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Investing in Self-Awareness and Accountability: Mastering Foundational Capabilities for Team Success

Building a high-performing team requires more than just focusing on the collective dynamics. It necessitates individual self-reflection and personal growth. When a team is not functioning optimally, it is crucial to recognize that each team member, including the leader, plays a role in contributing to the challenges. To enhance the team's dynamic in a meaningful and sustainable way, it is essential for everyone to cultivate three foundational capabilities: internal self-awareness, external self-awareness, and personal accountability.

Today we will delve into these capabilities and provide specific examples to illustrate their significance.

Internal Self-Awareness: Understanding Your Impact

Internal self-awareness is the cornerstone of personal growth and effective team functioning. It involves recognizing and comprehending one's feelings, beliefs, and values, and how they shape one's reactions. When faced with emotionally charged situations, it is vital to pause and reflect. Ask yourself questions such as:

  1. Core Values and Reactions: What are my core values, and how might they be influencing my reactions in this situation? By examining how your values align or conflict with the circumstances, you can gain clarity on your emotional responses.

  2. Facts vs. Interpretations: Differentiating between facts and interpretations is crucial. Ask yourself, "What are the objective facts in this situation, and what are my subjective interpretations?" This introspection enables you to approach the situation with a more objective mindset, reducing the potential for biased reactions.

External Self-Awareness: Observing and Seeking Feedback

External self-awareness involves understanding the impact you have on your teammates and the team as a whole. By observing their behaviors and seeking their feedback, you can gain valuable insights into how you are perceived and how your actions influence team dynamics.

  1. Observational Awareness: During team discussions, be attentive to non-verbal cues and behaviors exhibited by your teammates. Did someone raise their voice, stop talking, or smile? These observations can provide valuable information about their reactions and engagement levels. However, it is important to note that these observations may be subject to misinterpretation.

  2. Feedback-seeking Approach: A more direct and effective approach to enhancing external self-awareness is to actively seek specific feedback from your teammates. Ask them questions such as: "What am I doing in meetings that is helpful?" and "What am I doing that is not helpful?" This direct feedback allows you to gain a clearer understanding of how your actions impact the team and identify areas for improvement.

Personal Accountability: Assessing and Adapting

Personal accountability is a crucial capability for improving team outcomes. It involves taking ownership of one's contribution to the team's challenges and consciously choosing how to respond to enhance the team's performance.

  1. Assessing Your Contribution: Practice self-reflection and assess how your behaviors and actions contribute to the identified team challenges. By acknowledging your role in the problem, you can take proactive steps towards finding solutions.

  2. Making Conscious Choices: Once you have identified your contribution, make a conscious choice about how to react to improve the team's outcomes. This may involve adapting your communication style, seeking support from colleagues, or taking on additional responsibilities. The key is to actively participate in the resolution process and demonstrate your commitment to positive change.


To improve team dynamics and foster a high-performing team, it is essential to start with self-improvement. By mastering the foundational capabilities of internal self-awareness, external self-awareness, and personal accountability, you can create a positive impact on team dynamics. Remember that change requires both learning and consistent practice to form new habits. By continuously honing these capabilities, you will not only improve your own effectiveness as a team member or leader but also inspire others to follow suit. Embrace the opportunity for personal growth, and watch as your team flourishes.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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