Awareness and Connection: The Roots of Teamwork
Throughout my life, I have played a card game called “Go-To-Pack.” The object of the game is for players to eventually get rid of all the cards in their hand based on the rules of the game. A player wins when all of their cards have been used up. What is important here is not how to play the game, but to understand an interaction between my daughter and I while playing this game when she was just 10 years old.
She has always enjoyed the healthy competition with me; so one day, during a game, the point came where I had only one card left and she had about fifteen. For anyone looking on, this may have seemed like a “no brainer.” I was obviously at a point where losing seemed impossible. Disheartened, my daughter dropped all of the cards on the table:
“What’s wrong, why did you drop your cards?” I asked.
“I lost!” She answered with mild hostility.
“But, the game is not over. I still have one card in my hand. Do you think I have the winning card?” I asked.
“I don’t know!!” she answered.
“Should you assume that?” I asked.
“No,” she said.
“Then let’s go!!” I answered, trying to both calm and encourage her. “It’s your turn to play.”
Hesitantly, she picked up her cards and ended up winning the game fairly using the strategies she knew, feeling happy but slightly embarrassed at the same time. Why did this turn out well for her? Because, as a parent:
- My goal was to finish the game
- I want her to develop
- She felt safe to try again without fear of judgement
All of these had to be in place simultaneously. Without these, it would have been easy for me to simply walk away when she dropped her cards, and there would have been no learning and therefore no improvement.
Sometimes, solutions for many of our problems seem impossible, but what is important is to analyze where we are: What is happening? Why is it happening? How can we move forward?
“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.”
– Madeleine L’Engle
Having a system of our own helps us to deal with situations like these when they arise. This idea is more widespread than we may think, not only with people but throughout nature as well. Just to use a quick analogy; In his book “The Culture Code -The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups,” author Daniel Coyle explains the behaviour of slime mould. (I swear I would never bring this up if it didn’t have a purpose). Slime mould seem to have an unconscious system in place and here it is:
- “If there’s no food, connect with one another.”
- “If connected, stay connected and move toward the light.”
- “If you reach the light, stay connected and climb.”
These rules allow them to operate with precision as they achieve their goals of growing, spreading and annoying all of us.
So, whether it’s slime mould, my interaction with my daughter, or a leader’s interaction with his/her team; the common “threads” that emerge in getting things done are AWARENESS and CONNECTION. Let’s examine each:
1. AWARENESS: DEFINE WHO AND WHERE YOU ARE
Have you ever gotten lost in a really large mall? You get to the map and it has a dot with a sign next to it that says: “You are here.” This brings a sense of relief which reignites your motivation and you jump into action again because you are not leaving that mall until you get that pair of shoes (whether you actually need it is for another blog). Defining where you are is critical to moving forward. It can explain not only what is happening in your external situation but also what is happening internally, for example; your mood, level of motivation, attitude and overall mindset.
Awareness is all about being honest with yourself, it’s about the ability to be vulnerable. Awareness of your shortcomings is the key to changing them. It may seem a bit chaotic at first but chaos usually brings order if you take the time to understand what is happening within the chaos. If you lack assertiveness, express yourself!! When you are unsure, ask!! When you need practice, practise!! Vulnerability is power. It gives us a chance to improve and to become good at what we do.
In the example with my daughter, she looked at the situation, perceived it as hopeless and gave up. She simply needed to be more aware of the dynamics of the game as well as her ability. But that is not all. Even with that awareness, your motivation to pursue a goal may also depend on the support from the people around you, as in this case. This situation is very common in the workplace as well, so the second element emerges…
Yes, I know… the example I used is about my daughter so I would naturally care, but there are very few goals in life that we achieve on our own. We often have to deal with people whether we know them or not. In some cases, whether we like them or not, they form your “team.” If we examine all of the reasons why teams work, CONNECTION stands out and even though it’s not possible with everyone we interact with, it holds power because of the psychological safety it creates for employees. Psychological safety describes a climate within a team that is characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect where individuals are comfortable being themselves without the fear of negative consequences. It promotes the following:
- It encourages us to express ourselves to those we feel connected to, even when we are getting negative feedback
- It allows us to feel that this is a safe place to make the effort
- It makes us more approachable
- It leads to more regular and more meaningful conversations
If we can genuinely care about people, listen to what they have to say and give them the impression that we are on their side, it encourages everyone around us to think that that we are all in it together, and this can make all the difference.
As long as individuals, whether it is the workplace or otherwise, can take an objective look at themselves and be open to improvement, positive change can happen. It is more likely to happen if leaders understand that they need to create this type of environment by demonstrating it themselves. Awareness and connection are elements that represent the “root” of creating TRUST. Demonstrating these can help to not only achieve group cohesion but to facilitate the achievement of end results.
Founder of V-Formation Training and Development
Professional Speaker and Trainer
868-681-3492 | firstname.lastname@example.org