A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with five Milwaukee area community members to talk about some of the hot topics that are gripping our community and our country. Our conversations ran the spectrum of legalizing marijuana to the border wall controversy. This was all hosted courtesy of WISN Channel 12 and will be airing tonight (4/17) at 7 pm.
As the conversation volleyed around the table and folks shared their points of view and opinions, I began to think about my points of view and my opinions. Why was it so important for me to want these people to think the way I did? Why was it so important that the guy sitting next to me see the situation as I did? Was his opinion wrong since it didn’t match mine? Were his thoughts and views any less valid?
It got me thinking about outcomes and why we are so tied to them. How many opportunities are we missing because we are tied to a certain outcome? What if we could set aside the outcome and start to listen, and I mean really listen. If we listened with unbiased, judgement-free awareness, would we be able to understand other’s points of view based on their experiences, beliefs and values? If we stopped worrying about right or wrong, good or bad, and who is on what side, could we begin to get different results? Would we be able to solve problems instead of worrying about symptoms? Is it possible for every one of us to think of ourselves as belonging to the same team?
This got me thinking about building teams. It’s interesting work and I’ve done quite a bit of it lately thanks to the fact that I get the pleasure of facilitating, coaching and talking about a program called The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. This is a learning platform that Wiley developed by teaming up with Patrick Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a team. The premise is that there are 5 behaviors that must be mastered when building high performing teams. I think these behaviors apply to anyone, on any team, in any industry. These behaviors are not earth shattering by any means. However, they need to be developed in a certain order to be mastered.
Trust lays the foundation. When we are genuinely transparent and honest with one another, we are able to build trust. The simple and practical idea that people who are willing to admit the truth about themselves are not going to engage in the kind of political behavior that wastes everyone’s time and energy and, more importantly, makes it difficult to achieve real results. We need to get comfortable being vulnerable around one another so that we can honestly say things like “I was wrong,” “I made a mistake,” “I need help,” “I’m not sure,” rather than wasting time and energy thinking about what we should say and wondering about the true intentions of others.
Productive Conflict is healthy. Once we have trust, we can then engage in the constructive debate of ideas, issues and decisions and not hold back our opinions. I’m not talking about destructive arguing like figuring out how to manipulate the conversation to get what you want. I’m talking about listening to one another’s ideas and then reconsidering your points of view. I’m talking about getting outside of your emotional comfort zone and focusing the conflict on the issues, not the personalities. This is about productive, ideological conflict—passionate, unfiltered debate around issues of importance to everyone.
Achieving Commitment is, well, achievable. Commitment is about a group of individuals buying in to a decision precisely when they don’t naturally agree. In other words, it’s the ability to defy a lack of consensus. When we are able to get everything on the table, we will be more likely to commit to decisions even if we don’t necessarily agree 100%. The fact is most people don’t really need to have their ideas adopted in order to buy in to a decision. They just want to have their ideas heard, understood, considered, and explained within the context of the ultimate decision. Weigh-In + Buy-In + Clarity = Commitment.
Accountability starts with you. We have all been on teams where the leader is responsible for accountability. Where nothing happens or moves forward unless the leader is present and makes the ask. Asking the leader to be the primary source of accountability is inefficient, and it breeds politics. It is far more effective when team members go directly to one another and give frank, honest feedback. This can only happen when everyone is committed to a clear plan of action and when people can overcome the understandable reluctance of giving one another critical feedback.
Keep your scoreboard focused on achieving collective results. We have a strong and natural tendency to look out for ourselves before others, even when those others are part of our families and our teams. We need to set aside our egos and focus our energy on the results that will be best for the entity. We need to be intolerant of actions and behaviors that serve the interests of individuals and that don’t promote the common good. Once that happens, team members are willing to make sacrifices in order to drive the collective results of their teams.
Tonight’s episode of Project CommUNITY: Split State is going to be interesting to watch. It has already made a big impact on me and how I look at my fellow community members. After all, I firmly believe we ARE all on the same team.