“Know Thyself” – How Self Awareness Helps You Do Business Globally


Developing cultural agility requires self-awareness to fully understand what culture means to us and what impact our own culture has had on our development. This is an early premise to self-development, going as far back as the ancient Greeks, who inscribed on the Temple at Delphi, “know thyself.”

Once we develop self-awareness we have an informed platform on which to build an awareness of others. This process is sustained through a basic curiosity for knowledge and an open attitude.

Through the process of developing self-awareness, we can explore how we live and work through the different lenses of culture:

  • Organizational
  • Individual
  • Team
  • National
  • Societal
  • Functional
  • Identity-group

These multiple lenses of culture come into play every day. For example, in my last role, my division was in India, but members of my project extension team were in China and Singapore, while my organizational headquarters was in the US. More broadly, valuable stakeholders were located in the UK, Mexico and Denmark. I thrived in this environment with an ever-increasing self-awareness grounded in my roots based in Chicago, IL in the United States.

Given my experience with the importance of self-awareness, one quote in particular has resonated with me. The statement is attributed to Gary Kelly, the CEO of Southwest Airlines. He said, “Your business plan is what you are, but culture is who you are.” Knowing who we are as individuals positions us for greater success in this complex and fluid global marketplace.

Lynne Tarter, Director of Solutions, TMC