The fundamental challenge that most people face in developing a team is taking an outside-in approach and simply viewing the team as a homogeneous unit, rather than a group of individuals, coalescing around a common purpose. This outside-in approach may initially appear to be more attractive because it seems that team development will simply involve increasing the performance of a single unit. The conventional way to work using this outside-in approach is to set idealised targets for the team and try to measure its performance against those ideal targets.
The usual outcome of viewing a team as a homogeneous unit is a reduced level of engagement from the individuals within the team because seeing the team as a homogeneous unit usually means that an individual or small group of individuals within the team establish a single perspective based on their individual assumptions and opinions, and then try to influence or force others in the team to adopt this perspective. This usually results in the classic and conventional method of team development, which is ‘forming, storming, norming, performing’ and usually results in a very normal team that produces very normal performances.
Rather than than trying to help you develop your team as as a homogenised unit, I show you how to work with the team as a group of fundamentally connected individual performers. As you develop your team by actively working with the connections between team members, you will invariably encounter tensions along the interpersonal boundaries between individuals. Instead of just trying to avoid or endure these interpersonal tensions, I share how working with these tensions enables you to identify the different voices within the team and the deeper connections that they instinctively form between them.
As we identify these different voices, you will clearly see how individuals within the team unconsciously locate aspects of their own identity in the identities of other team members. These unconsciously located identities are the most powerful connections in a team and the more clearly that you can identify them and work with them, the more profoundly connected your team will be. The term that is usually used to describe these unconsciously located identities is trust but in conventional team development, trust is almost invariably seen as an object, rather than a dynamic feedforward–feedback loop between individuals.
Trust is not just a static object that can be easily obtained by a day’s white-water rafting or abseiling. Trust is a dynamic flow that emerges, exists and evolves as individuals within a team engage with the tensions along their interpersonal boundaries, identifying and naming them, owning their contribution to the tensions, and understanding their choices in using those tensions.
As the individuals within a team work with those tensions, they will naturally create deeper trust between themselves that will consistently amplify their individual contributions, always creating outcomes that are greater than the sum of the team’s parts. Your team may not always share the same perspectives, or even agree with each other, but they will trust each other and also trust you as you continue to collectively develop your deeper and wider potential as a team.