We never see the world exactly as it is. Our entire experience of it is filtered through the screen of our dreams, hopes, longings and fears. It is filtered through our past experiences, assumptions, values and through the culture in which we live and work. We project, and our interpretation of that projection is what we call reality.
Reality, as we see it, is constructed through what we think and what we believe. We do not possess magical thinking capabilities, nor can we will an event into manifesting just by focused thinking. What happens, as cognitive science has shown us, is that the way we direct our attention shapes our perception of what we call “reality”.
David Bohm (theoretical physicist, 1917 – 1992) wrote this superb formulation of the relationship between our beliefs and what we experience as reality:
Reality is what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
What we perceive depends on what we look for.
What we look for depends on what we think.
What we think depends on what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we believe determines what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is our reality.
With that in mind, consider a team of 8 people coming together to achieve results. Consider 8 different realities working together. More often than not, they will encounter misunderstandings, lack of trust, poor alignment, potential conflicts, confusion and time lost.
Now consider the potential wealth of the different realities. The immense value of diversity that lives in any team. How do we harvest that? How do we extract the gold and excellence that each team, including the low performing ones, have within them? How do we help a team become the best of the best, reaching their goals and producing results in an environment that supports and celebrates the combined efforts that enable the team’s success? How do we help the team recognize that each team member and each reality has its place and value as a voice of the system?
It takes time, skills, leadership and competence to gel different realities together in order to form a highly productive, well working team that is aligned and supports constructive interactions and effective team dynamics. It is not only important that the job gets done—it is equally important how the job gets done; that’s the key to sustainable excellence.
Successful teams have conflicts and misunderstandings. They have ways of working and relating to each other that are not always optimal. They have difficulties and problems just like any other team. So, what is the big difference? Successful, high performing teams where team members thrive know how to communicate constructively together. They have team agreements and a designed alliance on how they will be together when something is difficult or challenging. They commit to having courageous conversations. They ask questions such as “how will we be together?”, “how will we work with our different realities?”, “how will we leverage the diversity on our team?”, “how will we handle it when things become difficult?”.
Successful, high performing teams have a different way of listening to each other and to other teams they interact with. They know they are part of a larger network. They are collectively invested in the success, not only of the team, but success for the whole organization. They hold leadership as a role that belongs to the system; they evolve and embrace change; they see conflict as a signal for change, and instead of pointing fingers at each other they ask: “what is wanting to happen?”.
Most importantly they apply what we call Systems Inspired Leadership Competencies. They invest time and effort into learning the necessary skills and tools that will make them productive in the long run, working with the different realities that constantly change and evolve. Successful teams adapt to the shift from an individual based model to a systemic team-based model. Having the skills, tools and competencies to do this is crucial for success and growth in an age where information is coming at us faster than ever – our conception of reality is constantly changing and it feels like you are either in or out. Leadership in this context is the capacity to focus and work with the web that connects people more than a focus on the individual parts. There is a deeper understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and that what allows the team to excel is the collective wisdom that lives within the team.
If you are a consultant, HR manager, executive or a coach and want to learn more about how to develop and work with high performing teams, join us in Stockholm 7th-9th March for our Team Coaching International Master Class.