Learning from the Team

I’ve just returned from a conference in Jasper and have concluded that it just might be true that one thinks better in the mountains.

While the sessions were good, the informal after hour gatherings with my colleagues were even better. I honestly can’t remember when I’ve laughed so hard or had such meaningful conversations. It was great therapy.

The experience really made me think about how much I love the people I work with and why.

They are an incredibly diverse, slightly quirky group who are intelligent, energetic and authentic. Despite the rather eclectic makeup of the team, they share a deep commitment to growing people and to making a difference in their communities. 

However the reality is that it’s not always a smooth ride.

Much as I love them all, they often poke and prod to make me go where I don’t really want to go. They are of course always right, and as painful as it is, they have contributed a great deal to making me better at my job and helping me grow as a person.

Along the way, they’ve humbled, inspired, and taught me so very much.

Mostly they’ve reinforced the importance, reality, and ultimate synergy and impact that can be made by a team when leadership is shared and members are empowered.

Unfortunately real empowerment doesn’t just happen and sometimes, when pressures are high and time is lacking, it’s hard to walk the talk.

Luckily our team is pretty good about policing one another if slippage occurs.

The team has also taught me that sometimes communication via email and conference calls just isn’t enough. While I think email is often the most efficient and effective choice for communicating, not everyone may see it the same way if they have a different way of learning. As a result, it’s clear we need to carve out the time for more of the face to face focused conversations that lead to new and innovative ideas and solutions. Additionally, these same communication tools need to be used on a regular and ongoing basis to reinforce our vision, values and strategic directions.

I’ve also learned that while differences on a team are essential, the team is stronger when members are grounded in similar values. In our case those incude kindness, respect, ongoing learning, and a belief that people have the right and responsibility to make decisions that impact their own lives.

Sometimes, when I’ve been too focused on the priorities dictated by our project, I’ve also been reminded that it’s important to help others achieve the goals that are important to them. For instance, a lot of project work is done by team members who are self employed consultants. Why can’t there be win-win situations that will reward their hard work and dedication by also providing them with opportunities to promote their own companies?

Its also critical that all team members do what they say they’re going to do. Even if there are extenuating circumstances, trust diminishes if promises aren’t kept.

Although most of our team members seem wired to work well in our often chaotic, fast-paced work environment, some are stressed by the lack of formal structure. As a result I’ve been reminded about the importance of putting frameworks and policies in place in a timely fashion. 

Truth be told there isn’t a week that goes by that doesn’t find me learning more about how to distribute our leadership and build the nimble and entrepreneurial system that will support empowerment.

All in all it’s an anything but boring team. Besides, if I ever do find I’m bored, I’ll just wait five minutes.

Posted on 10-26-08

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