I know you've heard the expression, "There is no 'I' in team." Au contraire, I believe the "I" is implied and critical to the success of every team. Do you know a team member who is his/her own worst enemy? Group success depends on individuals working together with common goals of improvement and achievement. Here are five essential steps for embracing personal changes and enhancing your positive influence in your team.

1. Self-Awareness. "He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened" - Lao Tzu. The first person you must know and understand is yourself. We seem to be able to size up everybody in the world but ourselves. Few people are endowed with natural self-awareness. It takes a strong desire and a lot of hard work to achieve understanding of oneself. Becoming self-aware does not come easily or quickly for most people. Self-awareness requires a premeditated and deliberate effort. Fortunately self-awareness has been a topic of study for centuries. Go to any bookstore or library and look in the Self Help section. Find a title that interests you and start reading. Reading and reflecting will help you gain insight. You might also take a "normal variables" psychological test like the DiSC Profile or the Meyers-Briggs. Some versions of these tests can be found online. Reading your psychological profile will help you become aware of how you are seen by others. Finally, and perhaps most difficult, when someone who knows you gives you feedback, work at listening and reflecting before you respond. In understanding the lessons of others you can come to comprehend yourself.

2. Self-Image. "The 'self-image' is the key to human personality and human behavior. Change the self image and you change the personality and the behavior" - Maxwell Maltz. The first person you must learn to get along with is yourself. Maltz and many psychologists believe it is what you tell yourself that is the key to improving your self-image. If you do not believe in yourself, you will use words in self-talk like "can't," "weak," "failure" and other negative descriptors. Positive self-image is based on affirmative self-talk. The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. You become your own best friend by looking at yourself optimistically. This must occur before you can establish meaningful relationships with others. It is not possible to be best friends with someone you don't know or don't like. So it is important to find out who you are and work to become someone you like and respect.

3. Self-Honesty. "Honesty, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold" - Leo Tolstoy. The first person to cause you problems is yourself. The best way to locate the person responsible for most of our troubles is to literally look in a mirror. What can save us is a willingness to look in that mirror and get honest about our limitations, mistakes, and difficulties.

At my tenth college reunion I sat with a friend who I had been very close to in school. He had moved away after graduation and I hadn't seen him for years. I was just beginning my second job, having worked at the first for ten years. He didn't tell me how many jobs he had worked, but they were numberous. He opined there were too many "idiots" in the world and it seemed he always ended up working with them. It became obvious to me from my friend's tales of woe that he was the problem. If you want to understand the challenges in your life, you have to look at yourself honestly.

4. Self-Improvement. "When the archer misses the mark, he turns and looks for the fault within himself. Failure to hit the bull's eye is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim - improve yourself" - Gilbert Arland. The first person you must change is yourself. Teammates who experience relationship issues often look at everyone but themselves to explain the problem. Actually we should automatically look at ourselves and seek the cause. Searching for happiness by changing anything but your own disposition is to squander your time.

A danger of teaching conferences or writing articles like this one is people start to assume you're an expert who has mastered everything you teach. Nothing could be farther from the truth; I'm still in development. One of the tenants of Alcoholics Anonymous is "Progress not perfection." And that will always be true for me. If I ever think I've finished growing, then I'm in trouble.

5. Self-Responsibility. 'You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of" - Jim Rohn. The first person who can make a difference is you. I believe significant accomplishments begin with the vision of one individual. That person takes responsibility to then carry the vision to his/her team. If you want to make a difference in this world, you must take responsibility for yourself.

I was recently conducting training at WalMart. The session had been conducted in the break room at the back of the store. As I was leaving, I came up to the doors to the main store. There was a mirror beside these doors. Above it was posted a sign; "Take a good look at yourself. This is what the customer sees." The message was clear, the employees were responsible for how they represent WalMart to the public.

As we discover ourselves, we recognize that our only choice is to stop blaming others, look within ourselves, and do the hard work of resolving the issues that are causing us problems. If you want to have better relationships with your team, then stop, look in the mirror, and start working on yourself. When you get the "I" right in your team, success will be your reward.

Author's Bio: 

Richard Highsmith, rick@qualityteambuilding.com, is President of Quality Team Building. He has twenty-five years experience training and coaching. He has built and sold two successful businesses. To learn more about becoming a team leader visit our website at http://www.qualityteambuilding.com or call Rick toll-free at 1-888-484-8326 X101.