By Dr. Nick Molinaro, Ed.D., P.C.

Successful business leaders have a skill set that includes curiosity, wisdom, courage, creativity, tenacity and the ability to lead, motivate and energize others. But one key trait—and the one that serves as the foundation of all others—is awareness. Internal and external awareness makes business leaders more sensitive to their environment and the conditions in front of them, and to how they’re perceived by employees, partners, vendors, customers and decision-makers.

Awareness, particularly under pressure, is a basic building block of business leadership development. It helps the executive focus on challenges and solutions, perceive shifts in the attitude of employees, customers and markets, and see all sides of issues before making critical decisions. The good news is that awareness levels aren’t set by genetics or childhood development. Regardless of your age, your sense of awareness can be measured and improved.

As a licensed psychologist, I work with world-class collegiate and professional athletes, and high-performing CEOs and other top-level business executives. My specialty training is in counseling and in assessing and enhancing performance under pressure, and I’ve seen countless success stories. I begin by working to build awareness in my athlete clients, especially golfers and football quarterbacks. This mental tool, after all, is critical to both groups.

Golfers, for instance, must constantly maintain awareness of conditions on the course and their own position in space. They must focus on the course, weather conditions, terrain and proximity to the hole. Then they must be able to see over their own shoulders, so to speak, to observe their stance, grip, swing and follow-through.

Awareness is a critical talent for quarterbacks since they play a sport where they’re constantly impacted by external factors. They must be so attuned to their environment that they can instantly assess the positions and abilities of their line and receivers and predict the movements of twelve huge competitors. They must furthermore be able to honestly appraise their own ability to scramble, throw or hand off after accurately reading wind speed and direction, crowd noises, offensive response and other physical and mental obstacles. Oh, and they have about 2.5 seconds to figure it all out.

Since my training enables me to enhance performance in variable settings and career paths, it wasn’t long before I could see the close similarities between my athletes and those in the high-stakes world of business. After all, executives must also “win” while facing obstacles thrown up against them by competitors, budgetary constraints, changing market conditions, deadlines and other challenges. They must see the field clearly and make decisions quickly, all while under intense pressure.

Testing and Benchmarking

My starting point in working with executives and their teams is usually a highly respected 144-question assessment tool. The Attentional and Interpersonal Style (TAIS) questionnaire is used to help identify individuals’ performance skills under pressure in corporate, sport, and military settings. The test measures respondents’ degree of focus or distractibility and sensitivity to what’s going on within themselves and their environment. High awareness scorers indicate greater sensitivity to subtle interpersonal cues and the flexibility to adjust performance based on their perception of shifting circumstances.

I use the TAIS self-reporting questionnaire to benchmark the potential of business leaders and their key team members, and then work with them to obtain measurable improvements in performance over time.

Yes, the numbers can and do move. Just as you send your salespeople to seminars to sharpen their skills, you can measurably improve your degree of awareness and that of team members.

Learn More in the Whitepaper

If you’d like to know more about this fascinating area of business leadership development, I go more in depth in a whitepaper on the subject, How Leadership Awareness Can Help Your Team Transform Business Performance Under Pressure, which you’re able to download here. Make it your first step in increasing your own business performance and that of your team. 

Dr. Nick Molinaro, a licensed psychologist, works with Wiss & Company to unlock potential and enhance the leadership skills and performance of business clients and their key personnel. You can learn more about Dr. Molinaro by visiting his website here.


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