The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

When groups change

In any situation, a team finds itself, its mix of different individuals will always make it somewhat unique. That’s even the case when some of the members are missing and the team meets without them.

In a world that focuses on individuals, the individuality of a team is often missed. Existing relationships within the team will likewise be perceived as a relationship that only depends on the people in the relationship. A team’s successes and failures will often be attributed to individuals. The person who did this or that allowed, for example, a needed momentum to get started.

But the more I reflect on the teams I’ve been a member of, the more I get the occasion to see how my relationships with individual members of the team shift with the changes in the team. I can also remember how my perception of my parents shifted the moment one of them disappeared. Suddenly, I could see how my mother’s presence had hidden some of the personality my father had.

The same applies to a team. Take for example a situation in which there is only one person in a team who speaks up. That person will be seen by others as a disturbance to having smooth or productive meetings. And for that one person, speaking up will become increasingly difficult. Especially if there is no appreciation for daring to point out issues that create discomfort. Once several people are willing to speak up, things can shift, and the content of the team’s conversations change. Speaking up then is perceived as natural by the team and often leads to useful conversations.

Sometimes it is the team’s constellation, sometimes the way the leader interacts with the team, and sometimes it is the way the individual speaks up that leads to meaningful conversations and a cooperative approach. But when the team’s constellation changes it is easy for individuals in the team to misunderstand the changed dynamic in the team. The interpretation will then be that one of the team’s members changed his behavior. Even, when it should be seen as the result of a changed team dynamic.




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