Situational Awareness and Self-Awareness

Situational Awareness and Self-Awareness

Situational Awareness
is all about what’s going on around you right now. Today there’s a lot going on! News and financial market data are occupying everyone’s time. For some, that news is filtered via social media and our own confirmation bias.

In the military, situational awareness takes on the context of combat decisions in a tactical environment.

  • Perception
  • Comprehension
  • Projection

The OODA Loop is another acronym for the process outlined in air-to-air combat. Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act (more below).

What’s going on around you today? What’s happening with your team, your customers, your investors? My wife’s firm sent a note to the group yesterday suggesting regularly scheduled breaks as we all learn to schedule overlapping zoom calls for work and our kids online classes. One call was delayed due to a “disciplining children” priority. Life is going on in a new way.

Perception, for founders, is biased toward optimism. We wouldn’t be founders without that view of the world. But from a finance perspective, the world has changed. It’s not a question of your view or predisposition.

Your perception also changes based on where you are in the world and the perception of your current environment. I was on a call with a group of CEOs from the Middle East where the virus circumstances are different than in Seattle. One question was “how do you think a recession in the US will affect the emerging market?” The basis of the question is coming from an environment where people are still going out at night to restaurants and groups are still normal.

A recession will impact emerging markets. Cash is transitory and can flee to more liquid assets. Venture and Private Equity still have capital to deploy, however, liquidity has a high value today as investors want to be in cash and cash continues to sit on the sidelines.

Gather the data to make the decision. But you can’t eliminate all of the risks. At some point, you’re going to have to make a decision.

Self-awareness is different. It’s about how you act in the context of what’s going on around you, with the people you are interacting with at the time. Investors often think about founder/CEO self-awareness but may not put it on a scorecard. Other’s over index on self-awareness as an investment criterion. In any case, how you perform in stressful situations says a lot about you as a person.

Now is not the time to be tone-deaf. Work on your self-awareness skills this week. Being an empathetic leader will make you a better manager.

How well do you take feedback? At later points in your career, you tend not to get very much feedback, especially from your team.

What can you do?

  • Be an active listener – be in the moment
  • Invite feedback – critical feedback isn’t negative unless you’re thin-skinned
  • Create opportunities to show your team you can take feedback – not just give it
  • Don’t react, don’t blame, own it.

One of my mentors once told me you can be either Right or Effective, but not both. I try to be effective. I know that sometimes, living in the startup world, I have a drive for urgency. Cash and runway are king and taking an extra quarter or two to learn something isn’t a luxury that startup companies have. Even so, I should choose to be effective, not just right.

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