Daniel Goleman, the guru of emotional intelligence, writes, “Self-awareness is the foundational competence in emotional intelligence. Knowing what matters to us may be one of the most valuable benefits of self-awareness.” This story highlights how important self-awareness can be when we interact with our current employees, as well as how to ensure we are bringing on the right people.

The Time I Got it Wrong

I was working at Memorial Hermann where I led a department with over two hundred employees. It was a juicy, challenging, and fun job. As Associate Vice President of Operations in the Neurosurgery department, my team oversaw more than thirty offices, coordinated the care of thousands of patients each year, and was responsible for operations that obtained $60M in gross annual revenues. We built out a multitude of capabilities at different hospitals to expand our services and enlarge our footprint. In short, we made the administration part of practicing medicine as frictionless as possible, so physicians and providers could focus on life-saving research and surgeries.

I left this position because I wanted to make a lasting impact, so I went to work for a health tech startup. I thought that if I could help that startup succeed, then millions of people would be able to use this technology, making the bigger impact I wanted.

Once I settled into my new position, I went from managing a staff of over two hundred people to just ten employees. I realized that I only solved one part of the equation. Impact mattered, but it wasn’t the right area of impact. I learned the hard way that the impact that I wanted to make was best manifested in the lives of the people I worked with.

Since my position at Memorial Hermann was so expansive, I didn’t really take the time to pinpoint which parts were most rewarding. Looking back, I really loved building an organization where employees thrived. It was evident in the increase in employee engagement during my tenure there. After only twelve months of leading the team, our department reached 99% in our employee engagement scores.

Could I have prevented this if I were more self-aware? Absolutely. I would’ve saved myself and two employers a great deal of grief and hassle.

However, do I regret it? No. I learned so much from my mistakes. Without that misstep, I may not be where I am now. Today, I am doing the best work of my life. I have the opportunity to work with so many organizations that want to create the best work environment for THEIR employees.

If you are a hiring manager, dig deeper to understand the passion of your candidates.

If you are looking for a new role, make sure you’re not running away from your current job. Try to truly give yourself a “choice” of at least two new options, and really consider what matters to you when applying for a new position.


Want to learn more about emotional intelligence in the workplace? Check out best-selling author Daniel Goleman’s podcast on emotional intelligence.

Expand your self-awareness by taking a Predictive Index Assessment. Click here to schedule a 30-minute intro session with Wendy Fong.