Individuals are assigned work based on their job titles. From there, team members are expected to figure out how to work well together. And as all of us have experienced at some point in our careers, “working well together” isn’t always the result.
What would it take for team members to quickly feel part of the team, bringing out the best in each other in whatever situation arises?
We are having this discussion often at Creating the Future, as more individuals are joining our teams and leading projects that are meaningful to them. We hope what we’ve uncovered is helpful as you navigate these issues with your own teams. (At the end of this post, you’ll find questions you can use to experiment with your own teams.)
Before diving into details, a quick reminder of one of the core tenets of Creating the Future’s Catalytic Thinking practice: It’s always about the people, never about the thing.
When things go wrong, humans caused that issue. And when things go right, it’s people who made that happen. Our conversation therefore focused on what it would take to bring out the best in people vs. “the system” or “the software” or “the workload” or etc.
Using Catalytic Thinking, first we defined success. What do we want our working well together to make possible? For whom?”
What could working well together make possible for Creating the Future?
Accomplishing our mission. Modeling what it looks like to walk the talk of that mission – bringing out the best in everyone.
What could working well together make possible for the team as a whole?
Sharing the responsibility for the mission. Being more productive.
What could working well together make possible for each of us individually?
Exploring our intellectual curiosity. Learning from and supporting each other. Feeling joyful, comfortable, and confident when we come together. Deepening each of our personal practice in Catalytic Thinking.
Creating Favorable Conditions for that Successful Result:
What would need to be in place to achieve that success? Given how much we humans have in common, we’re pretty sure our answers will sound familiar.
What would each of us need to feel and believe?
• A sense of belonging
• Valued for our skills, experience and for “being me”
• Believe that team members want to bring out the best in each other
• Feel assured that we can come to each other when something is uncomfortable
• Feel we can trust each other with our thoughts and feelings
What would each of us need to know and understand?
• Know what each other is working on, and who is responsible for what
• Know what each individual needs to feel supported in his/her work
• Know what each of us is dealing with in our lives outside of work. No need for details, but if we don’t know that someone is dealing with a personal issue, we humans tend to assume it’s about us, creating uncomfortable situations in the first place. “I’m going through something stressful at home” or “I haven’t slept in 3 nights” allows team members to support that individual while eliminating speculation among everyone else.
Feeling supported, knowing each other, having systems that make our time together productive, and of course the need to laugh and have fun together… knowing what conditions we intended to create, we could easily develop a plan to create those conditions.
To get to know each other…
• We will connect as people. We will share how we’re feeling, share what’s been awesome (or not so much) in our lives, ask what each person has on their plate that week.
• We will take time to reflect out loud about what we’ve discussed, to learn from each other.
• When new people join the team, we will take time to share stories of how each of us got there.
To bring out the best in each other…
• We will ask what each person is hoping the meeting will make possible.
• When new people join the team, we will discuss again what success looks like for the team, and what favorable human conditions will lead to that success. Because the team is just people, this acknowledges that a change in the people creates a change in the team.
Experiment with This:
We hope the following questions lead you to experiment with your own teams. Please let us know what other questions you come up with!
A: Experiment with the format we used, for discussion with your team
1) What does your team make possible for the organization / company? What could you make possible for each other’s work? For each other as individuals?
2) For each of the answers to #1, what conditions would lead to that success? Try the “human” questions we asked: What would team members need to feel, believe, know, understand, be assured of?
3) What actions could you take to create those conditions?
B: Other questions to explore:
What questions could you ask at every meeting to know each other better?
Discussion question: What conditions lead to trust? What actions could you take to create those conditions?
Because Creating the Future is an experiment, we hope you will share what you try and what the results are, so we can all learn together. Please post to the comments below or click here to connect with us directly. Let’s bring out the best in each other!
Men up-ending fence: Hildy Gottlieb, Creating the Future
Women playing tug-of-war: Sumith Meher via Wikimedia Commons
Team meeting around the table: Dimitri Petropolis, Creating the Future