The 3COze High Performance Teams process helps team members understand their styles and needs and the impact they have on team dynamics. We use the Birkman Method® as our tool in this process.  This is the seventh in a series where I’ll help you look in the mirror using some of the insights that come through the Birkman®.  But don’t worry; you’ll get the benefit even if you haven’t used the tool.

How Do You Approach Your Work?

Are you the type of person who is constantly pushing yourself to achieve really difficult things—only to find that your sense of accomplishment is short-lived? Do you tackle challenging new tasks to prove you’re worthy? Does your self-esteem come from tallying what you’ve accomplished? Or are you the type of person who is comfortable with who you are just the way you are? Are you confident, optimistic, and charismatic? Do you stick to the tasks and projects that have realistic expectations and a high probability of success so you can stay that way?

There are few more fundamental differences among people than the difference in how we see ourselves and how we determine our worth. These differences can explain some of the most agonizing disconnects between you and your teammates.

Think about how you approach a difficult task. How you struggle with something is one of the telltale signs of how you view yourself.  There is a pronounced difference between the people who seek out challenging tasks and openly struggle with their ability to succeed and those who avoid overt displays of struggle and concern.  It doesn’t mean that this second group doesn’t struggle, it just means that they keep it to themselves and invest considerable energy into appearing confident to others.


Look at the top section of the table and see if you recognize your self-esteem as coming more from who you are or what you do. Think about how your style impacts your approach to new tasks and your ability to work with others.

Can you think of a relationship on your team where the difference between your style and a teammate’s style is causing friction?

It is important that you are aware of your view of yourself. If you are too hard on yourself, you risk coming across as too demanding, a perfectionist, and never satisfied. I worked recently with a leader who used the phrase “perfect, which is my expectation.”  If your need to accomplish difficult things feels insatiable and you never stop to enjoy success, you will exact a high toll on yourself and your team.

In contrast, if you resist taking accountability for things that go wrong and fail to take sufficient ownership of your role in failure, you could easily get the Teflon label as someone who takes credit but doesn’t let criticism stick. This can lead to perceptions that you aren’t accountable or reliable.

Getting Your Needs Met

Now take a look at the bottom half of the table. If you are someone who is confident and optimistic, you probably need others to view you positively.  You need the chance to evaluate new tasks before you start so that you can be confident of success before putting your reputation on the line.  You need to spend the majority of your time in your sweet spot, doing the things you’re best at.  On the other hand, if you are someone who is determined and self-critical, you probably need opportunities to show yourself and your teammates what you are capable of.  You need the chance to take on difficult things and to keep raising the bar.

Talking to Each Other

My experience is that people at either extreme on this dimension have a very difficult time understanding each other and communicating effectively. Here are some things to keep in mind.

For the Diligent, Growth-focused Types

You are probably being too hard on yourself. You need to find someone you trust who can help you think more objectively about what you can legitimately control and what you can’t. Sleepless nights and constantly focusing on risks and doomsday scenarios will drain your energy and drag down the team.

Don’t think of the more optimistic, charismatic types as slackers, they might be working as hard as you, they just aren’t worrying as hard as you. Don’t confuse the two.  If their easy-going attitude is causing you stress, calmly ask for the reassurance you need to feel more comfortable.

For the Confident, Strength-focused Types

Your confident and self-assured demeanor is probably coming off as nonchalance to some people on your team. Find a confidant who can whisper in your ear when your standard “it’ll be fine” mantra is making other people even more anxious.

Don’t think of the diligent, striving types as downers. They are earnestly working to improve themselves and to do things that they see as worthy of risk and struggle. When they feel inadequate, reassure them.

This is a really personal issue and one where more self-awareness and more empathy toward people who are different than you will go a long way.

For more information on the Birkman Method® check out their website here.

See other posts in the series

What does respect mean to me?

Do I need to fit in?

How much is enough structure?

How assertive are you?

Are you competing when you should be cooperating?

Are you the tortoise or the hare?

Further Reading

Dos and Don’ts When an Employee Doesn’t Like You

Strengthen your Self-Control Part II

We are Screwing up our Kids