Team performance starts with commonalities.
Do you want more team performance? Do you feel like you are going through the motions at work? Are you struggling to find meaning in what you do? Are you resigned to your current role by saying is this all there is? Are you disengaged from your colleagues and feel as though there isn’t a true sense that you are all a team?
If you have felt or currently feel this way, you are not alone. Many of the business leaders and professionals we work with tell us they have a sense of feeling alone. We’ve found that this poses a significant problem—not only for the individuals who feel alone and disengaged, but for the organization itself.
Going Through the Motions
When people show up for work and just go through the motions, they cooperate with others as appropriate and necessary. But their objective is simply to complete the task, usually without regard for a grander individual or team purpose. As a result, team performance suffers for individuals and the organization as a whole.
Fundamentally, the height of a team’s performance compared to its potential is directly related to the depth of connection among its members. In other words, authentic connection is the key to maximizing performance of a team or organization.
It Begins With Authenticity
The journey to full power starts with each member becoming real, becoming her or his authentic self and fully open to the known, unseen, and yet to be discovered. This way they are likely to develop bold ideas, clear vision, hindsight, foresight, and constructive and probative feedback. The ability to openly communicate has a positive impact on team performance.
When you do not know why you’re doing something, or don’t have any emotional connection to it, you will likely feel lonely. And when you feel lonely, you are unlikely to engage with others enthusiastically. So, the malaise that you bring to the team will pull the others down rather than lift them up. The good news is that the same logic works in reverse toward a positive outcome.
You have undoubtedly felt, during certain times in your life, a clear sense of purpose or direction. When you are connected to yourself and feel that internal source of inspiration, the days fly by! You are happy, excited, and fulfilled. You may feel a deeper sense of connectedness to your teammates as they share in the broader vision. Being aligned, working together toward a greater purpose, and being committed to making the vision a reality can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of our careers.
So, the journey from loneliness to connection starts with the awareness that something is missing, and a desire to explore purpose and authentic connection to enhance team performance. As an individual, you want to get clarity about your purpose or cause, to choose and embrace your “why” before you take on your to-do list, and to know that it is right when you are being real.
A team’s source of power lies with members connecting first to their own purpose and authenticity. If all members show up disconnected, the team will be nothing more than a bunch of lonely souls. Yet when each person has clarity and is aligned with their purpose, it will be a connected—and powerful—team.
With everyone on the team working toward showing up fully and authentically, the boss can actually engage with the team differently. He or she can focus on creating an environment where each member is free to be a leader, opening up the gateway to maximize the potential of team performance.
It is all too common for disconnection within an organization to lead to a lack of performance. As an example, a CEO client assembled his team with the best class of individual talent, but this team failed to connect and engage—and as a result ultimately became dysfunctional.
The CEO successfully recruited top talent to all the key positions. Each individual recognized the impressive talent of their colleagues. Yet the CEO and the team had a sense that something wasn’t right with team performance and none of them could identify the source of the dysfunction.
After analyzing the problem, it was discovered that there was no eye contact at their meetings, and it was clear that self-survival governed team results. The elephants in the room were becoming terrifyingly familiar, although no one dared speak up about the underlying tension.
The team discussions focused on constraints that came from each other’s self-limiting beliefs. Instead of getting energy from each other when the team got together, they actually drained power from one another. Everyone was losing sleep. The CEO was ready to give up on himself unless he could figure out how to leverage the untapped power of the team.
The limiting assumption of the CEO and team members was that functional talent was all it took to succeed. Instead each member needed to invite the power inside themselves to connect with the other team members’ power. The talent that the CEO recruited was hiding in independent silos, and the opportunity to leverage team performance was lost. Only by openly engaging the talent in an authentic and collaborative operating model would the world-class recruits become a world-class team.
Similarly, we worked with a law firm that struggled as its partners competed with each rather than shared and leveraged their wealth and wisdom.
The firm’s individual partners kept their respective clients confidential, refusing to share the identity of their clients out of fear that if they shared access, their partners might steal away the client relationship. By clinging tenaciously to these client relationships, these partners missed the opportunity to cross-fertilize and leverage their relative strengths in order to maximize the best interests of the clients and the team.
The shift needed was for the partners to overcome their self-limiting beliefs and fears, and instead embrace the opportunities presented by working with others. When each partner shares, the firm grows and all its partnerships become stronger.
Working with volunteer boards—whether for causes or religious institutions—we have experienced individual fractured agendas and interests among the members become the focus rather than the shared vision of team performance.
Only when the volunteers authentically connect with the other volunteers, and together align to the cause and vision of the organization they all serve will the board be fulfilling its purpose.
Though simple, this cultural change is difficult to pull off. Because we’re inviting everyone to come to work with their clothes turned inside-out—to reveal not only what they want to show or expect that we want to see, but also the parts of them (hopes and thoughts) that they may be afraid to bring forth. That kind of show-and-tell is awkward, challenging, scary, and even revolutionary.
Each individual will contribute to team performance differently, of course. That’s what we’re hoping for—diversity. Yet, as each person shows up with authenticity, our similarities and differences will become manifest with attuned clarity, and the power in that dynamic will multiply. Team performance will come from the product of what we have in common and the hidden message in our differences—it takes all team members to be real for this cultural change to have impact. Only then will real connections forge–and with them, an explosion in performance.
Adapted from The Power of Vulnerability: How To Create A Team Of Leaders By Shifting INward (Greenleaf Book Group Press) by Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester. Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.
Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester are the authors of The Power of Vulnerability: How To Create A Team Of Leaders By Shifting INward (Greenleaf Book Group Press). As partners at Shift 180, they coach business leaders and their teams to unlock their full potential. To learn more, visit: www.shift180.com