June 6th, 2017 3 Comments

Here at Team Elements we’re kicking off a series of blog posts focused on teams. If you’re an average adult, this will take about three minutes to read. Two to scan.  One to skim.  In exchange for that time, we’ll see to it that you get a juicy nugget of insight, a tool you can use, or a point-of-view you may have never considered. Let’s dive in.

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If you’re like most people, you spend huge parts of your week in Teams, either at work, play, or home. When we ask our clients to count the number of Teams they’re on, they often say 9…or 15…or 24. We live busy lives, and our activities are arranged to be accomplished in small social systems that have a purpose, intend to get things done, and in which we are interdependent with each other to accomplish what we want.

Count the number of Teams you’re on.  What did you get?

Most of our clients also report that at best only 20% of those Teams are effective or highly effective.  And of the remaining 80% of ineffective Teams, virtually none get help in improving their teamwork.

This is not the way we should be organizing ourselves, our communities, or our organizations for success.

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At a minimum, it’s good to know that our human tendency toward cooperation and getting things done in small groups is, in fact, a hallmark of our evolutionary journey.

Teams were important to our survival early on. But are they still important today?

You bet.  In Teams we find all sorts of things that give our lives order, interest, and meaning.  We encounter community, support, and challenge.  We form bonds that persist years beyond the Team itself.  On the flip side, we get, confusion, conflict, and consternation.

At times, things seem to flow so well that we get chills.  [These peak experiences are to be savored, because they are relatively rare and not wholly replicable.]

At other times, it’s fight-or-flight, as we feel a shot of adrenaline kick in.  Subterfuge.  Betrayal.  Humiliation.  It’s amazing what our species is capable of.  Unless you’re a sociopath or someone with a profound personality disorder (and we’ll deal with those in this forum over time), you just can’t wait to safely vent some anger or disgust to a friend.  Or have a good cry in the parking lot.

But if we spend so much time in Teams, and the stakes are so high, why is it so hard to attend to how our Teams work, what our experiences in them are, and the quality of what they produce?

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To us, Teams seem like what astrophysicists describe as “dark matter.”  Not only is it there, not only is it important, but it seems to be about 26.8% of everything in the universe.  Yet we have hardly a clue what it is or how to study it.  One can only imagine what will become known – and possible – when we finally grasp what dark matter is and its role in the universe…and our lives.

Let’s go back to that count of how many Teams you are on.  Take any one example:

  • Do you know what drives that Team’s success?
  • Are you good at getting work done?
  • Do you have line-of-sight to the important Big Things that help this team connect and orient?
  • Do you know how others feel when they’re with this Team?
  • Do you trust these people? Do they trust YOU?

We’re going to go out on a limb here and say the answer to many of those questions are either “maybe” or “no.”

The difference between dark matter and Teams?  We can learn about and impact Teams, whereas only astrophysicists can study dark matter.  We can be our own scientists.  Using Team Elements tools, we get to hold in the palm of our hand the variables for Team effectiveness and actively shape our reality. Our own universe in the palm of our hand.

Our goal for these first few posts?  To help you “see” your Team. To pull it from unobservable, to unobserved, to observable, to observed.  We first develop the capacity to see, then we choose to see.  When we finally see our Teams, we’ll be fascinated by what we learn.  And how we can shape our worlds.