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Surely you’ve heard the saying “There is no “I” in team” before. And while there is no specific letter “I” in team, people often dread group projects because of team dynamics.
We’ve probably all sat on one or more teams where either the team got stuck in the storming phase and little was accomplished because personalities clashed regularly or the team never made it out of the forming stage in which to preserve the relationships, they never addressed key communication issues and a smaller percentage of the team accomplished most of the work.
The tricky thing about group dynamics is that they rely on trust which has to be both given and received. In a way, it’s kinda like Twitter, where life is “double opt-in.” It is not enough for a team member to give trust to others. They must, through good communication and achievement of goals, earn trust from those they work with.
But before you can get into a smooth rhythm of team-based work, there are a few things that must be put into place first.
- All members of a well-functioning group must have clear communications about each other’s strengths, skill sets, roles and responsibilities. This ensures that team assignments can be best matched to the skill sets of the team members which can illustrate trust and respect early on in a project.
- Roles should be agreed upon at all levels. This is particularly true of team leadership, if the leader has not been selected or assigned through a formal process. If some, but not all members in a group believes that the group is running on a consensus model where all members bear equal decision-making authority, this can result in significant confusion. There may also be different definitions of what “leadership” truly means in any group. Clarifying expectations among team members can also become more important than you might initially presume.
- The process for decision-making must be agreed upon or clearly spelled out. Conflict is natural and should be encouraged on any good team so that ideas can run through a crucible and end up better for working their way through the group. However, how the group achieves consensus or makes decisions are key to results which the team can live with (even if they ultimately disagree with the decision made).
- When communications falter or needs arise, there must be a clear process for conflict resolution among the team members. Without a clear process for resolving conflict, a team will break down when it comes to trust.
The value in groups is that, collectively, they can accomplish much more when they are functioning well. When teams break down, however, they can become difficult to manage and result in long-term relationship damage that can ultimately harm your brand or agency. Keep your team together by ensuring these basic issues are clear for all involved.
I have been watching the Occupy Wall Street activities with great fascination across the nation as a sociologist. And, while I empathize with the frustration that many have about how broken certain aspects of society are, I am most struck by the curiosity of whether or not presence in public parks or assembly, by its nature, will evoke change in our communities.
When this event spread across the nation on October 6th, the initial messages were about economic inequality and the control of wealth by the 1%. Unfortunately, the media coverage and the on-going messages seem now to centralize on whether police and parks agencies will enforce local laws and ordinances and whether anyone will capture episodes of police brutality on video. There is little focus on how the problem of economic inequalities can be resolved.
The message has been lost, despite significant media focus.
There is an important lesson that can be applied to any agency, based on this movement. Just because you have a presence on the internet or in a storefront, doesn’t mean your audience knows what you stand for. Your message and mission must be clear to those who are interested and even those who pass you by on occasion.
If your message to the community becomes diluted, your goals won’t be achieved even if you have the attention of the media or use social media. Stay on task, be clear about the mission of the business you represent and resist the urge to just exist.
Don’t just occupy a space. Use your platform to define, create, and achieve the goals which ignited your passion and dreams in the first place. Otherwise, you are just noise.
Recently, I have been reflecting a lot on my motivations for engaging in certain areas of my life. The basic question comes down to this:
- Why do we do the things that we do?
Sometimes we start certain projects, initiatives or relationships because we are passionate about the goal, outcome or what we hope to achieve. And, over time, that passion can be easily overtaken by feelings of obligation. What we used to “enjoy” doing becomes a habit or other things simply become more important.
Now, you may be wondering if I’m describing the “shiny object distraction” theory. You know, the theory that says the grass will always be greener on the other side or the fact that whatever you are playing with now will soon be overshadowed by a cooler, shinier, brighter object to play with.
In fact, I am not trying to sell you on the new toy, but rather the idea of examining your motivations behind the daily choices that you make to engage or not engage in what you do. When you feel tired, unmotivated or non-committal, it’s time to step back and assess the “why” behind the “what.”
For me personally, the following triggers are key indicators that I’m involved in something that I should reevaluate:
- Feeling unable to contribute or being unsure of where I fit in,
- Disagreement on long-term goals or outcomes of a situation or project,
- Lack of relationships or empathy among participants, or
- Feeling that I’m acting more out of obligation than desire.
Now, these aren’t the reasons for why we act, but rather give insight as to when we should ask ourselves the “why” question and perhaps reconsider whether there is another path or way to hearken back to our original motivation and inspiration.
The application for this thought is far-reaching across many different scenarios from your career choice to your volunteer opportunities. Consider the difference between an inspired employee and those just punching the clock. The same consideration can be seen online, too, for agencies who care about their presence in social media and those who are just programming a few tweets or completing an obligatory post.
One of my favorite movies is the Dead Poets Society with the following exchange between Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams) and his students:
[Keating stands on his desk]
John Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Dalton: To feel taller!
John Keating: No!
[Dings a bell with his foot]
John Keating: Thank you for playing Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.
Is your vision stuck, are you growing habitual or are you walking through the motions of a certain relationship without inspiration? If so, take a moment to ask yourself what inspired you early on in the project and if you can rediscover that original love. Something got your attention when you first committed. Evaluate your motivations, write them down on a sticky note so that you can remember when times grow tough and be sure that you’re choosing what you do for all the right reasons.
Today, my team embarked upon an ambitious office project in my emergency management program: clearing out years of stored paperwork.
As a public agency, we are attentive to the state’s archiving requirements which cause us to retain about 7 years worth of records; however, it is not unusual to find documents in my office that are about 15-16 years old.
Despite promises of a paperless society, it is easy to retain paper even when you also have electronic copies of the same document. As projects conclude and are printed in booklet formats or placed into 3-ring binders, they find their home on a shelf and are rarely called into service again.
This caused me to consider something particular tonight. By nature, we are a culture of collectors. We collect paper, pictures and objects because at some point in our lives, they defined a special memory or something we desired to hold on to. Often, we use the excuse “I’ll use it later” or “I’ll reread that someday.”
One of the unintended consequences, however, of clutter is that it makes us forget what we have. When we hoard or hold onto things that are really unnecessary, we hide the significance of what is really special. Next time you find yourself sitting in your office or home, I challenge you to consider these two questions:
- How do the things you hold onto define who you are?
- Is your life cluttered with things that don’t really matter?
And because I like to chat about digital life as well, the “things” may not all be on paper. Consider the files on your computer or, in the realm of social media, your fans, friends and followers. Do you save things or follow people because they are special or because you are collecting?
Spend some time this week clearing out the unnecessary, the noise, the papers that mean nothing. And you’ll be able to better appreciate both what you have and who you share it with.
How often do you ask yourself why you do what you do?
Life has a funny way of trapping us quickly into habits and assumptions that we may not choose to question for years.
We seek promotions at work, self-improvement of our health or finances, polishing the resume and “keeping up with our peers” because it just seems to be the “right thing to do.” But is it?
How often do we examine the motive behind our actions? Do we spend time doing things because it’s always “been done that way” or because it is what society expects us to do?
Today, I was faced with a number of situations which begged my examination of this very question. We advise our children on the dangers of peer pressure and yet, we feel compelled to join the groupthink and jump on bandwagons when it seems the popular thing to do.
It is much harder to hold ourselves personally accountable for our actions and question whether our motives are pure reflections of our values and whether our choices are intentional. For when we follow others, it gives us someone to blame when we become uncomfortable with that choice.
When you live intentionally and connect your actions with their motives, you will see a life that is fully inspired by your values. You can waste a lot of years in mindless actions, reactions and choices if you never ask yourself the all important question of “why.”
There are certain days I wonder how many people truly knows what this word means. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines passion as an intense, driving or overmastering feeling or conviction.
Do we look at each day as an opportunity to improve our communities? Do we take advantage of moments to engage with others in an authentic give and take where we seek to draw out the best in others? Do we give our all on projects, even when the return might be less than our original investment?
At the end of the day, do we live in such a way that what we’re passionate about is easily evident to others? If you’re not sure, ask someone you trust their perceptions about what you’re passionate about. Their answer might be more revealing than you realize.