Sat | Dec 14, 2019

Trevor E.S. Smith | How you can improve team performance by being yourself

Published:Sunday | November 17, 2019 | 12:11 AM

Team-building exercises emphasise that there is no ‘I’ in TEAM. But there is an equally important sense in which teams fail to function at their best when we fail to wield our personal influence. There is room for recognising the importance of the YOU in teams.


One of the challenges that organisations face is their drive for compliance and conformity in the context of an increasing desire for more flexibility among the staff. Individuals are craving for opportunities to express themselves. On the other hand, organisations recognise just how challenging it will be to provide for this flexibility while keeping their systems, procedures and even values intact.

In some organisations, the emphasis on conformity and compliance has led to a situation in which there is groupthink. Team members suppress their thoughts and fall in line. This stifles innovation. Still worse is the risk that inefficient processes and poor decision-making might go unchallenged.

Finding the right balance between flexibility and conformity is the frontier to be conquered through innovative, responsive leadership.


1. Invite unique perspectives

What if we created safe environments in which team members are encouraged to carefully observe how things are being done? The objective would be to identify and share on which tasks present the greatest difficulty, as well as to note where team members excel and where they struggle.

In a climate of non-judgemental sharing, bottlenecks and areas for improvement are identified. In addition, examples of how best to complete tasks are identified. That provides a platform for peer coaching.

The open discourse will also highlight ineffective processes and how to improve them from the ground up.

2. Peer coaching

What if more emphasis was placed on identifying and recognising the unique competences of individuals? Some people perform given tasks better than others. What if, as a matter of policy, these positive differences were harnessed?

High-value peer coaching could become a regular feature of team development, with positive impact on performance at no or low cost.


1. Lack of trust

Creating the safe, developmental environment in which open sharing is possible might be frustrated by individual fears and lack of trust.

What if I am found to be less efficient than others in a number of key areas?

Suppose my colleagues have an axe to grind with me?

This can be overcome to some degree by strong and trustworthy leadership. There needs to be constant reinforcement, in words and deeds, that the exchanges will only be used for development processes. Identifying needs for the further development of skills should be treated as a win-win opportunity. The individual acquires enhanced competences and the team benefits from improved performance.

2. Jealousy/Self-esteem issues

Some team members might be resistant to the idea of being coached by their peers. This is a selfish and unhealthy mindset. Again, effective leadership has a role in enlightening this backward way of thinking.

Others might withdraw from the process, and even adopt negative behaviours, because they have viewed the process in ways that dent their self-esteem.


The truth is that current trends have encouraged the more open display of our human imperfections. Restraining our personal needs in the interest of the overall good seems to be an old-fashioned way of thinking.

As a consequence, we reject even simple ways of working together on projects that will benefit the collective unit.

There is a critical need to rethink how we view the issue of coexistence. Work needs to done in assessing our capacity to effectively understand and modify our social context. How do we interpret and respond to events?

Do we feel empowered or responsible for the experiences that will define the social context in the future?

These considerations are key components of advanced approaches to the development of high-performance teams. Appreciating the differences in how team members perceive the social context adds a unique dimension to understanding team dynamics.


Application of carefully crafted combinations of assessments – skills, mindset and behavioural – provides a platform for work on the development of the team that incorporates insights that are simply not available from other sources. Yet, the objectivity and clarity that they bring to the process is invaluable.

Contact us now for a no-cost consultation on how we can guide your team to unprecedented levels of performance.

Trevor E.S. Smith/Success with People Academy. We guide the development of high-performance teams. We are interpersonal relations, group dynamics and performance-enhancement specialists. We provide learning and productivity-enhancement technology solutions. We offer behavioural Assessments from Extended DISC, values assessments on the FinxS Platform and e-Competency Frameworks in our SPIKE solution. Email