Improve Team Performance: Reveal Your Weaknesses and Promise to Change

BY C. Lee Smith
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Have you ever noticed how much more engaged you become in a story that features a flawed protagonist? Think about Walter White in Breaking Bad and how his basic dissatisfaction with life leads him down the path to criminality after he’s diagnosed with lung cancer. We root for characters like this because we identify with their flaws. You can improve team performance by letting employees see your flaws and weaknesses and explaining how you are working on them. In taking this step, you’re allowing your team members to see your authentic self. Your employees will cheer when you succeed, and they’ll also want to improve on their weaknesses.

Relatable Flaws and Team Performance

Sharing relatable flaws with your employees can help you improve team performance. In a study conducted by Maryam Kouchaki at the Kellogg School, along with several other academicians, working professionals were asked to select a manager they wanted to work for. Some study participants read a resume and description of the prospective manager’s interests. Other participants read an additional document, one that “disclosed a fear of public speaking” on the part of the manager. This type of flaw rings true with around 30% of U.S. adults who suffer from public speaking anxiety.

Admitting a fear of public speaking made the manager appear more authentic but no less warm or competent, the results showed.” Study participants largely preferred to work for the manager who admitted their flaws. The study findings resulted in the same preferences when participants watched videos of the managers instead of reading material they prepared.

Teachable Moments

When a manager admits their struggle with a key skill that is perceived as necessary to succeeding, team members pay attention. They can identify with the struggle. They also want to overcome a skills weakness and move on to bigger challenges.

Managers can discuss these issues both in team and in one-​on-​one meetings. Sharing the tactics used to overcome weaknesses scores attention from employees. Team members need to hear about failures in addition to successes.

On the topic of public speaking, you might discuss a time when the end result didn’t go as planned. Wise managers might want to highlight how the experience turned into a lesson on what to do differently in the future. Going on to discuss your eventual success can inspire and ultimately improve team performance.

Weaknesses to Avoid Mentioning

As a sales manager, you may also struggle with other types of behavior that could negatively impact your professional reputation and your relationship with prospects. As Professor Kouchaki points out, “Personal foibles are more likely to promote perceptions of authenticity than significant moral failings.”

Your team will identify with the challenges you face in conquering your fear of public speaking. They may not identify with habits such as being intoxicated at work or your constant oversharing of details about religious viewpoints. In our Voice of the Buyer Survey, nearly half of prospects stated they will not do business with sales professionals who use illegal drugs or engage in criminal behavior beyond the occasional speeding ticket. Your team members may hold the same opinions.

Improve Team Performance Through Personalized Tactics

As you seek ways to improve team performance, review the psychometrics assessments of each employee in your department. Details about work skills and workplace behavior can give you a place to start. If one of your team members appears to have a tough time accepting feedback, focus on that trait in your one-​on-​one meetings. 

Sharing your tendency to resent feedback and how you learned to cope could be invaluable, for example. Maybe you learned to wait 24 hours before responding to less-​than-​stellar feedback. Or you might have practiced reading the feedback more than once and thinking about what you had to gain by keeping an open mind. Something as simple as assuming positive intent can help your team member mull over the possibilities and find a way to grow personally. In the end, you’ll help them learn to work with others in a positive state of mind and improve team performance.

Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.