You may be aware of astrology in terms of finding out what your sun sign is, based on the month you were born. Astrology has also given signs to the Ages. And currently, we are moving into the age of Aquarius. It doesn’t matter if you believe in Astrology, but we can’t deny that there is a need for community, that we are moving out of a society that “packages” people with religions, race, gender, sexuality, and are moving into a time where there is more embracing of differences and standing up for a revolutionary world.
Change isn’t easy, however. As more and more people live alone in highrises, and spend isolated time on computers doing independent work, we can actually lose the skills we already had in teamwork, and less leaders will emerge out of that.
If we want to connect with others, learn from each other, and unite individuals to a common vision, we will have to work for it.
Teamwork means sills and qualities such as:
- Strong leadership (ability to motivate the team, keep the team on track, and delegate)
- Honest and skillful communication
- Vulnerability and trust
- All members are committed to the common goal(s)
- Members feel valued in their roles
Before you even start working with a group, many facilitators or leaders will start with team building, trust activities, or ice-breakers. The goal is to build a sense of belonging as an individual, to get to know your team members, and build trust.
The mainstream book “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” describes teamwork like a pyramid, with trust on the bottom. If we don’t trust our team members because we don’t know each other, are defensive, or are dishonest, then little teamwork will develop from there.
Not only that, but it can be very uncomfortable to be a part of a group that is full of isolated individuals, because our human nature is social, and we yearn for belonging.
In Buddhism, the concept of unity is discussed in terms of “spaciousness” or “emptiness”. Even where we see a solid human being who is separate from ourselves, science proves that they are actually mostly made up of space, just like us, and form is an illusion. This idea is something that deep meditators can experience on a first-hand basis.
Being on an already established and joyfully functional team is a great experience, and one that everyone should have, because knowing what is possible for teamwork will change a lot of the possible negative perceptions that people have of it. And in future on other teams that you are involved in, you will be able to recognize good leadership, and recognize your own responsibility in contributing to building trust, communication, valuing other members, and commitment to the common goal.
An ice breaker can be any activity that helps a team get to know one another and engaging on a more person level. Here are some ideas:
i) Stand in a circle. One person starts by saying something unique they’ve done before, and doing a gesture. The entire group copies the gesture, and if someone has also done that thing before, they say so and the person has to say something else that they’ve done. When they’ve said something that no one else has done before, it moves to the next person until everyone has gone.
This activity utilizes validation because everyone has to copy the gesture of the speaking person, plus it is an opportunity to learn something about everyone in the group, and to share something about yourself.
ii) Everyone writes on a piece of paper something about themselves that fits into a category provided by the facilitator such as: childhood career dream, what you did this weekend, etc. Participants fold their paper, and put them in the middle/ in a bowl, then grab a paper at random. Everyone takes turns reading the paper they received and guessing who it belongs to until they’ve found the right person.
Again this is sharing something personal, and it is also a chance for members to acknowledge one another, because you have to use what you already know about people or can observe. At the same time what people share can open for conversations or further sharing.
To get on board with a group’s shared vision, a person needs to know what their personal vision is, and how it aligns with the group’s vision.
Listening is not just about hearing words, but understanding the meaning of them, and considering them for ourselves.
To speak meaningfully you need to listen meaningfully. Are you willing to be influenced? Or do you just want to be told you’re right? In order to entertain a diversity of ideas you can’t hold one idea too close. When we allow multiple visions to exist simultaneously, shared vision emerges.
In The Fifth Discipline, the terms “Advocacy” and “Inquiry” are discussed. The difference is knowing when to advocate for an idea that you think will help the group, and when to inquire into other’s ideas and listen receptively.
If we can’t inquire, however, and are rushed to advocate, our advocacy will be less informed and less helpful.
A group can also practice the listening process through “dialogue” where members take turns sharing, with the intention simply of brainstorming, gathering general feedback and sharing ideas. Usually once dialogue has taken place, a group can move into “discussion” where the intention is more focused on coming to a decision, and asking for more specific sharing.
When there is conflict, trying to fix someone else never works, and always backfires. What we need to do is take responsibility for our part.
A great way to cut through defensiveness is to ask team members for feedback, and to share honestly with our group where we are at, without implying anything about anyone else.
Learn more about taking responsibility by reading this article about Self Deception.