A recent study by Erich C. Dierdorff* and Robert S. Rubin, two associate professors of management in the Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University and co-directors of BusinessEducationInsider.com, revealed that self-awareness in the workplace significantly increases the probability of success. The research, published in the Harvard Business Review, examines the necessity of self-awareness in professional team settings and reveals common misconceptions about this ability. Specifically, the duo’s research highlights that a person’s self-awareness of their own skills and values often differs from how they actually perform.
Research and findings
“Dierdorff found 50% of students rank themselves in the top 20%.”
When speaking to the Chicago Tribune, Dierdorff explained that he sees a tendency in his students to overrate themselves. The professor utilizes business simulation software, giving his students an opportunity to assess their managerial skills. However, before the students begin, Dierdorff has students rate their personal abilities. He found that about 50 percent of students rank themselves in the top 20 percent, suggesting that at the very least 30 percent of his students have an unrealistic assessment of their skills.
Yet Dierdorff and Rubin’s research extends well beyond academia. The professors collected data from more than 300 leaders spread across 58 teams at at Fortune 10 company. The teams performed a business simulation, and the duo assessed how self-awareness related to team effectiveness, team coordination and conflict management. To quantify self-awareness, each leader provided assessments of both themselves and other team members.
The findings revealed a large gap in the probability of success between groups with low and high self-awareness. In regard to decision quality, coordination and conflict management, teams with poor self-awareness had a 32, 27 and 35 percent probability of success, respectively. For teams with high self-awareness, the probability of success in each category was 68, 73 and 65 percent. This illustrates more than doubled probability in both the fields of decision quality and coordination, as well as a 30 percent better success rate of conflict management.
The authors explain, “For teams to perform effectively, each member must possess a combination of technical and interpersonal skills and constantly adjust their contributions to meet the team’s needs. Correctly understanding one’s capabilities relative to others is therefore paramount.”
The evidence certainly supports this statement. Perhaps, most importantly, this research illuminates the point that a worker’s individual self-awareness can affect an entire team and therefore may have larger consequences in an organization.
While these findings may be a point of alarm for executives and managers, Dierdorff and Rubin do offer three practical strategies for increasing the accuracy of self-awareness in the workplace:
All of us have some understanding of self-awareness, but regardless of personal accuracy, there will always be a disconnect between how we view ourselves professionally and how we are seen by others. This research showcases that the best means of limiting this disparity is to consciously improve professional skills using tools that evaluate performance.
*Dierdorff is a consultant for Capsim.