Given I am absolutely sure you understand the importance of teamwork at work, do you often find yourself wondering why team building is such a struggle and why you frequently find yourself frustrated in your desire to provide the leadership necessary to create an effective work team? Well, the answer is actually somewhat simple although when you read the rest of this, you might just want to throw up your hands and give up. But let’s see.
To get to the bottom of the issue, you must first understand that human beings mostly live under the domination of their ego. For those of you who are regular readers, this will not come as a great surprise. But exactly what does that mean? The ego voice tells us lots of disempowering things, but none is as bad as what the ego tells us about us. Given the reality that the ego is not our friend, what it tells us is: we are not good enough, we are not lovable, and we are not worthy.
While none of that is the truth about us, the really bad part is that we listen to the voice of the ego and we believe that what it says is “the truth.”
So let’s see why this creates such a challenge in creating an effective work team. Team member A wants to have a conversation with team member B, maybe about something that isn’t working, or working as well as it could, or could be improved, or about anything which involves the effectiveness of B. With all good intentions, A approaches B to have this discussion. But the moment A starts to focus on anything that involves the behavior of B, B immediately becomes defensive, starts to justify or defend, and the conversation goes south. You remember all the times this has happened?
Because B, without realizing this at all, is already questioning whether or not he is good enough, worthy and lovable, and mostly thinking he is not, he tends to listen either that he is being criticized, or that he is being lectured to, or that he is being made wrong, or that he is being judged, or all of the above. How would you listen if you thought that? And perhaps you do. Under these circumstances, it’s almost impossible to have a friendly, helpful conversation with a team member and most conversations are either avoided or end up in an argument.
Is there a solution? Not one that I have ever seen work consistently and well. But here’s a place to start. If you understand this phenomenon, it is incumbent on you to approach your team members with lots of compassion and understanding. You have to go out of your way to have whoever you are speaking to understand that you are not being critical or judgmental or making him wrong. You have to choose your words carefully, stay in your heart, and do whatever it takes to have the conversation turn out well. You have to be prepared to apologize if you say something that offends and allow the other to have whatever feelings they have without making them wrong. But just the awareness of what’s going on should help as you deal with this ongoing challenge.