Is Self-Confidence an Asset or Liability for your Team?

How to use the "Pasricha" Scale to evaluate whether your team might need some “I” after alL.

-Andrew Russell

1+1 is not always 2 when it comes to a team. The nature of a team is a dynamic equation. The different members rely on one another in a variety of ways, fusing together sometimes, and dividing at other critical moments to achieve maximum advantage. Teamwork, simply put, is not simple arithmetic. So how should you evaluate the makeup of your team? There are many metrics to consider, but among the most important (in my opinion) is confidence.

At a recent conference, I spoke to an organization about the importance of group dynamics, and the value of individuality in the team environment. As an Olympic athlete with a background in team sports, I know that a cohesive team can often result in performance(s) that exceed the expected "sum of the parts". When you have the right team make-up, trends emerge like complementary workflows, real teamwork, and positive collective energy.

Andrew Russell, left, high-fives after the plank challenge.

Andrew Russell, left, high-fives after the plank challenge.

I experienced this with Gabriel Beauchesne-Sevigny ("Gab"), as we embarked on a quest to represent Canada at the Olympic Games together in the sport of sprint canoe. We succeeded in earning the right to represent Canada at the Olympic Games, and a lifelong dream was fulfilled. In Beijing (in 2008) we raced well, narrowly missing the podium in two events, and shared  three more great years racing as the top crew for Canada internationally.

Gab and I racing at the 2008 Olympic Games in the C-2 event. 

Gab and I racing at the 2008 Olympic Games in the C-2 event. 

Gab nor I were the very best individual paddlers; our combination produced some great results at both the national and international level.

As I shared our story, I thought back to the fine balance of projected and intrinsic confidence Gabriel and I tightroped. We wanted to emulate the best, carry ourselves with purpose, and develop a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Essentially, we wanted our confident "talk" to bleed into our "walk" and sport performances.

Self-confidence gets a lot of attention in the world of sport ... and beyond. Too much confidence and you stand out and begin to move into a realm of arrogance. Too little confidence, and you can fade into near-invisibility, unable to inspire teammates and co-workers or to drive results. So what's the perfect equation when it comes to developing a team?

Writer and positive thought theorist Neil Pasricha has an interesting take on the confidence scale and identifies a matrix that is worth some self-reflection. Neil Pasricha is an Oshawa, Ontario native who is famous for having started the "1000 awesome things" blog where he focused on simple positive things to kickstart happiness and overcome severe hardship. He's now a world famous leader in positive thought, team dynamics, and mindset. I think his framework is applicable to many different organizations and teams, and definitely worth including in  a periodic self-audit. In many ways, (without having been introduced to a formal process,) Gab and I saw this type of reflection as essential to our success.

Neil Pasricha's scale featured above. 

Neil Pasricha's scale featured above. 

Pasricha's chart considers the nature of confidence as a being relationship between your "opinion of self" and your "opinion of others".

In Pasricha’s view, the optimal quadrant is defined by having both a high opinion of one's self and a high opinion of others. Naturally, there’s a lot more nuance at play in the human psyche than can be captured in a simple grid, but in general this is a great tool for a quick and honest self-audit. How do you fare using this tool? Be honest with yourself, then consider what small changes to your approach and worldview you might be able to make, and how those might impact your next team experience..

In a perfect world, we’d all work towards operating in that sweet spot—the “Confident” quadrant—and inspire others to join us in this space. Doing so can help build stronger teams that might outperform the basic math of 1+1=2.