Last year’s transition to remote work for much of the workforce challenged professionals across industries to reexamine and redefine workplace efficiency. Determining how to maximize team effectiveness in a minimized in-person workplace can be an uncomfortable challenge that requires a shift in strategy and tactics.

There is good news, however: You and your team can become more effective and efficient by gaining deep self-awareness into your character while understanding and monitoring individual risks. This process involves delving past superficial understandings to measure each individual’s strengths, risks and passions for peak productivity and team cohesion.

An acute sense of self-awareness is the foundation for securing your team’s best and most effective version of itself. When your team members know who they are and what they bring to the table, they engage with their work in a novel way as their self-efficacy soars.

The problem? According to a study of over 5,000 participants by psychologist Tasha Eurich’s team, most people think they are self-aware, but only 10% to 15% are. In other words, 85% to 90% of the people reading this article aren’t in tune with themselves.

So, how can you and your team become truly self-aware?

Step One: Know Your Team’s Strengths

Objectively understanding your team’s gifts and strengths is key to facilitating an optimal workplace. Fortunately, there are several in-depth assessments that can help you understand your team’s unique differentiators. Equally important, a good assessment will also give you a reading on your team members’ gaps. As you search for ways to improve your team’s performance, you will want to develop initiatives that tap into their strengths while filling those gaps.

Similarly, as you lead team members through valuable growth and learning opportunities, it is important to remember that without deep self-awareness, you cannot help others grow and develop their talent. Having clarity on your own gifts and potential will enable you to see the same in others. Taking an assessment that is designed to provide deep self-awareness will provide the objectivity vital to assessing and coaching others.

Build on Your Team’s Strengths While Keeping Their Gaps in Mind

Be mindful of the competency requirements of work tasks, and be strategic when deciding who is assigned each task. Some tasks may come in direct conflict with a team member’s gap or weakness. For example, if a team member tends to be disorganized and enjoys being creative and spontaneous, no matter how intelligent she is, accounting or procurement tasks would not align with those strengths and would exacerbate her gaps. However, knowing that she thrives creatively helps you know how to carve out her work responsibilities to align with that strength.

Build on Strengths and Manage Risks

While it is important to know your team members’ strengths, it is equally important to know the personality-based risk factors that can undermine their effectiveness and damage relationships. Risk factors, or a person’s ineffective coping reactions to stress or conflict, may interfere with his or her ability to be effective. Additionally, in a team setting, clashing risks or profile strength differences may cause disconnects or tension among teammates. Everyone has risk factors, so it is important to know what they are to prevent them from sabotaging your goals.

Consider this scenario: After completing a scientifically-validated assessment and reviewing your team members’ character results, you decide to dig deeper into their risk results to understand how they may react in stressful situations. One team member’s risk results indicate that he scored high in the passive resistance category and, as a result, has a tendency to withhold his true opinions and pretend to agree with decisions he are concerned about when in stressful or high-pressure situations. Later, he might undermine agreement while actively resisting or going against the decision that the team made, resulting in dragging his feet, complaining behind the scenes, procrastinating, or playing the “victim” or “martyr” card. This trait can derail an optimal team dynamic, because co-workers may find this person untrustworthy.

As team leader, it behooves you to be mindful of risks to protect your team from deterioration, disappointment and conflict. When dealing with those passive resistance risks, for example, it is important to be sure there is real commitment, not just compliance or nodding. You can ask questions such as, “What could go wrong?”, “What do you really think?” or, “Do you have any concerns?”. Likewise, it is critical that you maintain awareness of your own risks to safeguard your leadership success and your team’s trust in you.

Step Two: Know and Connect Team Members With Their Passions

When trying to know and connect your team members to their passions, it is important to ask them what makes them happy, energized, fulfilled and full of zest. In the same vein, you should ask yourself what type of job role would fulfill the employee you are coaching.

Tell your team members, “Think about it this way: If you didn’t need any compensation or benefits, what would you want to do?” Hone in on questions like:

    • What work or organization sounds exciting and interesting to you?
    • Why does this work or organization excite you?
    • What is it about that job or that organization that you like most?
    • What jobs or job functions have left you deflated in the past?

Have your team members make a list of and analyze the things that give them the sense of fulfillment they want in their job. Once again, a thorough assessment can help them identify their passions and interests and then understand why these passions and interests matter. A good assessment will also measure intrinsic motivation and is administered by a qualified career or executive coach or through an artificial intelligence (AI)-based platform.

With or without a formal assessment, drill down on passions and motivating factors. As a learning and development professional, you’ve probably taken many varieties of assessments. Consider taking one that helps you and your team members find deep self-awareness and then comparing and contrasting them with past assessment results for a more well-rounded perspective.

Motivators Matter, Not Just Qualifications

Interestingly, few people only have one primary motivator. As you and your team complete assessments, you’ll likely find that you are all motivated by or passionate about a variety of factors. Therefore, to maximize workplace efficiency and effectiveness, consider assigning team members tasks and responsibilities that satisfy them and align with their motivational interests and needs.

Consider Bill, a sales director for a Japanese-owned technology company based in the U.S., as an example. Salespeople are commonly highly motivated by competition, yet Bill is very low on competition as an intrinsic motivator. His main motivator is personal achievement, which has helped him excel. His ability to show respect for senior leaders in Japan without coming off as too challenging or forceful showed that he was mindful of the cultural differences between the U.S. and Japan. Someone with a high competitive motivational need would not have been as happy or successful with this company, so, though his motivational profile was unique for a sales leader, Bill is a stellar fit for his role.

The Key to a Dream Job

It is of paramount importance that you seek and guide team members into roles and responsibilities that tap into their strengths and bring them joy. Doing one without the other is ineffective and can lead to disappointment, sadness and, ultimately, professional setbacks. Plus, when you are successful at tapping into team members’ strengths and bringing them joy, it will reduce your risk behaviors. It is difficult to be stressed in negative ways when you are happy and doing something you love.

The bottom line of securing workplace effectiveness and efficiency? Find what you and your team members are gifted at, and support them in the roles and responsibilities that make their passions soar. Lastly, know and manage your risks, and prevent them from undermining your success and relationships. Remember, risks are not an excuse for bad behaviors. You simply need to get to know yourself and your team better, and your team’s future will be bright.