The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Becoming a team

“Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They get older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed.” — Maya Angelou

The nuance Maya Angelou is pointing at is an important one when people seek to work together. That is when people decide to care for their relationships.

During a recent group coaching session, I had the opportunity to observe a group of consultants. They had set out to come together as a group to discuss the next steps as a team. What they hadn’t considered though, was that transforming themselves from a group into a team requires an engagement towards the group and the willingness to contribute to being a team.

Engagement here means to know that there is more to do than to show up. It is to be clear on why the individuals came together as a group and what they seek to achieve. It is to be invested in contributing to achieving what the group sought out to do. And it is being open to trust the other members of the group and acknowledge the uncertainty this may trigger. This requires finding an equilibrium between a focus on the task and the flexibility to include the other member’s needs and ideas. None of this can be given by the leader or taken from the leader. It is what every individual comes with.

The leader, as well as the group, contribute to keeping this engagement alive, growing it, or diminishing it. That is the part where they act as a team. In the above quote, Maya Angelou describes this for example with taking responsibility for the time one takes up or taking responsibility for the space one occupies. It doesn’t mean to become a fly on the wall or to become silent. It means to stay attentive to contribute to the team with those things they value as well as they need to be able to keep the momentum. It means to find a balance between the individual’s need for acknowledgment, the group’s need to feel safe, and the group’s desire to achieve results.

As Maya Angelou describes it, it is a balance that has costs.

What she says is, that it’s not conflict-free, that there will be ups and downs, that the whole spectrum of emotions will appear. But also that there will be times full of difficulties as well as times where everything feels like being in the flow.

None of these states will last.



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