore the crucial role of self-awareness in effective leadership, how to create inclusive environments and the importance of continuous self-improvement.

Key takeaways include how to develop self-awareness, understanding the nine critical behaviors of self-aware leadership, tips for facilitating meaningful feedback, and feed-forward within your organization.

Whether you’re looking to make your voice heard or a leader striving for a more inclusive and effective workplace, this episode is packed with valuable insights and practical advice. Tune in to discover how self-awareness can profoundly impact your professional and personal growth.

Think strong, lead strong, and be strong.

Self-Awareness, Leadership and Embracing Introvert Strengths with Dr. Nia Thomas

Today, I’m thrilled to bring you insights from our latest episode featuring Dr. Nia Thomas. Nia is an expert in self-aware leadership and the director of a children’s charity. During our conversation, we traversed through a multitude of topics essential for introverts and leaders alike. Let’s dive into the key highlights from our enlightening discussion.

Creating a Space for Introverts to Shine

One of the key insights Nia shared is the significance of creating an inclusive space where introverts can contribute effectively. Introverts often harbor profound wisdom and insights, but their tendency to think deeply before speaking might sometimes overshadow their contributions in fast-paced environments.

Diverse Contribution Mediums

To ensure everyone has a voice, leaders should provide diverse mediums for contribution. Options like Teams chat, email, or even speaking to a trusted intermediary can make a world of difference. By accommodating various preferences, leaders can unlock the valuable ideas that introverts often possess but might be hesitant to share out loud spontaneously.

Time to Reflect

Nia and I also discussed the natural tendency of introverts to think before they speak, as opposed to extroverts who might engage in a “talk, think, talk” pattern. Understanding this fundamental difference can profoundly improve workplace communication. Encouraging a culture where there’s time to reflect both before and after meetings can help capture the vital contributions of introverts who may need a bit more time.

The Power of Self-Aware Leadership

Self-awareness is the cornerstone of both personal and professional growth. Nia emphasizes that self-awareness is socially constructed; it involves understanding oneself and how others perceive you. This balanced perception is crucial in leadership roles.

The Role of Self-Assessments

Nia provides a free quiz on her website for self-awareness in leadership. Similarly, here on the Quiet and Strong website we offer a type finder personality assessment to help individuals gain deeper self-knowledge of their personality. While these tools are beneficial, Nia advises taking them with a grain of salt. They should spur self-reflection and provide insights rather than being viewed as definitive labels.

Meditation and Mindfulness

For those new to self-awareness practices, Nia recommends meditation, specifically mindfulness. This can be a powerful entry point for developing a deeper sense of self and understanding your interactions with others.

Knowing Self, Knowing Others

Understanding and respecting individual differences is essential for effective leadership. Nia’s podcast, “Knowing Self, Knowing Others,” tackles self-aware leadership and how it affects our relationships at work and beyond.

Strategic Disconnect and Feedback Filters

We touched on the perennial challenge of strategic disconnect in the workplace, where upper management is often removed from the daily realities of their teams. Furthermore, filtered feedback can skew an organization’s understanding of what’s happening on the ground. Cultivating an environment where open and honest feedback is encouraged is paramount for effective leadership.

360-Degree Feedback and Feed Forward

Nia introduced the idea of 360-degree feedback as a method to combat filtered feedback. This feedback system captures a full circle of perspectives within an organization, providing a more comprehensive view.

Facilitating Anonymity and Trust

To make 360-degree feedback effective, it’s vital to facilitate it in a manner that ensures anonymity and builds trust. Nia highlights the importance of using a facilitator to maintain these principles, fostering an environment where employees feel safe to provide genuine feedback.

The feedback that I have is that often introverts are the ones with the gem of wisdom. But as leaders, you have to create that space where you can hear introverts.”— Nia Thomas

Quiet and Strong Podcast – Ep 178

The Concept of “Feed Forward”

Interestingly, Nia suggests a slight shift from feedback to “feed forward,” focusing on constructive future actions rather than past performances. This positive approach encourages continuous improvement and aligns well with the spirit of proactive leadership.

Nia Thomas’s Self-Aware Leadership Framework

Nia’s book, “The Self-Awareness Superhighway: Charting Your Leadership Journey,” delineates nine essential behaviors for self-aware leadership: care, humility, authenticity, listening, behavior, trust, integrity, operating to moral compass, and doing what is promised.

These behaviors are essential for leaders to understand and practice in order to become more self-aware and effective in their roles:

  1. Care: Exhibiting genuine concern and care for others.
  2. Humility: Maintaining a humble approach and avoiding arrogance.
  3. Authenticity: Being true to oneself and genuine in interactions.
  4. Listening: Actively listening to others and valuing their input.
  5. Behavior: Monitoring and regulating one’s behavior to align with their values.
  6. Trust: Building and maintaining trust with others.
  7. Integrity: Acting with honesty and strong moral principles.
  8. Operating to Moral Compass: Making decisions guided by a strong sense of ethics.
  9. Doing What is Promised: Following through on commitments and promises.

This framework helps leaders develop self-awareness by understanding and practicing these behaviors consistently. It emphasizes that self-aware leadership is a continuous journey rather than a definitive destination.

Trust and Its Varied Meanings

An essential aspect of Nia’s framework is understanding that trust manifests differently across individuals and organizations. Effective leadership involves recognizing and actively embodying these key behaviors, which necessitates ongoing feedback and self-reflection.

Personalized Self-Aware Leadership

Understanding and recognizing others is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It requires effort, especially in stressful situations, and constant practice of observation. Leaders must navigate the nuances in how different people express appreciation and acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses.

Key Takeaways

  • Introverts have valuable insights, and leaders must create spaces for them to be heard using various mediums.
  • Understanding different communication styles (introverts vs. extroverts) can improve workplace interactions.
  • Self-awareness is crucial for effective leadership; it involves reflection, recognition of impact, and behavioral regulation.
  • Nia Thomas offers assessments and tools for self-awareness and leadership development, emphasizing ongoing self-improvement.
  • Nia’s “The Self-Awareness Superhighway” outlines 9 key behaviors for self-aware leadership: care, humility, authenticity, listening, behavior, trust, integrity, moral compass, and doing what is promised.
  • Constructive feedback and feed-forward mechanisms are essential in fostering an environment of continuous growth and effective leadership.

Make Changes Now

Here are a few actionable steps you can take immediately after listening to this episode of “The Quiet and Strong Podcast”:

  1. Take a Self-Assessment:
  1. Implement Various Mediums for Input:
  • If you’re in a leadership role, begin providing different communication mediums for your team to provide their input. This can include options like Teams chat, email, or a suggestion box. This helps ensure that all types of communicators, especially introverts, have a comfortable way to contribute.
  1. Schedule Reflective Time:
  • Allocate specific times in your calendar for reflection before and after meetings. This allows you to process information thoroughly and make more meaningful contributions. Encourage your team to do the same, thereby fostering a culture of thoughtful dialogue.
  1. Practice Mindfulness Meditation:
  • Start incorporating mindfulness meditation into your daily routine to enhance your self-awareness. Nia Thomas highlighted meditation, especially mindfulness, as a beneficial practice for self-reflection and emotional regulation.
  1. Engage in 360-Degree Feedback:
  • Implement or participate in 360-degree feedback within your organization. If possible, involve a facilitator to ensure anonymity and trust. Use the feedback constructively to form action plans and encourage continuous improvement in leadership practices.

Taking these immediate actions can help apply the insights from this episode, fostering an inclusive and self-aware environment both personally and professionally.

Self-Awareness: A Continuous Journey of Self-Improvement

Both Nia and I agree that self-improvement is a continuous journey. Sharing wisdom or lessons doesn’t necessitate perfection. Perhaps one of the most profound takeaways from our conversation is the realization that being an effective leader involves recognizing your ongoing evolution and being open to feedback at every stage.

Thank you for tuning into The Quiet And Strong Podcast, where we aim to embrace and uplift the strengths of introverts. Until next time, keep reflecting, growing, and leading with self-awareness.

For more insights, be sure to check out Nia Thomas’s podcast, “Knowing Self, Knowing Others,” and explore the self-assessment tools here on my website, Quiet and Strong. Remember, our silence speaks volumes, but we also have valuable insights to share. Know yourself, and be strong!

Contacts and Links

Dr. Nia Thomas is an expert leader who talks the talk and walks the walk.

She is an academically awarded thought leader in self-aware leadership and practices self-aware leadership every single day in her role as a Director in a Children’s Charity.

Nia is a frequent blog writer, a passionate podcast host of The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast and the author of THE SELF-AWARENESS SUPERHIGHWAY book.

Connect with NiaLinkedIn | YouTube | Instagram | Facebook | Threads | X (Twitter)

Take Nia’s Self-Awareness Compass Quiz

Contact the Host of the Quiet and Strong Podcast:

David Hall

Author, Speaker, Educator, Podcaster
david [at]

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Timestamped Overview

00:00 Desire for impactful doctorate study led to self-aware leadership from negative work experience.
05:06 Interested in introversion, extroversion, and ambiversion. Always felt like an introvert, enjoying quiet spaces and needing alone time. No light bulb moment, no struggle with behavior.
07:52 Prefers thoughtful contribution over speaking for the sake of it.
12:58 Self-awareness can be developed through meditation and mindfulness. Breathing impacts physiology and behavior.
16:46 Self assessments are valuable for personal growth, choose carefully and understand they are a lifelong journey.
20:20 Author’s journey from academic to business book, leading to creating a self-aware leadership podcast.
24:09 Top-level disconnect and filtered feedback hinder honest communication in organizations. Leaders must create a safe environment for open and honest feedback to be effective.
28:09 Ways to implement 360 feedback effectively, emphasizing anonymity and ethical considerations.
29:40 Seek feedback selectively from trusted colleagues and mentors to ensure constructive input in a safe environment.
35:14 A journey towards 9 charactable behaviors for self-aware leadership.
37:21 Effective leadership involves self-awareness, reflection, improvement, and feedback from others.
42:05 Understanding individual preferences and strengths is crucial in leadership for effective teamwork.
44:31 Create space for introverts in leadership. Consider their natural reflection. Provide various mediums for feedback and communication.
49:10 Free self-awareness quiz on website for individuals and comparison with others’ scores.
51:05 Thank you for joining me. Visit Quiet and Strong website for personality assessment.

Podcast Transcript

Nia Thomas [00:00:00]:
My idea of self awareness is that it is socially constructed, which means that it’s not something you can do on your own. And if you’re thinking about self reflection, that is purely for me introspection. If we really want to talk about self awareness, we unless you are somebody who lives on their own or you’re a hermit and and you choose to live that way, your life is socially constructed. You’re always in relationship with other people. And, for me, if you want to be fully self aware, you have to understand how you view yourself and, also, how others view you

David Hall [00:00:48]:
Hello, and welcome to episode 178 of the Quiet and Strong podcast, especially for introverts. I’m your host, David Hall, and the creator of This is a weekly podcast dedicated to understanding the strengths and needs of introverts. Introversion is not something to fix, but to be embraced. Normally, we will air each episode on a Monday. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite platform. Leave a review. That would mean a lot to me.

David Hall [00:01:14]:
It will also help others find the show. Tell a friend about the podcast and help get the word out there that introversion is a beautiful thing. Doctor Nia Thomas is an expert leader who talks the talk and walks the walk. She’s an academically awarded thought leader and practices self aware leadership every single day in her role as a director in a children’s charity. Nia is a frequent blog writer, a passionate podcast host of the knowing self, Knowing Others podcast, and is the author of the self awareness superhighway book. Alright. Well, Nia, welcome to the Quiet and Strong podcast. It’s so great to have you on.

Nia Thomas [00:01:52]:
Thank you so much. It’s lovely to be with you.

David Hall [00:01:54]:
Alright. So we’re gonna get into the work that you do, your podcast and your new book. And before we do that, though, let’s just talk a little bit about you and your journey to doing the work that you do now.

Nia Thomas [00:02:06]:
Well, it’s been an interesting journey, and I’m often asked about the podcast and the book. But, actually, I I describe what I do as having very two very clear elements. So my day job, what I do as part as my career, is that I’m a director of a children’s charity, and I’ve got about 23 years experience in the public sector in England and Wales. So that’s in the health care sector and local government. And I I was always very interested in behaviors between individuals and relationships. And some people get on really well and some people really don’t in organizations. And I got quite curious about this. And I decided in 20 16 that I was going to go back to university and do my doctorate.

Nia Thomas [00:02:56]:
So, I’ve done my undergrad and my masters, so I wanted to do my doctorate, always wanted to do it. And I was trying to work out what topic I was going to choose because I always always said it has to be a topic that can keep me interested after 5 years. Because if you’re doing a part time doctorate, you have to be prepared for 5 years, 6 years’ worth of study. So I started studying what I called self awareness and it slowly morphed into being self aware leadership because what I was discovering was this link back to particular instances in my working career that those were the elements that I was very interested in. So what are those elements? I had a really bad experience of working in an organisation where I had a few different layers of manager, all within a line, if you like. So, if you think about the line management structure, it was my manager, their manager, and their manager. And they were unaccommodating, unsupportive. They would I think probably these days, we would probably call them some bullying characteristics, And that experience really stuck with me.

Nia Thomas [00:04:09]:
Then I went to work in a different organisation, and I saw people leading without leadership within their job title. So they didn’t line manage anybody, but yet they could really represent people. So I kept coming back to these 2 different instances and trying to work out what are the similarities between these two. And the question kept coming up, do these people know the impact that they have on others? And that, for me, took me into being interested into self awareness and, of course, leadership within self awareness. So, I guess that’s a very long way of telling you a little bit about what I do. So, what I do is I’m a director of a children’s charity. How I do it is self aware leadership.

David Hall [00:04:55]:
Yeah. We’re definitely gonna talk a lot more about that. Also, you’re a fellow introvert, and so I am. When did you discover that you were introverted? Did you need to come to embrace it?

Nia Thomas [00:05:06]:
Oh, I’ve been thinking about this because I I’m I’m very interested in in introversion and extroversion and ambiversion and and all the other different different modalities and I can’t really remember a point where I don’t didn’t think that I was an introvert I don’t know if there was ever a point in time where I said, ah, I am an introvert and this is the word. But I’ve always known that I liked quiet spaces that I was okay on my own. I’m an only child, no siblings, and therefore playing on my own as a child was was something normal something I I did and I think as I got older I Realized that it wasn’t just something that I did but it was something that I needed and I really needed that quiet space So happy going to a disco, but then at about an hour and a half into the disco I always thought yeah, I’m done now. I’m happy I’ve had my had my social fill and I’m ready to go home now And I think that I’ve sort of carried that with me At what point I knew that that was introversion. I don’t know, but it’s never something that I’ve felt like I’ve had a light bulb moment or that I’ve struggled with it or that others others struggled with my behavior, and I felt that I that I had to explain that to them.

David Hall [00:06:29]:
Yeah. And that’s great because I I often say this because many people, myself included, come on the show and say that they did struggle. And I always have to just kinda say to people, there are some introverts that had to learn to embrace their introversion, and there’s others that didn’t, that they didn’t struggle. They were always confident in who they were, and so that’s great to hear because I I don’t wanna put that message out there that all introverts struggle because that’s not my point. It’s just those that are struggling, you can definitely learn to embrace who you are. But if you have always been that way, that’s that’s amazing. That’s great.

Nia Thomas [00:07:08]:
Yeah. Definitely. And I hear people talking about how how being an introvert has been a challenge for them and how the people around them have not been tolerant or open to the way that they they think they work. They need space. And I and I think that’s an incredible shame for those individuals who are not tolerant because I think introverts have so much to offer and so much to say even if we say it in a very quiet way.

David Hall [00:07:40]:
Yeah. Yeah. So that is great. And, again but there are still plenty that are struggling, and that’s a lot work that I’m doing. So is there a a strength you have that you know it’s because you’re an introvert?

Nia Thomas [00:07:52]:
Well, for me, I I’m very conscious that when I’m in large groups of people that I only speak when I feel I’ve got something to contribute. And and I think for me, I think that that’s a strength. So, my my colleagues and people who know me will know that I use the phrase empty vessels make most noise. And I don’t want to be an empty vessel. I want to be somebody who contributes something meaningful, something helpful, something innovative, something creative. So even though there are people around me who have in the past said oh, I wish you talk more in meetings or you know, why didn’t you say that? Well, it would have been because I was still percolating on that, and I didn’t feel that my contribution at that time was the most useful it could be. So, others may see that as a weakness, but I see that as a real strength because it it’s reflected contribution and and it’s thought through contribution. So so I I think that that is a superpower.

David Hall [00:08:55]:
Yeah. Yeah. So that’s kind of the name where the name of the podcast came from, Quiet and Strong, is because we are thinking. We’re not talking just to talk or talking we’re not even talking just to think. We are thinking about things, putting all our ideas together and sharing what’s most important. And then often, it’s like, that’s misunderstood because we’re not talking all the time. We’re thinking and sharing. You know, we’re we’re we’re getting that gem, you know, that that we think that everybody needs to hear.

David Hall [00:09:28]:
So that’s often misunderstood.

Nia Thomas [00:09:30]:
Definitely. And something that I I have grown to understand about my introversion is that I can often write far quicker than I can speak, so I’m the least funny person I know, but when I write, I can write things that are very humorous, And, and I, and I sometimes don’t recognize myself. I, I read what I’ve written and thought, that’s really funny. Who on earth wrote that? Because that’s not something that I would be able to say because my brain seems to work quicker when I’m writing things down than when I’m speaking, and and that’s fascinating.

David Hall [00:10:07]:
Yeah. Often introverts do better in writing. That’s that’s for sure. So that’s great. So, let’s get into the work that you’re doing. What is self awareness? How do you define that?

Nia Thomas [00:10:19]:
Well, for me, self awareness has got 3 layers. So when we’re talking about the academic definition of self awareness, the for me, there’s no right or wrong definition. And I and I like to ask other people this question to see what other people think self awareness is. For me, because I’ve done the academic research, I have an academic definition. So, my definition of self awareness has got 3 layers. The first is reflection of your hard and relational skills, and I’m very conscious about using the word relational as opposed to soft skills because I don’t think soft skills are very soft at all. I think they’re the most difficult ones to acquire and master. So it’s reflection of your hard and relational skills, recognition of your impact, and regulation of your behaviour.

Nia Thomas [00:11:08]:
My idea of self awareness is that it is socially constructed, which means that it’s not something you can do on your own. And, if you’re thinking about self reflection, that is purely for me introspection. If we really want to talk about self awareness, we unless you are somebody who lives on their own or you’re a hermit and and you choose to live that way, your life is socially constructed. So you’re always in relationship with other people And for me if you want to be fully self aware, you have to understand how you view yourself and also how others view you. So I often talk to people about the self other rating studies. So as part of my doctorate, one the first things I did was a literature review. That’s what you do as as part of your doctorate. You you understand what other research has been done and what other findings are already out there.

Nia Thomas [00:12:04]:
And you pull those pieces of information together. And the self other rating studies are the the really the seminal work around self awareness that talks about what it is what studies have been conducted to identify what self awareness is, to understand these characteristics. So those self other rating studies really helped me formulate that definition of you have to have a self view and you have to have an others view to be able to have a real 360 degree picture of yourself. So self awareness is not something that you can do in isolation. So that’s my definition.

David Hall [00:12:46]:
Yeah. So a lot of times, I think it is thought of that you are doing something in isolation. And so, yeah, that that’s great. So how how do we become more self aware?

Nia Thomas [00:12:58]:
There are lots of different ways that we can develop our self awareness. And I started talking a lot to to people about my definition, and they would always ask, how can we become self aware what tools so I started to to record over the last 2 or 3 years different methods that people are using to develop their self awareness. And I always start with meditation. And I know lots of people still think meditation meditation is a little bit woo woo, a little bit fluffy. But actually, if you’re new to self awareness and it’s not a practice that you’re used to, if you’re not used to reflective practice that, it maybe you’re not a healthcare practitioner who does reflective practice as part of their work. Start with mindfulness and meditation. And I think when you’re in an industry or an organisation where you have busy times and crisis and stress is a big factor, I think going back to mindfulness and meditation is a really good place to start because our breathing and our heart rate has such an impact on our physiology and our physiology has an impact on how we behave and our behaviour has an impact on our relationships. So, start with working out how you breathe.

Nia Thomas [00:14:11]:
And if you know when you’re becoming more stressed in a particular situation and your breathing gets faster, or maybe your talking gets faster, why not use that meditation? Those very simple skills to take 5 minutes to understand what’s happening inside so that you can help regulate what’s happening outside. So mindfulness meditation.

David Hall [00:14:34]:
So how do you how do you practice that? How do you practice meditation? What’s the process for you?

Nia Thomas [00:14:40]:
For me, I like to meditate in the moment. So I often talk about that those few seconds between a stimulus and a response that allows you to go from reacting to responding. And I’ve learned, I think probably because I’m an introvert, that, actually, I do need that little bit of time to be able to respond before reacting. So for me, there is there is something about reflection in the moment, in that 5 minute period or that hour and a half where you’re in that meeting, and something’s not going well. I’m having to think on my feet. So, I like to to do that in the moment because I think it helps to keep the heart rate down, it helps to manage the stress I also like meditating as a way of going to sleep. So, what listeners may not know is that I’m also a qualified reflexologist and it was something that that I trained in after becoming unwell myself. And that what I learned through reflexology was that the importance of sleep and well-being and health.

Nia Thomas [00:15:56]:
So I purposely use meditation as a way of ensuring that I get good sleep. And when I wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning or 4 o’clock in the morning, what reflexology taught me is that I have a choice to sleep, and that’s when I use my meditation to make sure that I get that real downtime. So my 8 hours sleep downtime is really important to me, to make sure that I’m rested, I am as little stressed as possible when I get up. So that’s when I like to use those effective practices is in the moment and around sleep.

David Hall [00:16:32]:
Yeah. Okay. And then in your book, you also talk a lot about tools and different assessments. I I know you mentioned many. Tell us a little bit about that. How can we use tools and assessments to become self aware?

Nia Thomas [00:16:46]:
Well, if you’re like me, I love doing these self assessments because there’s always a little bit something new that you learn about yourself. So I highly recommend the the tests, tools, and techniques that are out there. What you have to be discerning about is is which one you want to choose and be clear about whether that it’s an academically tested, whether it’s a rigorous tool, or whether it’s something that somebody has developed for a magazine because they will have different utility. But what I generally suggest is that people take from the assessment results what’s helpful and to accept that when you do an assessment today, in 12 months’ time, you might be a very different person. So one of the reasons that my book is called The Self Awareness Superhighway is because my view of self awareness is that it’s an ongoing journey for life. And if you take an assessment today, you will journey through life, and you will come against roadblocks and trip hazards and and all sorts of things. So you have may have birth deaths, marriages. You work with somebody different.

Nia Thomas [00:17:51]:
You work with somebody that you get on really well with. You work with somebody that you really don’t get on well with. And that changes how you behave. It changes how you see the world. So do yourself an assessment. Take from it what you find useful. Do that assessment again, and do a few different assessments. So I know because I’ve got an interest in them, I’ve done lots of different assessments, and I find that they often reinforce what another assessment has said, but because they have got particular nuances or particular areas of interest, like the one I talk about in my book is is there’s a listening, specifically an assessment that focuses on what kind of listener you are.

Nia Thomas [00:18:33]:
And that for me told me a lot of things that I already knew, reinforced some messages that that other assessments had told me, but it told me something different as well. So for me, it’s about don’t take them too seriously because I think we can get caught up in ruminating on our behaviour. Take from the assessment, take the learning, and what is constructive for you, put it into your professional action plan, and take it forward. So to make sure that you’re constantly moving on that journey of self awareness and accepting that you know, something else comes around the corner, and I’m a different person in 5 years’ time to who I am now. So do that assessment again.

David Hall [00:19:15]:
Yeah. And, I mean, they’re tools. You know? Yeah. So many people struggle with, like, alright. What what does this mean I am? You know? But it’s just it’s a way of thinking about okay. Yeah. Like you said, a lot of times it’s confirming. Like, oh, yes.

David Hall [00:19:30]:
That is a strength of mine, that kind of thing.

Nia Thomas [00:19:34]:
Yeah. I just don’t think there is such a thing as a definitive tool. There is a tool that is right for you at this point in time. I remember my husband did, one of these magazine based assessments when we were on an aircraft, so 30,000 feet looking at a magazine, and it was talking about his learning style, and he learnt something. And since then, he has gone on to explore more, but actually I think he should have taken that assessment to the point of being completely serious and defining who he was, his professional trajectory could have been very different. So use them to your benefit.

David Hall [00:20:12]:
Yeah. Absolutely. So long before the book is you have a podcast, Knowing Self, Knowing Others.

Nia Thomas [00:20:19]:

David Hall [00:20:19]:
us about that.

Nia Thomas [00:20:20]:
Well, when I’d finished my doctorate, well, I should go back to say when I started my doctorate, I always knew that I wanted to write a book. I wanted to have something meaningful, something useful to the people in the world of work. When I finished my doctorate, I wasn’t sure how to take my thesis from being an academic piece to a business book that you could use in the office and for a little while I continued to puzzle about how I’m how am I going to do this And I realized that unless I did something about self aware leadership, the topic, the theme, the conversation would sit on a sit on a bookshelf and just galligast. So I thought, there’s the new medium, there’s a very live medium, why not bring self aware leadership to a podcast so that I can have that conversation with people? And for me, it’s about raising awareness of awareness. And what better way to do it than by having conversations about it and giving other people the opportunity to listen to it. So really that was the purpose of the podcast. It for me, it was it started as a stopgap between, I don’t know how to translate my thesis into a business book, and, actually, it keeps the theme alive and it raises awareness of awareness. So the podcast is indeed about self aware leadership.

Nia Thomas [00:21:38]:
The 1st year was very focused on 4 research questions. So they were adaptations from my my my doctoral research. And then in the 2nd year, I I started asking my guests more general questions, but always coming back to the theme of self awareness. How does self awareness fit either in in the work that they do or the leadership journey that they’ve been on. So it always brings it back. My podcast is an interview series. So everyone is a conversation with somebody. So whether they are leaders who are talking the talk and walking the walk or whether they are leaders or supporters to leaders.

Nia Thomas [00:22:17]:
So it might be an executive coach. But we’re always having this conversation about observing the world of work and where self awareness fits in that.

David Hall [00:22:25]:
Yeah. In a nutshell, like, what were you seeing? And I think maybe you shared some of this already, but what were you seeing was wrong with the world of work?

Nia Thomas [00:22:35]:
There were a few different elements that came through in my research, and 2 of them specifically, if we’re if we’re thinking about what was wrong with the world of work. So strategic level disconnect was something that came through quite clearly, and that’s the name I I I give it. But what it means in practice is that leaders in organisations or people at the strategic top of organisations, which we often think of as leaders, but maybe they’re not, are the ones that are making decisions about what happens at the operational end of organisations. And what people were telling me was that decisions are made so far from the front line of organisations that operationalization of those decisions is just unfeasible or it’s unworkable or it’s unpracticable. And that strategic level disconnect was something that a lot of different people talked to me about. But they also talked to me about a mitigator. So inclusive decision making was seen as a real mitigator to that strategic level disconnect. And I think as we move into the knowledge paradigm away from the industrial paradigm, I think this knowledge age, our expectations as employees is that we have purpose, we have value, we are engaged, and that inclusive decision making really fits with our move towards greater engagement of our of our people and our need as employees to be engaged.

Nia Thomas [00:24:09]:
So just strategic level disconnect. Filtered feedback is another challenge. What we see is that as individuals move up to the top of organisations, the power differential becomes very, very clear and nobody wants to tell the people at the top that, actually, maybe the way you operated in that meeting excluded people, or it made that person who was sitting at the end of the table feel disrespected. Nobody wants to have that conversation because, ultimately, that person at the very top of the organisation is the one that signs the paycheck. And we are concerned about, do I have a job, is it career limiting if I say this? So, filtered feedback is a challenge because we all want to make sure that we keep the boss happy. So if you are a leader who really values self awareness and wants to become a greater leader or a more effective leader, You have to create that environment where feedback is open, it’s honest, it’s welcomed, and it’s acted on and I think another thing that we see is that when leaders do ask for feedback but they don’t really want to hear it, that creates psychological toxicity, which is what I refer to in my book, which is the exact opposite of psychological safety So filtered feedback is a challenge. And if you want to be an effective self aware leader, you’ve really got to cultivate that environment to make it safe enough for people to be able to say what they need to say and to feedback to you Now that’s not to say that I’m good at this. So I think there’s a a fallacy that when I talk about self aware leadership or or self awareness that people think I’m really good at it.

Nia Thomas [00:26:02]:
I know that I have lots of blind spots and I have areas for development. And I think that’s true for all of us. We all have parts of ourselves that that we can’t see which is why it’s so important that we have that feedback from others and that we do think of self awareness as those 3 layers and recognition of your impact is very important, both from your perspective and somebody else’s perspective.

David Hall [00:26:27]:
Yeah. Well, I’m glad you said that. We’re all a work in progress. Right?

Nia Thomas [00:26:31]:
Absolutely. We’re on a self awareness superhighway.

David Hall [00:26:34]:
If you waited to share all your great wisdom until you were perfect, you’d never share it. Right?

Nia Thomas [00:26:40]:
Absolutely. Most definitely.

David Hall [00:26:42]:
Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit more about feedback. Yeah. Often, it’s probably like, do the people at the top really wanna hear your feedback? You know?

Nia Thomas [00:26:50]:
Yeah. Definitely. And one way that you can combat that with a very well respected tool is a 360 degree feedback. Because if it’s done well, you will ensure that there is an anonymity within your team. So it breaks down those barriers of of filtered feedback. And it also demonstrates that, as an organisation, that you really want feedback. But when you do a 360, I think you have to be very clear in evidencing that you said we did. And I think that 360 isn’t just about one way traffic.

Nia Thomas [00:27:24]:
So, if you are an organisation or a leader that is looking to put 360 degree assessments in place for your leaders or everybody in your organisation. Make sure that there is also clarity about what you did with that feedback. Of course, there may be 20 pieces of feedback that you get as part of your 360 and some of it won’t be helpful or useful to you. But I think with a manager, with a leader, with a mentor, a coach, you can determine which pieces of the of that 360 feedback is helpful to you so that you can action plan and take it forward.

David Hall [00:28:01]:
Yeah. So talk just a little bit about that. I know you discussed in your book. So is it someone facilitating the 3 60 feedback? How does that work?

Nia Thomas [00:28:09]:
Different ways to do 3 60 feedbacks. So I have a quiz that provides anonymity through aggregating other people’s feedback, But there certainly one effective way to implement a 360 feedback is via a facilitator. So the best best ones that I’ve seen implemented is when you do have the assessment is carried out by your 5 or 6 6 direct reports, or your line managers, or your peers. And that all of that feedback is fed back through a facilitator, so that they can synthesise that information, so that they can draw together themes. Because I think it’s really important if you say that a 360 is anonymous, that you are absolutely clear that it is anonymous because I think then you start breaking down that those elements of trust. And I have certainly heard feedback from people who have done a 360 and somehow the person or the subject about which the 360 was done discovered who had completed the the responses And they targeted that individual and used it as part of performance monitoring that individual, which is totally inappropriate. So if you’re gonna do a 360, do it do it with an ethical perspective and make sure that you are maintaining your integrity as you’re doing that.

David Hall [00:29:37]:
Yeah. And who should we get feedback from?

Nia Thomas [00:29:40]:
Be discerning in who who you ask for feedback from Because as I said, you you there is potential that you will have people who just say yes to everything because they they aren’t quite sure whether you’re gonna limit their career if they tell you the truth. You’re gonna have people who want to blow out your candle in in the fallacy that they think it’ll make theirs shine brighter. So you will have those people who just want to keep you keep you down or not to support you to move forward. But if you really want feedback, you have to have those trusted colleagues who you know are gonna give you the honest answer, colleagues who you know are gonna give you the honest answer and give you that answer because they think it’s constructive for you to hear it. So, that might be a peer, that might be your line manager, that might be an external mentor who can give you that feedback. But, I think you have to choose very wisely because I think if we all listened to the feedback that we receive all day every day, I think it could really limit us. And I think it it could make us anxious, and it could really mean mean that we become unwell because we we ruminate on on our feedback. So make sure that you you ask for feedback from trusted colleagues, trusted individuals and you open up that environment so that it’s a safe space for people to give you that feedback.

David Hall [00:30:59]:
Okay. Because because not all feedback is gonna be good because there could be people like you said that wanna pull out your candle or who are really trying to tear you down.

Nia Thomas [00:31:10]:
Yeah. Absolutely.

David Hall [00:31:11]:
You wanna all feedback is not is not gonna be helpful.

Nia Thomas [00:31:15]:
Yeah. Most definitely. And I often hear on social media the memes that say, you shouldn’t care what anybody thinks. I don’t think that’s helpful either because as I said earlier, my view is that our our world is socially constructed. Whether you are talking about leadership or self awareness, it’s socially constructed. We construct it when we are in relationship with other people. So to say, I don’t care what anybody else thinks, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice, but what I I think people need to consider is hear what the right people think, the people that can support you, the people that can help you, the people that can impact and influence your career journey or your life choices So take heed of what they’re saying and as we say the haters are gonna hate So

David Hall [00:32:05]:

Nia Thomas [00:32:06]:
Discard what they have to say and take the gems of wisdom from other people, even when they’re sometimes difficult to hear, But use those constructively and take that as a positive way of moving your life forward.

David Hall [00:32:19]:
Yeah. Yeah. I I remember reading that exact phrase in your book, the haters are gonna hate. And yeah. Yeah. And I I I think that that definitely can be toxic sometimes, and I’ve experienced that myself.

Nia Thomas [00:32:31]:
So Yeah.

David Hall [00:32:32]:
In your book, you talk about a concept called feed forward. Tell us about that.

Nia Thomas [00:32:37]:
I think this is a great idea. And I read it in Tasha Urich’s book, which is called Insight. And I think that she she picked up this methodology from Marshall Goldsmith. And and we all have heard of how how excellent Marshall Goldsmith is. He’s one of the top coaches top executive coaches in, in the planet. Feed forward is about asking the type of questions that are more constructive. So if we think about feedback, it’s always about things that you can’t change. So how do you think I did? Do you think I spoke too long? Do you think I spoke too fast? And the feedback is, well, that was a really bad presentation, or I don’t think you spoke to that individual very respectfully.

Nia Thomas [00:33:26]:
What can you do with that feedback other than ruminate on it, carry it, be awake at 4 o’clock in the morning with it So the questions When we are thinking about feed forward are about what can I do next time? What can I do differently? What would you like me to do more of? So they’re future focused. They’re about what I can do, and I think they are far more constructive than the feedback, which is about things that I really can’t change. So if you have an opportunity and you want to move into more developing yourself or wins as a leader, consider more about consider feedforward rather than feedback.

David Hall [00:34:06]:
Yeah. Absolutely. So we’ve been talking about your book, but I’m not sure we’ve said this full title. So I’m gonna read the full title, the self awareness, superhighway, charting your leadership journey. So what is self aware leadership?

Nia Thomas [00:34:24]:
Self aware leadership is all of those elements that come together. So when I started considering self awareness, I started with an interest in self awareness and leader effectiveness. And over time, they’ve merged together to become self aware leadership. So, I started looking at the definition of self awareness, which was those 3 layers. But if we are looking at leadership, it was about those hard skills and soft skills that come together to create it. And through my research and the podcast conversations that I’ve had with my guests, for me, there are 9 elements or 9 behaviors that create self aware leadership. And I talk about them in terms of being on a self awareness superhighway because we always have to be journeying towards them. And self awareness isn’t a destination.

Nia Thomas [00:35:14]:
It’s a journey. So, I don’t think we ever quite arrive at all of these 9 points, but I think we have to keep journeying towards them. So, the 9 behaviours are c h chartable. And I’m not going to give them all away, but they are care, they are humility, authenticity, listening, behaviour, etc So they are all of those elements that we have to continue to travel towards if we want to become the best self aware leader that we can be. Some of those behaviours are things that we do, And some of those behaviours are things that other people make determinations about. So trust. So trust is one of the the behaviors of of the self awareness compass that I as I refer to it. But we can never determine whether we are trustworthy.

Nia Thomas [00:36:08]:
There are whole myriad of behaviors that we have to demonstrate for others to reach a place where they trust us. So it’s about being consistent. It’s about having integrity. It’s about operating to our moral compass. It’s about doing what we say we’re going to do. Lots of different things. And I think if you go into different organizations and speak to different people, trust might mean different things for them. I think if you’re in a military organization, it’s knowing that somebody is going to be at your back when you are in an emergency situation.

Nia Thomas [00:36:42]:
If you are in, maybe, an academic institution, it’s about knowing that individuals are going to thoroughly research the piece of work. So, I think trust means different things to different people, and it’s not something that we can do. Whereas, if we’re thinking about listening, listening is something that we can definitely do, and we can learn to ask better questions, and we can learn to communicate better. So we have to constantly be on this journey towards these nine directions.

David Hall [00:37:14]:
Yeah. So how do you define effective leadership or leadership effectiveness?

Nia Thomas [00:37:21]:
Leadership effectiveness. I think it’s those 3 layers of self aware leadership, recognising that they exist and being conscious in in reviewing them and moving through those layers. I I think it’s once you start raising awareness of awareness, I think people do stop and reflect on their behaviour a bit more. And and if we do that just by our conversation here today, then we’ve achieved something. And it’s about leaders who are actively moving towards those nine directions, and you have a constant need to improve. So I think if you if you are mindful of and aware that you need to have that feedback from others and that you do need to reflect on your people is what excellent leadership is. I often talk to to people on my podcast, and we talk about good leadership. And the number of guests that have said, to become a great leader, you need to be self aware.

Nia Thomas [00:38:35]:
That is that key ingredient. So to move from good to great, you need to have self awareness.

David Hall [00:38:40]:
Yeah. And self awareness, like you define it, is a little different than a lot of people. You know, it’s not just yourself. It’s Yeah. It’s knowing knowing yourself, knowing others. You know? It’s

Nia Thomas [00:38:52]:
Absolutely. Yeah. Most definitely. And and I think that when you read other definitions of self awareness you people will talk about internal and external. And for me, there’s this connecting part in the middle, which is why I refer to it as reflection, recognition, and regulation. Reflection alone is purely self mastery. I don’t think reflection alone gives us that opportunity to understand relationships. And if we’re a human being, we need relationships.

Nia Thomas [00:39:25]:
And and I think COVID really taught us that whether we are introverts or extroverts, ampulets, we still need relationships. We need that contact with others. And if we are going to be in relation with others, then to think of self awareness as just being what I think about me, I think it is it limits our ability to grow and to develop good relationships.

David Hall [00:39:48]:
Yeah. And, that’s why I started this podcast because during COVID, there was so much misunderstanding. Oh, introverts. They’re just loving this. I’m like, no. Not exactly. There’s a lot of isolated extroverts out there. I definitely knew I was with the people I love, my family, but I was missing other people.

David Hall [00:40:05]:
You know? And I was missing those connections. And and so, yeah, we all need connections. It might look a little different, but, yeah, that’s definitely a myth. We both miss on this show. So it’s just extroverts, we all need connection.

Nia Thomas [00:40:18]:
Yeah. Most definitely. So I think we have to look at self aware at self awareness as what does that connection mean? What what influence do I have in that connection? I think it was one of my podcast guests talked about you have to take a 100% responsibility for your 50% of the relationship. And I think that’s what self awareness is. It’s that responsibility that you are part of a community. You’re part of a society. You’re part of a team, and you’re a part of a relationship.

David Hall [00:40:50]:
Yeah. And so, you know, knowing myself, knowing others, and how I might be perceived, does this also include knowing others? Like, maybe I’m a leader, knowing others on my team and their different strengths and and that kind of thing.

Nia Thomas [00:41:08]:
Definitely. If you want to be a self aware leader, you need to understand what your role is in that relationship. And your relationship with David might be one particular kind, your relationship with Bob might be different, and Sarah might be completely different again. So I think you need to understand who you are when you’re in relationship with with different people because we operate differently. We we we mirror each other. And I think if we’re going to get into rapport with somebody, we need to understand who they are, how they operate. I recently had a conversation with Lisa Nordquist, and she talked about language of appreciation. And you really have to understand other people’s views of appreciation to be able to really give them that feedback and that thanks and that praise because we were talking about prize giving and award giving an organisation.

Nia Thomas [00:42:05]:
It’s a one size fits all process and procedure But actually, what if there is somebody who doesn’t like to be standing in front of a 1,000 people in the hall that receive an award? What if actually their preference is to receive a an email from their chief executive saying thank you? So I think we do have to get to know individuals. If you are a leader and you want to build an effective team, you also need to know people’s strengths and weaknesses. And I you need to know that of yourself and others. Because if you’re gonna build an effective team where you are essentially jigsaw pieces in a in a jigsaw puzzle and you create all of those effective skill sets, you need to know what other people’s skill sets are And you can only do that when you have built up sufficient knowledge and trust with those individuals for them to come to you and and to be able to talk to you about what it is that they they have there in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. So, yes, it’s not just about knowing self. It’s about knowing others who defaulted.

David Hall [00:43:10]:
Yeah. And and the recognition piece is a really good example because it’s not easy. It takes work. All these things that we’re just talking about getting to know others, it takes work. It’s worth it. But you know, it’s not a one size fits all for any of this. It’s like, you know, how does this person wanna be recognized? Or where is this person really gonna shine, you know, at and where can somebody else really shine? And it’s it it takes a lot of work, especially as a leader. It’s worth it, but, you know, let’s not pretend it’s not it’s not a lot of work.

Nia Thomas [00:43:43]:
Yeah. Most definitely. And I think it’s something you you constantly have to have to be mindful of because, as I said, we all change, and you need to get to know somebody in a stressful situation or in a calmer situation and how do they deal in in moments of stress. So, yeah, I think it is a a constant observation that leaders need to be aware of, and and they need to be practicing that observation. Because we know that in leadership roles, it’s it’s very much about supporting people and managing people and enabling others as opposed to doing those detailed tasks yourself. So, yeah, you’ve got to get to know people.

David Hall [00:44:21]:
So you have a little section on introverts. What in general, because, again, we’re not all exactly the same. But in general, what should leaders know about introverts?

Nia Thomas [00:44:31]:
Well, the feedback that I have is that often introverts are the ones with the gem of wisdom. But as leaders, you have to create that space where you can hear introverts. And we know that often the people who take up a lot of air space and are not necessarily the people that are giving you those gems, they may just be thinking out loud because that’s how they process information. So I think when we’re thinking about introverts, the environment and the opportunities that are created by leaders are particularly important. So it’s about whether we’re talking about meetings or we’re talking about giving feedback, make sure that you’ve got lots of different mediums where people with different preferences have the opportunity to feed that in. I think it’s also worth leaders considering that introverts are naturally reflective and to use that opportunity. I I often will give people, in in meetings the opportunity to say, has anybody got a question? What would anybody like to say now? And sometimes we hope no comments that are made or no questions that are asked at that particular time. That doesn’t mean that people don’t have them.

Nia Thomas [00:45:43]:
So, you know, you you give people an opportunity. You’ve got a Teams chat, or you have an email opportunity, or you can speak to somebody else and they will bring forward your your comments and your questions. So, I think it’s really important for leaders to not expect people to give immediate answers and to create the the different mediums for people to give their answers and give a little bit of time for that reflection.

David Hall [00:46:08]:
Yeah. Yes. So for example, what I would say is the best approach is being ready in that meeting, you know, having the agenda ahead of time and being prepared and giving my all of it I wanna say during that time. But definitely introverts may come up with something. So allowing that, just for example, after the meeting, you know, let them contribute after if needed. Again, I I think it’s better to go ahead and contribute at the time, but that’s it’s not always gonna work out that way.

Nia Thomas [00:46:38]:
Yeah. That’s right. And I think you’re right when you talk about preparation. I think to go into a meeting where you have the confidence of the data and the information at your fingertips, I think that really does help, certainly, me as an introvert, to be able to contribute in the moment as opposed to say, okay. I need to go away and think about this and reflect, and I’ll come back to you in a couple of hours. So, yes, whether you do your preparation before or your reflection after, as a leader, you need to be observant of that, who needs that time before and who needs that time after. Because if you want both of those individuals to contribute, you have to create that environment for it.

David Hall [00:47:20]:
Yeah. And I think we’ve kinda said this. It’s it’s the fact that introverts, we think and then speak, and often we’re just sharing what we feel is most important. And extroverts often, and again, I always say often, not always, often are thinking out loud, you know, and and their and their ideas may not be fully formed. And, you know, for introverts, we usually want our ideas to be fully formed when they come out

Nia Thomas [00:47:44]:
of our mouth. Yeah. I used to work with somebody who used to think out loud, and I was often aghast at some of the things that they were saying. And it took me a long time to understand that, actually, they were thinking out loud and and Joanna Rawbone describes it, one of the best description of of introversion and extroversion I’ve ever heard. She refers to introversion as think, talk, think, and extroversion as talk, think, talk. And that, for me, was a real light bulb. And it really has changed the way that I view what people say and how they say it and at what points in in conversations people say things. And it’s really helped me understand how people think differently and some people think out loud.

David Hall [00:48:34]:
Yeah. I had Joanna on the show (How to Flourish as an Introvert). I love how she phrases that. Very it’s very helpful. So, yeah, that’s great.

Nia Thomas [00:48:40]:

David Hall [00:48:41]:
Okay. Mia, we’ve talked a lot about a lot of great things. And, I mean, introversion is just one aspect of our personalities. It’s so important to take the time to get to know ourselves, know, introversion, extroversion, many other aspects of our personalities and our preferences and things, and also, you know, get to know the preferences of other people and their strengths and weaknesses. And there’s a lot of lot that goes into all of that. Is there anything else that you wanna share that you haven’t already?

Nia Thomas [00:49:10]:
One thing that listeners can do is I’ve got a free quiz, that allows if if you like, it’s like a mini 360, which allows them to assess themselves against the 9 points of the self awareness compass. They can then send the quiz to up to 3 other individuals, and they will have the their map back, which is the this there are 2 lines on the map. Firstly, is their scores. The second line is an aggregation of the 3 scores of the 3 individuals that have completed their other assessment. So that’s something that if you really want to understand where you fit as a self aware leader or what journey you want to travel to become more self aware, take the quiz. It’s free. It’s on my website. So and that’s one another one of those assessment tools that you may do next week, and you may do in 2 years’ time, and you may get a different answer.

Nia Thomas [00:50:07]:
But it’s really helpful to see the difference between the answers that you give yourself. So the assessment, the self assessment, and the assessment that others do. Because what you want to know is, is there a great difference in the distance between your self assessment and somebody else’s assessment? Because that will suggest to you whether you are self aware, whether you’re very self aware, or whether your self awareness really needs a boost.

David Hall [00:50:35]:
Great. That is great. Thanks, Nia. Where can people find out more about the great work that you’re doing in your book and your podcast?

Nia Thomas [00:50:43]:
If you go to knowing self, knowing others, you will find out everything. And if you can’t remember that, it’s Yeah. Either webs web address will take you there. Ksk0.

David Hall [00:50:55]:
Sounds great. And I will definitely put that in the show notes.

Nia Thomas [00:50:57]:
Thank you.

David Hall [00:50:58]:
Thanks again for a great conversation. I really enjoyed talking with you today.

Nia Thomas [00:51:02]:
It’s been brilliant. Thank you very much for inviting me.

David Hall [00:51:05]:
Thank you so much for joining me today. I look forward to further connecting with you. Reach out at david [at] or check out the website, which includes blog posts and links to social media channels. Send me topics or guests you would like to see on the show. If you’re interested in getting to know yourself better, there’s now a free type finder personality assessment on the Quiet and Strong website. This free assessment will give you a brief report, including the 4 letter Myers Briggs code, and you can also have the option of purchasing the full report if you’d like to learn more. I’ll add a link to the show notes. So many great things about being an introvert, and we need those to be understood.

David Hall [00:51:44]:
Get to know your introverted strengths and needs, and be strong.

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