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To Improve Your Team, First Work on Yourself

Teams are complex systems of individuals with different preferences, skills, experiences, perspectives, and habits. The odds of improving that complex system in a meaningful and sustainable way are higher if every team member — including the leader — learns to master these three foundational capabilities: internal self-awareness, external self-awareness, and personal accountability.

Internal self-awareness involves understanding your feelings, beliefs, and values. Teammates with low internal self-awareness typically see their beliefs and values as “the truth,” as opposed to what is true for them based on their feelings and past experiences. They can fail to recognize that others may have equally valid perspectives. Consider your responses to these questions when you find yourself in challenging or emotionally-charged scenarios:

  • What emotions am I experiencing?

  • What am I assuming about another person or the situation?

  • What are the facts vs. my interpretations?

  • What are my core values, and how might they be impacting my reactions?

External self-awareness involves understanding how our words and actions impact others. One way to start building external self-awareness is to observe others’ reactions during discussions. A more direct approach is to ask teammates for specific, straightforward feedback:

  • What am I doing in team meetings that is helpful?

  • What am I doing that is not helpful?

  • If you could change one part of how I interact with the team, what would it be?

And to be a personally accountable leader or teammate, you need to take these steps:

  • Recognize when there is a problem

  • Accept that you are part of the problem

  • Take personal responsibility for solving the problem

  • Stick with it until the problem is completely solved

To read the full article from the Harvard Business Review, please click here.

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