Double your team's performance by increasing self-awareness

Did you know that although 95% of people think they’re self-aware, only 10 to 15% actually are? This was one of the surprising results of a five-year, large-scale scientific study of self-awareness. In ten separate investigations with nearly 5,000 participants completed late last year, organisational psychologist and researcher Dr Tasha Eurich and her team examined what self-awareness really is, why we need it, and how we can increase it. They are currently writing up their results for submission to an academic journal.  They reported that un-self-aware team members can cut a team’s chances of success in half. Other consequences of working with unaware colleagues include increased stress, decreased motivation, and a greater likelihood of leaving one’s job. Another research study of 515 teams, which comprised almost 2700 individuals, discovered that when teams have members with lower levels of self-awareness, “team coordination and cohesion suffer, and conflict is exacerbated”. Indeed, “the mere existence of low self-awareness exacerbates friction and discord among team members”.

So lack of self-awareness has a big impact on team cohesion and performance and the large majority of us are lacking in self-awareness. So what is it about self-awareness that increases team performance? I've developed a model that shows the three key things self-aware employees do that assist with a higher team performance.

  1. They have the ability to accurately judge their own performance. They know where there are gaps. They understand if they are making a valuable contribution towards the team’s objective or not. They understand if they’re qualified for tasks allocated to them. If they aren’t self-aware they are likely to suffer from the Dunning-Kruger affect – i.e. they think they’re better than what they are, making giving feedback and undertaking behaviour change difficult.

  2. They understand the status of their relationships with other team members. They know which ones are strong and which they need to work on. They have strategies to be able to flex and adjust their behaviour to increase their connection with others, depending on who they are dealing with. They understand if something is not working and why this might be – whether their actions are causing greater harmony or greater conflict.

  3. They are open to feedback and are willing to change their behaviour or attitude if they realise their actions are detrimental to the team. They seek assistance from others on how to rectify problems – whether they be in performance, relationships or behaviour. Being un-self aware means that you don’t think anything is wrong so feedback is a shock and you may deny its validity.

For me being a self-aware team member is like having the ability to take the temperature of the water and altering it to suit the situation that you're in i.e. you have the ability to assess your behaviour and relationships and the ability to change your behaviour and/or attitude. So with most of us being unaware it's worth considering, how self-aware are you? How much do you invest in supporting your team to be more self-aware? What strategies could you put in place to support your team members to increase their self-awareness? What effect would this have on individual and team communication and performance?