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how to build a high performing teamEffective Teams Start with “Conscious Competence”

Have you ever gone through a team building exercise where everyone gets together to do a team activity with hopes of learning more about each other? Those kinds of activities can be fun, and may even help in understanding the team or increasing their performance – but there are other approaches that can have a more long-term impact on team effectiveness.

If you are looking for long-lasting results, Rule #1 is to start by helping each team member understand him or herself better!

Why? 

To integrate effectively, it is essential that each person has a solid grasp of their own strengths or how those strengths might contribute, adapt, learn, and function within the team.

The Four Learning Systems

Before we discuss how to build teams that win, we need to start with some foundational knowledge. There are four learning systems, which together explain how individuals can reach their full potential:

Effective Teams Start with “Conscious Competence”
These learning models describe the “self-confidence continuum,” as well as provide a framework for how to make teams succeed, as we’ll discuss below.

Self Awareness = Conscious Competence

hands-putting-puzzle-pieces-together_23-2147513390The most effective team sessions with any organization always begin with focusing on the “conscious competence” of the individual first – being self-aware of their strengths and knowing what they do well!

Self-awareness brings three major benefits:

  1. The easiest way to improve performance is to do what you do well more often.
  2. People who learn “what I do well” can develop a more complete sense of their strengths and their contributions to the team performance.
  3. People who are consciously competent view incompetence or weakness as a growth opportunity; people who unconsciously competent view it as a problem and treat it as such.

Based on our scientific research, conscious competence is the prime foundation for improving self-confidence. However, full development requires team members to know their opportunities for growth as well.

It’s important for each team member to focus on what they do well most of the time, while still dedicating some of their energy to growth: 80% – 90% of their time on strengths and 10% – 20% on growth opportunities. This formula means each person is functioning at almost full capacity on a daily basis, reinforcing what they do well and allowing them to do it more often. Come to think of it, I don’t know any top performing people who solely focused their energy what they don’t do well! To the contrary, this formula is one of the key reasons they are always at the top of their game.

In short: if you want to maximize performance, spend most of your time on your strengths; if you want to minimize performance, spend most of your time on your weaknesses.

To leverage this insight during team building, reinforce strengths and help people understand how they might complement a team as well as function with high levels of self-confidence.

Imagine a team who all knew their individual strengths and exercised them regularly. This would definitely increase overall team performance.

With that said, the next step in team building is to recognize the commonality and synergies within the team.

Team Analysis

Having a grounded understanding of strengths builds the foundation to better understand the team dynamics.

The best teams are complementary:

  • What Do Team Members Have in Common?

First determine which team members have similar strengths, or, commonalities. Finding the commonality within the team helps to bridge the first level of trust where team members share an understanding of each other’s preferences and behavior. Knowing that colleagues share common ground and strengths enhances the team relationship.

  • What Are Their Differences?

When teams appreciate their own unique strengths and commonalities, differences are no longer a point of conflict. Instead, team members with different strengths can be viewed as synergistic. If one team member is weaker in one area and another is stronger, they provide complementary skills that benefit the team as a whole.

I’ve always used the expression in team building of “going into a relationship with your head up”. This means it’s important to understand the strengths of other people that are different from your own. A stronger, more effective team respects the traits and strengths everyone brings to the table.

Performance and Winning

The only way to win as a team is to execute on strengths. When you’re playing the game to win, the team needs to maximize their chances by leveraging their strengths and synergies. Team members can’t focus on their problems or growth opportunities while they’re executing or they will become consciously incompetent and lower performance.

Just like in sports, the team needs to work on their weaknesses or growth opportunities during practice. When it’s time to play for real, the team must pull together and execute on their strengths.

Psychometric Profiling to Identify Team Member “DNA”

A normative psychometric personality profile is the most effective tool to determine an individual’s potential and strengths – their “DNA”. With this data, you are able to maximize each individual’s potential through skill and talent development. You can also use profiles to highlight the strengths and synergies within the team.

You can improve team performance in two ways with psychometric profiles:

  1. Identify the strengths and growth opportunities of your current individuals and teams.
  2. Recruit and select new candidates who complement the existing team with both shared and synergistic strengths.

If you want to build an effective team, take a step back and start by better understanding yourself. Help each team member understand their strengths and weaknesses. With this firm foundation, the team can begin to function at a higher level.

This is the way to build long-lasting, effective teams that win.


Our Team Pro is specifically designed to help select team members that will complement the existing team, match managers and teams, and enable conscious competence in each team member. Contact us to get started on building effective teams in your organization.

Download the course program for our Team Building half-day workshop.

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Robert Dougan

About Robert Dougan

Robert is the Director of Practice Management and a senior consultant at The Self Management Group. Robert has spent many years helping professionals in financial services with personalized custom solutions in the area of talent acquisition, talent management, succession planning, coaching, and team development to improve both the top and bottom line.

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