Wednesday, August 01, 2012

What happens before the SHIFT hits the fan? - Five things that undermine collegiality


Bringing the house down - Samson's solution, or working in a team but wanting my own way

1.  Stamping “agreement” -
We all have different perspectives and quite often there are a number of possibilities whatever the problem. Stamping out disagreement is a way of making ourselves “right” by ensuring that others are shown up as “wrong”. But there are subtle versions of this: retrospective correction (in my own time), or the saving up one’s own viewpoint for a more advantageous moment (catching others off guard) are common forms of power-play, manipulations that are less honest than outright tyranny. While win/win thinking and behaviour tends to encourage better team-work, enabling disagreement to be creatively channelled, using position or sheer obstinacy to block discussion can turn the team-work of others into short-term personal advantage, but at huge cost to the team & any project they undertake. The crucial strength of team-work is that it can integrate different perspectives & turn debate into seeking the best solutions for the activity
2.  The only Horseman -
A sense of entitlement & a need to be special brings competition & a self-serving ethos into any workplace, in a collegial one most of all. Entitlement is opposed to collegiality, creating division while encouraging a “totemic” culture that is common to many work-places. As the proud owner of the exceptional horse, the self-entitled holds the reins of any discussion & thrives on the “flunky tendency” (see 4). The alternative is to work as a true collegiate: in a way that allows everyone to be recognised for their unique contribution. Everyone who is part of the team is there because their contribution is valued. This does not exclude “leadership”, but an effective demotic leadership depends upon the needs of the specific situation, rather than mere status. Thus diversity becomes aligned to creativity; & the quality of leadership & initiative are available to all members of the team
3.  Idle talk over the back-fence -
Gossip is usually a form of speculation, often spiteful, neglectful of facts or partial in interpretation. Such speculation can grow and cause fear and discontent. Gossip usually includes & forms a powerful underhand alliance with complaining (see 5). Not only is gossip a negative force, in that it wastes time, but engaging in gossip about someone is rarely good, tending to drive a wedge of distrust between everyone in the organisation (“Who will be the next victim?”). The alternative is to create honest conversations based on one’s own experiences, inviting others to contribute theirs. Sticking to facts, not getting personal, discussing your own thoughts, feelings & intentions openly, without attributing motives to others is a must for effective teamwork
4.  The Flunky tendency -
People-pleasing results in a lack of growth and a denial of unique talents and contributions. A need to be liked, especially by those who appear more powerful, often stems from a fear of not being good enough, or of being rejected for speaking up. This is common to strongly hierarchical organisations, but also to ones in which hierarchical relationships are covert rather than explicit. Weak leaders encourage this trait in team members because it adds to their relative security. The alternative is to speak your own truth, but to do it with respect for the truths of others
5.  Tut-tut -
Complaining is a method of self-assertion that minimises the risk of contradiction. It thus dodges the effort to communicate honestly. Complaining avoids having to forgive others or to be forgiven. Complaining about someone else behind their back is opposed to empathy, or any attempt to put ourselves in another’s shoes. Gossiping complainers in particular tend to place a barrier around them, safe in the certainty that what they say will change nothing. Good team-working involves genuine criticism, sticking with the facts & contributing positively even when the topic is uncomfortable

Watching out for these five traps is easier said than done, which is why good team-working benefits from effective facilitation. Each of the five “dangers” set out above can be used to review a meeting. It is for each person to reflect upon whether they have fallen into one or more of the traps. Using them to describe others is a version of trap 2 & tends to lead directly into trap 3. Links between the items indicates their co-dependence. Pulling out any one of these in order to examine can help to SHIFT the problem

K..A. 25-07-2012

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