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Small Business Digest


Ten Ways Healthy Levels of Self-Esteem Foster Better Teamwork

Levels of self-esteem influence important aspects of organizational performance. Although self-esteem might fluctuates during the course of the day or over any period, individuals with overall healthy levels of self-esteem engage in actions that are consistent with excellent teamwork.

Psychologist, Steve Wilson ( has spent nearly 4 decades specializing in psychology applied to life and work, including several years on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Self-Esteem. He suggests guidelines that managers can use to assess levels of self-esteem among team members. They are clues to diagnosing and solving problems such as such as low morale, absenteeism, lack of teamwork, inefficiency, low initiative, and poor customer service.

Here are ten attributes of team members who have healthy levels of self-esteem as identified by Wilson.

1. A willingness to occasionally modify some cherished ideas. Those with healthy levels of self-esteem trust their own judgment but also being flexible and open to new information; fully trusting in their capacity to solve problems, not hesitating after failures and difficulties. The emotional security and integrity to be able to change their mind when better ideas come along.

2. The maturity to discuss issues without indulging in personal attack. Those who experience healthy levels of self-esteem tend to argue factual information or measurable data rather than tastes or opinions, and get their ego out of the way. They work toward finding solutions and voice disagreement without belittling others when challenges arise.

3. The capability of seeing the picture of the whole organization at work. When self-esteem is unhealthy, there is a tendency to get caught up in the minutia of a small piece of the pie. When self-esteem is healthy, it is easier to step back and see the big picture, and understand how the efforts of the team or department contribute to the overall goals of the organization.

4. Awareness that, however sure they are that they are right, the other person may have a good basis for her/his ideas, too. Healthy self-esteem means comfort with the idea that there may be more than one right answer, and asking others for help. Healthy self-esteem stands up for values and beliefs, and tries to understand the other person's reasoning, too.

5. The largeness of heart to say so when proven wrong. Good teamwork means acknowledging mistakes and putting them behind you. People learn from the past and plan for the future, but live in the present intensely. People feel comfortable with your their imperfection, able to make course corrections without denials, disruptive rationalizations or excessive self-justification.

6. The grace not to crow when proven right. Individuals with healthy levels of self-esteem are sensitive to feelings and needs of others; don't "rub it in" when they turn out to be right. Teammates will appreciate them for it. It is costly to the teamwork atmosphere for one person to be right at a teammate's expense.

7. The generous spirit to be easy to get along with. Healthy levels of self-esteem means being unselfish and unstinting, and generous when interpreting the motives of others; not competing with teammates for the spotlight, but gladly sharing it with them.

8. The capacity to set aside personal preferences where necessary, in the interest of teammates, the company, and the customer. With healthy levels of self-esteem it is easier to tolerate inconveniences, to accept that everyone does not have the same tastes, and to go out of your way in the service of others.

9. A willingness to use the scientific method to search for the truth. Unhealthy self-esteem is fearful of being wrong. Healthy self-esteem is curious to find the truth, and says, "How can we test this? Let's find out." Healthy self-esteem faces the facts and solves problems.

10. The capacity to understand both the dignity and the frustrations of others. Healthy self-esteem is not interested in revenge or in trying to "teach people a lesson". It is compassionate. The shortcomings of teammates are seen as room for improvement rather than as an excuse for blowing up.

For the sake of everyone's greatest success and satisfaction, in the interests of forming strong, high-performing teams, every team member should be encouraged to develop healthy levels of self-esteem. Imagine what teams will be like at work when everyone cultivates these attitudes and acts accordingly.


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