Most people would agree that decision making has never been more challenging, quite simply because more information does not make the decision better. Knowing what information to trust does. Business decisions today demand a balance of intuition and logic. The blend is best captured by what Malcolm Gladwell referred to as thin slicing... the art and science of thinking without thinking.

Making business decisions in today's complex environment demands a level of attunement and trust in your intuition that calls for a pretty high level of self-awareness. Without that the signals come and go and you are left none the wiser. It is way too easy to dismiss the 'soft skills' to be dismissed as too much woo-woo. Right now, without the 'soft skills' the dots just do not get connected.

In decision-making and in ethics, self-awareness is the foundation for seeing the context with the widest and clearest lens possible, the underlying forces impacting direction, the web of people who are affected, and the dynamic in its entirety.
For someone with a high level of awareness, the map is before them at all times.

Areas of power and turf overlaps are clear and recognized along with what is driving the division. Reality has a sharper and clearer focus. The invisible forces that drive temptation no longer escape detection. You know when you are leading yourself into temptation and you know there are alternatives to choose from. This does not make you immune to making mistakes, but you do know why you made them. This learning can be immediately applied which is much less painful than repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

Ethical breaches demonstrated by Enron, WorldCom are bigger, more complex examples of the same kind of behavior seen when CEO's or executives deceive boards on uncomfortable truths. In The Five Temptations of a CEO Patrick Lencioni named "the desire to protect the status of career, the desire to be popular, the need to achieve certainty - make correct decisions, the desire for harmony and the desire for invulnerability" as the pit traps for executive success. You will note that every single one of those temptations is also a pit trap for ethical breaches.
Clearly there is more to resolving the situation than just becoming more aware. Systems, procedures and totally outmoded business models hold a part of the responsibility. Obviously these can not be addressed until they are seen, noticed and the connection to results has been made.

Personally and professionally, it starts with awareness. Awareness is the information-gathering stage, and it normally begins when you notice something is seriously wrong with the picture-either within you or in the environment. Once you notice, you simultaneously open a window to question and understand. Questions reveal understanding and understanding brings clarity. Clarity is looking through the window defogged by assumption, desire, or need.

In gray zones, the advantage of being aware is even more magnified. Shades of gray can often have ethical and moral implications that you really want to know about. Not knowing about them can put you in the headlines or in jail. Without being able to see what put you close to the delicate line, you cannot see the line; much less know when you are standing on it.
So what gets in the way of this clear-seeing awareness?

• Ego: The need to feel separate from others. Your entire self-identity is based on who you are in relation to others.
• Misuse of Power: The desire to use the power of your position to serve yourself.
• Righteousness: The need to be right all the time; rigidity.
• Judgment: Too much judgment makes learning a risk-taking venture, and vulnerability a personal-safety issue rather than a springboard for strength.
• Unconsciousness: Walking around in a fog, being unaware of what is going on around you.
• Closed-mindedness: Not being receptive to information that informs who you are in that moment-and not wanting to know.

Dr. Charles Ehin in an article in Baseline named seven indicators signalling when an executive is out of touch. All of them source back to self-awareness. The indicators include:

• being clear on the personal lenses and filters used to navigate life,
• reliance on tried and true principles that ignore the current reality,
• the degree to which you rely on doing what has worked before without noticing it is no longer working, and
• the inability to be aware of when change has happened.

You can not change what you can not see.

Most of the indicators named, refer to the personal and professional need for external validation, rather than an intrinsic sense of security, identity and emotional self-knowledge.

The need for outside validation when making ethical decisions creates the shoreline where your relationship with yourself confronts your ability to be true to yourself. The capacity to be aligned starts with becoming aware of who you are and what your place is in the world. With the clarity that comes from constantly upgrading your self-awareness you can much more readily see when the cultural or social context is driving your personal integrity or whether you are holding the wheel.

Author's Bio: 

Dawna H. Jones brings over 25 years experience guiding individuals and organizations to the next level by mastering the invisible forces that drive creativity, innovation and personal fulfillment. She guides those who seek to guide themselves to a deeper and more whole place capable of surfing the speed of thought and leading from the heart. She hosts the Evolutionary Provocateur podcast with www.management-issues.com and is constantly pushing the learning edge to merge science, metaphysics, human and physical dynamics to optimal advantage. She can be reached at 1.866.605.0880.