How knowing more about yourself makes you happier in the team

17 November 2015

I have spent most of my recent weekends sailing – or more specifically yacht racing, I have been reflecting on why this makes me so ecstatically happy and what I can learn for the world of work.  It’s not the first time I have sailed, nor is it the first time I have raced, yet I continue to learn more things than I could recount here, because there is always something new.  There is learning about sailing and weather (lots of weather) but also about team work, how teams perform and importantly what I can bring to a team.


Self-awareness is a powerful contributor to being in any relationship or team, and improving your experience of the team.  As someone who is by default a fairly private person I have in the past come to ideas of ‘sharing’ with a healthy dose of cynicism and some anxiety.  For a long time I felt I could perform my job focusing solely on the work and the results.  I remember painfully the first time it was suggested to me in interview feedback that I would benefit from, “bringing a little more of myself to work and colleagues”.  Mainly I was confused by what this meant.

My recent sailing experiences however, have me reflecting that I am no longer confused; I have not only found a way to be comfortable with sharing more, I am positively thriving on using my understanding of myself to bring performance to a team and be happier in what I do.

On our boat, our team of 10 or so move positions a lot and team members change a lot; the emphasis is on learning which is something I know I am always eager for.  Last week I found myself “down the pointy end” for the first time with 1 other person, a critical role with immediately a different feel; it turns out at the bow you have very little detailed awareness of what is going on at the back, relying solely on the right signals, at the right time.  Basically, you have to trust them and they have to trust you – and believe me getting it wrong and potentially going overboard in the Solent is not an attractive learning experience!

My Insights personality profile would tell you that one of the challenges I face with this is that I like to know what is going on with the whole team, I like detail and I want to feel part of the team, not necessarily on the outside of it.  Because I know this I can not only be resilient but thrive on a new role that doesn’t fit my ‘innate’ preferences.  Using specific tools to improve my self-awareness has enabled me to be a stronger team participant for 3 main reasons:

  1. Knowing my strengths

I have just re-done my Insights profile with The ColourWorks.  Tools like this, along with MBTI and Strengths Finder mean I know what it is that I bring to the team; importantly it tells me something about how I am likely to react under pressure.  This helps me be aware, react consciously and take preventative action if needs be.

  1. Know my story and be comfortable sharing it

Ideally personality tools would be completed within teams, shared and discussed to support team working, support and building relationships.  However, that only takes you so far.  My experience of completing my one-Page Profile has been that I can take a wealth of information, lived experience and what I know about my life on on a day-to-day basis and present all the important stuff in a powerful but simple way I feel comfortable to share – as I am doing here!

Nicola Waterworth one-page profile_001

  1. Welcome change

The other thing I take from the one-page Profile, and the understanding of the growth mindset I wrote about last week, is to positively enjoy the experience of new challenges and know how I decide whether they are for me or not.  I can take what I know from personality profiling and learn about where I want to adapt and develop new skills.

I didn’t share my one-page Profile with the rest of the boat crew (although I wouldn’t rule it out).  But I do take some simple lessons to the experiences I have sailing that mean I gain the most pleasure and purpose out of them.

And the most important information?  Well obviously, that regardless of wind or sea state I must be fed regularly, luckily as a team this is a definite shared objective!

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Nicola Waterworth,  Associate


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