Be A Team

can you see the team boosting the child? I have many of these and will soon begin intentionally pursuing this form

can you see the team boosting the child? I have many of these and will soon begin intentionally pursuing this form

Many years ago Judy gave me a book by African writer Malidoma Some. He wrote that, in the village where he grew up, there were no locks on the doors. In fact, there were no doors. The people of the community respected the possessions and privacy of others. Locks were not necessary. The community cared for the health of its members so its members cared for the health of the community. From his point of view, a society that needs locks on the doors is a sick society. Locks are sign of communal breakdown.

I’ve been thinking much about sickness and the need for locks as I prepare to do a workshop for organizations about effective teams. I’ve done too many of these workshops not to recognize that the need to build teams is a sure sign of an unhealthy community. In Malidoma Some’s community, people were aware of and acted from a consideration of the health of the whole. Loyalty begets loyalty. “Acting for the good of the whole” is a great working definition for a team. It’s all you need to know to nurture great teams: make sure everyone in the organization, from the top to the bottom, is caring for the health of all the members. Make sure the choices are made for the good of the whole.

An organization that needs to team build is like a society that needs locks: most organizational systems support a philosophy of “every man and woman for themselves” while the executive suite needs cooperation and compliance to get the job done. No amount of team building can transcend compensation for individual merit. Once, a CEO asked me, “How do I get them to do what I want them to do?”

The short answer: you don’t.

A healthy team, just like a healthy community, requires no leveraging to act. It requires no policing. A team is a not a “thing.” A team is a relationship and just like a sports team or a theatre troupe, everyone needs to feel safe to really bring their game. They have to know the team cares for them as much as they care for the team. Many years ago, while sitting in a jury pool, the judge asked us, “Why do people resent being called to serve?” A lovely older woman raised her hand and replied, “The government offices are inaccessible and unhelpful when I need information or support. Why should I be happy to serve a system that wants nothing to do with me until it needs my money or someone to sit on a jury.” The rest of the jury pool applauded. When loyalty is a two-way street, teams form naturally. When loyalty is a given, people quite naturally offer their service to something greater than themselves.

There are a few other elementary things necessary for the relationship known as, “team,” like a common story (a common center) and a clear intention, but they are not possible when the metaphoric doors need locks. “Team” is something we are, not something we build or do.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Or, go here for hard copies.


One Response

  1. “An organization that needs to team build is like a society that needs locks.” Well said. Sadly, in our culture we lack the natural reciprocity, mutuality, and dependence on each other that gives rise to the village. In our impersonal, transactional society we don’t need each other. If we did, we wouldn’t lock our doors. Because mutual reliance creates trust.

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