“The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress.”
– Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French Philosopher
When two or more people engage in a similar activity to achieve a common goal, teamwork will produce a higher quality result. The ideal team size is between 4-6 six people; this is where the combined IQ of the team reaches its peak and where the greatest synergy can be obtained. Teams are powerful combinations of people committed to achieving uncommon results.
Teams, when they are working correctly can work through difficult issues and solve complex problems. While teams can produce outstanding results in many cases they don’t. People who work in teams have to let part of their ego and judgment go. People engaged in teamwork have to yield to the higher good and often they let their ego stand in the way of team results.
What then makes a good team?
- Being able to discuss tough issues without attacking individuals
- Being able to let go of judgment
- Being willing to neutralize the ego
For some people items 2-5 are difficult to do. The first item, communications is something everyone thinks they do well with. For some people talking is good communications, if they are speaking that is, for them that is what good communications is all about. Communications is more than actively emitting sound waves. Communications is more powerful when it is done from a non-judgmental point of view and when it is done with the intent of understanding. The most powerful aspect of communications is listening to understand and speaking to clarify. Powerful communications is done when it is without the participation of the ego. The ego lives just to go for the ride. The ego is the backseat driver that is in the mode of adding critical commentary that is usually not beneficial.
When the ego is involved in listening it means that judgment is occurring during the narrative that someone else is providing and that distorts or silences the intent of the message. If there is a reply sitting, or if there is a reply taking shape when someone else is speaking there is no listening being done. The brain is a single channel device it is either receiving or sending information. Two thoughts can’t reside in the mind simultaneously while listening.
What would happen if people could listen with the intent to understand and to suspend judgment? If people could suspend judgment they would more forward towards greater contribution and generate higher group energy which would allow for the generation new ideas. New ideas become the soup for the genesis of solutions to problems; teams after all are solving some type of problem. Teams are in the process of creating something new, whether it is a problem or the act of discovery, something new will be generated.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The first and most difficult task of dialogue involves parking the ego and listening with an open spirit. From this receptivity can come questions which lead to understanding.
“What is it you see that I don’t?”
“How do you see this differently and why?”
“Please help me understand from your perspective.”
To ask these questions requires that one no longer need to have the best or last answer. Expanding one’s understanding becomes more important than being right or getting one’s point across.”
—Dr. Ann McGee-Cooper
from the article Dialogue: The Power of Understanding
Teams need to communicate effectively in order to thrive. Effective communication, honest, open, vulnerable communication begins when there is a high level of trust. When one person on the team holds the cards the trust in that team is going to be lower. There will be reserved participation or there will be the kind of participation that is done for the benefit of the person who is not holding the conversation in trust.
In organizations where hierarchy and rule of position is still the method of operation unless there is an authentic and genuine regard for all forms of communication the ability for those who are in subordinate positions to express their ideas that are controversial will be muted.
Looking at the teams you work with, what kind of communication takes place? Is it authentic, open, genuine, honest, and generative? What do the conversations look like? What new ideas are being generated? What does the energy in the team look like? What is the sound of the conversation? How do you feel when you are engaged in real teamwork?