Illusory team superiority

4 awesome tips for team success

Illusory superiority

- we are doing fantastic! - a psychological bias that sets a trap for your team

Illusory superiority can easily be tamed and turned positive.

Hvad betyder illusorisk overlegenhed for et team?

Illusory superiority is a cognitive bias, i.e. a we-are-fantastic-self-image that can be considered a possible trap for any team. In social psychological terms, the term refers to the fact that a team may tend to overestimate its own strengths and competences in comparison with other teams. Now you might appropriately ask yourself whether your own team sometimes gets a touch too high on itself?

When should the team really pay attention to illusory superiority?

In the day-to-day work with your teammates, everyone has an opinion about what's right and wrong, because everyone is convinced they're going in the right direction. If you fall into uttering phrases like "We're always right in our team", "We lift the whole organisation", "Without us it would all fall apart", then you're caught with both feet in the illusion of superiority. In these cases, you may hear an inner alarm bell telling you that right now is a good time to adopt a more mature self-understanding on a team level. You are, in fact, overestimating yourself.

How do we overcome illusory superiority?

You must listen with curiosity to your own statements, especially your self-justifications, your cowering at your own doors, and your denigration of others in the organization. In these cases your team ego is most likely filling up the whole room. It may look appealing from your side, but others have a different experience. The effect, in fact, is that your self-idolising steals the light from those outside the team. And the natural consequence is that people don't thrive in your presence. Then reflect on how your behaviour could have been differently respectful towards outside colleagues. You need to couple the alarm bell, so to speak, with positive action and a mature expression.

“On a scale of 0 to 10, I would probably rate myself between 7 and 8. Um, but what was it you asked me again?”

How the team is infected

with illusory superiority?
Fantastic! You guys are so cool! I’ve never seen numbers that were so impressive!” I dare say that many of us have been exposed to such enthusiasm, let alone done the jubilations ourselves – overestimated a team’s performance. Not out of malice, but because we want to make them braver, more motivated, happier and more confident. We want teams to find their passion and keep performing on the big stage.

Possible lessons from the lavish praise

The self perception of the team becomes falsely positive

The team becomes convinced that its unique talent is real, that its skills are exceptional not only in sales but in all the other areas about which the team now speaks. The self-absorbtion leads to believe that the talent is wide and broad.

The team learns that it doesn't pay to make an effort

The team learns that its talent is a given as a birth right, and that without great effort, focus and preparation the team can master any challenge. The conviction thus sets in that effort and diligence are the lot of all the those who have not received the special baptismal gift of knowing everything in advance and doing everything with ease.

The team passes on the bad

The team may also learn that it must reward others with shame and misguided motivation. The lost praise becomes the way forward, and inauthenticity in relationships is the unconsciously entrenched goal.

Illusory superiority

has been proven by a multitude of studies

Almost all of us think we're above average

95% of all drivers rate themselves better than the others.

Illusory superiority exists.

Illusory superiority originates from our upbringing and it lives in our beliefs. Social psychologist David Dunning of Cornell University says it clearly in his research: ‘People overestimate themselves. But more than that, they really seem to believe it”, Unskilled and unaware of it, 1999. In his studies, he has found that the least competent actually inflate their competences the most. The reason for this is not arrogance, but ignorance – people are simply trapped by their own chronic beliefs about their own abilities. It was way back in 1976 that one of the first studies in Illusory Superiority was conducted by the Universities Board in the United States. They collected data from more than 1 million students, and found that 70% rated themselves above the median in terms of leadership ability. But even more striking were the results on how well you get on with others, with 85% rating themselves above the median. In fact, a full 25% rated themselves in the top 1%. So 1 in 4 people rated their own social skills as better than those of everyone else around them.

What we should learn from illusory superiority

in our own teams?
Several of your colleagues are likely to think that they are better than you at many of the tasks you do – whether they are or not. You should keep this in mind when interacting with them. Because it can quickly create friction when our egos aren’t respected with our parents’ well-meaning words of comfort and pats on the back. And yes, we all have egos that we want treated with dignity. As a result, accurate feedback is rarely seen in teams, because if I break your self-image, you might break mine, and I don’t want that. People don’t want to give negative and developmental feedback, and therefore fail to give feedback. So we choose the caring parent route, nurturing the ego while avoiding the confrontational encounter with reality. We maintain the superficial relationship, the mutual agreement of passivity that will destroy us both if broken. But an ambitious team wants more than this superficial gloss. An ambitious team wants to unleash its own potential, not throw grit into its own machinery.

Build an authentic team, characterised by well-being and cohesion. 4 tips for the successful team:

Make sure...

...that each person in your team is prepared to face themselves, their own shadow sides.

Make sure...

...that there is safety in the process, when people wake up to a new world.

Make sure...

... that the feedback you give each other doesn't just happen one day, but continues on a daily basis, integrated into new habits that everyone can vouch for.

Make sure...

...that the developmental feedback rests on a broad and secure platform of appreciative feedback, given regularly.

The solution to illusory superiority

is fluently integrated into workshops

Ambitious Teams provides your teams…

With psychological tools that are easy-to-use

With a customised workshop booklet full of easy-to-follow exercises, everyone takes home concrete solutions, boosters and nudges that knock illusory superiority to the floor.

Self-awareness that creates growth

When we choose to address illusory superiority in a workshop, often indirectly through serious play, it has an extremely positive effect on the well-being of the team. When everyone comes into the team with the self-awareness that they are imperfect, we can build the team properly.

Motivation for more

When everyone can see their colleagues being brave and daring to be transparent, the comfort zone of the team is extended. There is simply more room to be oneself if illusory superiority is addressed in a psychologically safe way.

Evaluation of a workshop where the psychological bias of illusory superiority was addressed positively and constructively

The evaluations from a full-day workshop for management talents in an international company speak for themselves. When illusory superiority is addressed through play, close dialogue, and translated into appropriate behaviour, the team moves up several levels in well-being and effectiveness. Not just on the day, but in the months that follow. 121 evaluations resulted in an average score of 9.8/10. This workshop was held in May 2022.

In Ambitious Teams we adapt the learning processes exactly to you

The theme of illusory superiority can be integrated into many different workshop booklets, including the one we make for you, if you would like a workshop. Of course, we will work it out together. The workshop book is used during the workshop day, but also extends to the following months, so that insights are translated into everyday behaviour.
Statements from the above workshop,

where illusory superiority is integrated: