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Teaming Community Forum

  • Sensative issue

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    1 Posts
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  • Helping teams see themselves

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    2 Posts

    Thanks for a great question Andy.

    There are several elements from my own experience of Inter/Extra-Dependent Teams that I recognise in this question. So I’ll share them below. I hope they are helpful:

    Levels of abstraction is one way I recognise what’s going on within teams, especially Extra-Dependent Teams, that makes this a challenge. Levels of abstraction is a way to appreciate the systemic lens on which we view ourselves or others. For instance I have found many examples of EDTs whose members find it much easier to see differences to each other within the team, because their level of abstraction is at the Individual level. They are comparing themselves against each other. For people outside the team, such as a team coach, or stakeholders, they might be viewing the level of abstraction at the team level - so comparing differences in the team’s approach/climate/culture/skills/purpose compared to other teams. See Social Identity Theory for more on this.
    How I help a team to “see themselves” is therefore to bring them up to the team level of abstraction. For either an Inter-Dependent or Extra-Dependent Team, inviting stakeholders of the team into the room - physically or metaphorically - really helps open their eyes to what others see that they can’t yet see.

    A way I have worked with a stakeholder who physically attends a team meeting for instance, is to invite the team to ask questions of the stakeholder, rather than invite the stakeholder to tell the team something (do a presentation for instance). The questions help connect and engage the team with the stakeholder as a team. A review with the team afterwards gets a sense of “us”, and importantly, what that “us” is - difference or similarities. Who are “we” to “them”? What does the stakeholder expect of “us”? What are the stakeholder’s needs that “we” can add value to?

    Thinking about stakeholders entering the room metaphorically, I seek opportunities to use the empty (stakeholder) chair as much as possible. Such a chair represents a specific stakeholder. I ask teams to provide a real name and then stick that on the chair. If there are more stakeholders, get more chairs and more names. The presence of the chair itself can make a real difference to the team’s sensitivity about who they are to the stakeholder. Asking questions such as, “what would [the stakeholder] say about the way you are working together?” or “How is this discussion/topic in service to [the stakeholder]?”

    The third element that I believe may be relevant is what the team does together to create value, particularly when they might be both an Inter-Dependent and an Extra-Dependent Team. For instance, a C-Suite team is both: they have unique roles (Finance, Chief, Operations, People, Risk, Technology, etc) which provides conditions of difference for Inter-Dependency. Yet they are also all Chiefs (CFO, CEO, COO, CPO, CRO, CTO, etc), and this similarity dynamic too often leads to rivalry/comparison/competitiveness. Whilst the value creation with Inter-Dependency is achieving the goal of running a successful organisation towards its purpose, the value creation with Extra-Dependency is often overlooked. I might ask questions of the team such as “what can you learn about your role as Chief, from each other?” “What is your collective leadership here?” “What might the potential of your combined capability as leaders be on the people in your organisation, on the stakeholders and your customer?”

    What have you already tried Andy in this area? What additional thoughts do you have on this challenge?