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The Water Cooler

A blog of fresh ideas and findings from organizational leaders and researchers on how they’re making work better, shared regularly.

A bit of self-reflection can help us become our best selves

Filed under: Teams
A bit of self-reflection can help us become our best selves
To become our better selves it helps to visualize our best selves. Research shows that by reflecting on the type of people we want to be, we wind up feeling more psychological safety and elevating not only our own performance, but that of our entire team.

Dr. Julia Lee, a postdoctoral fellow at the Ross School of Business, shared her research using the “reflected best self exercise” at the re:Work 2016 event, Originally developed by scholars at the University of Michigan, the exercise has participants create an assessment of their “best self” and asks others for feedback that highlights their positive contributions. Participants then create a “best self portrait” based on the stories they receive.

Lee tested how much this exercise could influence the performance of a team. In her experiment, individuals went through the reflected best self exercise and then had to work in teams to deal with a simulated crisis, in this case responding to a contagious viral outbreak. One group received stories about their “best selves” from others before the crisis and the control received the stories after.

Crisis response experts evaluated the teams based on their communication, creativity, clarity of ideas, feasibility of policy recommendations, and team cohesiveness. The group that received their stories before the crisis significantly outperformed the control group. “This exercise made individual team members feel socially valued by others before they go into teams. And so this sense of self-worth put them into a psychological state that allowed them to contribute better in teams by bringing more unique perspectives,” Lee said.

“It is our job to create conditions under which our employees are bringing their best selves to work,” Lee added. “I want you to take a moment to think about the stories that you tell yourself and also the stories that other people tell you about yourself. Are they really consistent with how you want to be remembered?”