Photo Credit: Pixabay
Working on teams made for some of the highest performance years of my career. I used to think it was a weakness of mine that I didn’t thrive professionally if I wasn’t on a team. Looking back at seasons of life where my work required solitary focus as well as the times when collaborative effort was the expectation, the difference in quality of life and product was astounding.
We need each other. Author C. S. Lewis even observed that we are all “one vast need”. This thinking goes counter to our culture’s bias toward self-sufficiency and independence. In the workplace, our brilliance does not have to be defined as always being the lone ranger or the self-starter. How we work with others, and what we draw out of each other, in terms of value, creativity, and resource could be the difference in both performance and morale.
“When we live our lives in isolation, what we have is unavailable and what we lack is unprocurable,” wrote Basil (an early Church father). When we live our lives independently, other people are poorer because they cannot benefit from our gifts: “what we have is unavailable.” Also, when we isolate ourselves, we are poorer because the benefits of others’ gifts are lost to us, so what we lack, we cannot get. There are good things in others that are “unprocurable” unless we interact with them…You are “one vast need” and must avoid the extremes of saying, “I am not needed,” or, “I don’t need you.” – Art Lindsley
Early in my career, people invested in my professional development and in me as a person. I had rich opportunities to work alongside both leaders and practitioners who shaped what I had to offer in the workplace. You have read about some of the teams I’ve had the privilege to be a part (here and here)… The work of those teams continues to thrive.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
What we do together far surpasses what we can do individually.
Individualism is a fine idea. It provides incentive, promotes leadership, and encourages development—but not on its own. We are social animals who cannot function effectively without a social system that is larger than ourselves. This is what is meant by “community”—the social glue that binds us together for the greater good. Community means caring about our work, our colleagues, and our place in the world, geographic and otherwise, and in turn being inspired by this caring. Tellingly, some of the companies we admire most—Toyota, Semco (Brazil), Mondragon (a Basque federation of cooperatives), Pixar, and so on—typically have this strong sense of community…Somehow, in our hectic, individualist world, the sense of community has been lost in too many companies and other organizations. – Henry Mintzberg
I agree with these authors and many others on the importance of community in the workplace. Right now my work is done in a very solitary environment. Thankfully, I have friends and colleagues who fill some of the void where I miss team. In times when our workplace lacks community, we shouldn’t wait on outside forces to alter our situation. We must take steps to create community. Brook Manville has written an excellent step-by-step process to embolden us in this effort. Missing community at work is just wrong, especially because we can do something about it.
Can major transformation really begin…almost spontaneously, with small acts by people who are not part of the senior leadership?…In his recent book Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block, an authority on workplace learning and performance, wrote, “Most sustainable improvements in community occur when citizens discover their own power to act…when citizens stop waiting for professionals or elected leadership to do something, and decide they can reclaim what they have delegated to others.” – Henry Mintzberg
Can we have community on every work team? Maybe not. Can we have community at work? Absolutely. Whether it is a core value of a company or not, we can create and cultivate community whatever our role is and wherever we find ourselves in the workplace.
Let’s get after it!Photo Credit: Vimeo, Belbin