“Human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace”. John O'Donohue

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The "I" in Team

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
I have been struggling recently, as you've seen from my other posts, with reconciling the introvert me with some of the demands of an extravert-centric workplace. One of the issues that came up was the notion of being a "team-player". Yes, I can hear you other introverts cringing at the very idea. "networking" being another word that often strikes fear into our hearts.

I like to think I know a little bit about teams. I spent a number of years in my professional life as a trainer specialising in management and organisational development.  I have led teams, worked in teams, and advised others about managing teams. I also studied social psychology at post-graduate level.

Ok - That's as much trumpet-blowing as you'll ever get out of me!

Anyway - as a direct consequence of this exposure, I think I learned enough (and suffered enough!)  to have devoted the last ten years of my life to finding and exploring different ways of being and communicating.

Because for a long time, businesses have been getting it really wrong. And most of them still do. One of the biggest mistakes is in thinking that being a "team player" (cringe)  means being like everybody else in the team. Wrong.

One phrase that sends shivers down my spine is "There is no "I" in team"

Sorry - but Bollocks! I mean  - really! What this suggests is that people (individuals) should somehow suppress their needs for the good of the group. I think we've seen some spectacularly frightening historical examples of where this can go! It is outmoded and innacurate, a cliché  at best and dangerous at worst, and... well...just plain wrong. Yet you still see and hear it being trotted out in team building training.

Teams are essentially groups of people. All of whom are individuals, and most of whom (unless they happen to be enlightened) see themselves as an "I".  So the "Is" in teams are actually really important. Recognising the individuality and the humanity of each person in a group is such as powerful starting point that I am stunned there are still people who don't do it that way. From this starting point, we can observe how each person contributes his or her own unique personality, strengths, skills and understanding to a situation. Added to this is the nurturing of respect and understanding, listening and empathy, tolerance and compassion AND- top of my list - 100% zero tolerance of bullying, in all it's subtle and not so subtle forms.

Ever heard any of these qualities mentioned in a manager's job description?

You might have the odd nod towards empathy but usually the words tend to be along the dynamic, self-starting, motivational, performance orientated lines.

What would it be like in the workplace if managers were hired for their compassion and understanding? No - don't dismiss it! Imagine it. Visualise it. Think about it.

If managers were compassionate and understanding. If they valued people. If they respected the individual. If they honoured each person's unique contribution. If everyone in the team was valued and listened to. If  team members were encouraged to play to their strengths rather than force themselves out of their comfort zones. Imagine the teams they would assemble and manage.

I don't know about you - but I kinda  like that picture.

This stuff isn’t new. Abraham Maslow ( you will  have encountered his “hierarchy” of needs) was advocating “enlightened management” fifty+ years ago.

What happened? Why am I still having to justify the fact that I have different needs for "self-actualisation".

I have my own ideas but yours would be interesting to hear!

“If both the physiological and the safety needs are fairly well gratified, then there will emerge love and affection and belongingness needs, and the whole cycle already described will repeat itself with this new centre. Now the person will feel keen”- Abraham Maslow


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