Previous posts in this series focused on the importance of Teams in our daily lives. They shape so much of our daily interactions. They create a sense of togetherness in a world that often seems alienating. Yet despite their importance, Teams are quite difficult to see in their fullness. And if we can’t see them, the odds are quite slim we will be able to intentionally change them for the better over time. That’s part of the reason so many Team members report just 20% of their Teams are effective, and almost 100% of Team members have no idea what to do to make it better.
So, we are getting ready to see some Teams. We just need three things:
1. A way of seeing – a set of lenses – to help bring into our field of view four primary dimensions of Team experience, to cut through the fog, to see the unique constellations of what goes on within our team.
2. A way to talk about the quality of the things we see when we look through those four lenses.
3. A simple starting point, a port of departure for our foray into this messy and opaque world of teams.
But before we put on those Team goggles, acknowledge with us three truths about Teams: they are uniquely messy, subjective, and systemic.
I’m messy. Yes, my desk is messy, but I mean something a bit deeper and more global than that. I mean: I’m a human that is constantly evolving within a changing world. I’m letting go of old habits and quite unpredictably forming new ones. I’m quite rational but also at times conflicted, confusing, and paradoxical.
And you are, too.
And when we put 7, or 9, or 15 of us together, I’m not sure what that thing is, except messy to the power of “x”.
At its essence, a Team not only has all the unique and emergent messiness that each of its members has, it has more. Our messiness is compounded. No sense fighting it. It just is.
“Is it warm enough? I think it’s too warm.”
“That was the best sandwich ever.”
“We overcame huge obstacles to deliver that piece of work.”
Because we are sense-making humans, we often compare our present experience against what we previously experienced, and also what we hope to be experiencing. This constant testing forms our opinions.
But because we were shaped by different histories, molded in different cultures, and rewarded and punished for different things, we are going to naturally disagree whether or not our Team has “good enough goal achievement,” or “sufficient trust,” or “productive conflict.”
We are beautifully diverse in many ways, especially in how we participate in, experience, and evaluate our Teams. We disagree. We need to embrace that.
It’s all connected. That whole “the leg bone’s connected to the hip bone” thing.
Our trust is connected to our ability to resolve conflict. Our shared vision is connected to our decision making. Our problem solving is connected to our goal achievement. What makes a team a unique Team are those things that are wonderfully unique, yet intrinsically connected and reinforcing in subtle, and not so subtle, ways.
The Team Elements model
1. Let’s start with the end in mind: The Quality of the Outcomes that a Team tries to achieve. These outcomes are the tangible and intangible results of our efforts, including:
- Goal Achievement
- Desired Climate
- External Impact
2. But these Outcomes do not arise from chance or magic. They are fed by the Quality of Work we engage in, by how well we take action together. These include:
- Clear Responsibilities
- Problem Solving
- Decision Making
3. Our ability to take action together, however, is embedded in the things that connect us and shape our sense of identity. This Quality of Relationship includes:
- Shared Vision
- Mutual Commitment
- Conflict Resolution
4. To be able to find our way into this lattice of connection, we must first know ourselves. If we listen to what’s going on in our own heads and hearts when we’re on a Team, we’re tapping into the Quality of Conversation, the things each of us thinks, feels, knows, and does when we’re together, including:
- Knowledge of Team
With these four lenses, we can now see our Teams for the unique, messy, connected, dynamic entities they are. And we can see them in our individual, subjective way.
The lenses also give us a way to have a new type of discussion about our Teams, one that bridges and spans the intimate conversation in our minds, to the big things that hold us together, to the work we do every day, to the outcomes we achieve.
The lenses create a platform for us to place our own individual, subjective assessment of each of these 16 elements in light of what our teammates think about the very same topic. We each get to say “Hey, I think this Team is SO good at holding each other accountable.” Or maybe “This place feels SO dangerous right now. I’m worried about what I think may happen next.”
Finally, this platform for Team self-assessment and dialogue brings us something incredibly rare: insights about our unique DNA, our Team’s fingerprint.
With those insights, we can make pragmatic changes in a healthy way, rooted in a sense of OWNERSHIP. Team members can tap into a deeper sense of the importance of this sacred space and of the connections between how I feel, how we relate, how we work, and the outcomes we achieve for our customers and our organizations.
Powerful? Yeah. Archimedes said: Give me a lever large enough, and I can move the world. For us: “Give me goggles clear enough, and I can see my Team.”
What do you see when you look at YOUR Team? We would enjoy hearing your thoughts below.