Conventional business wisdom has it that professionals in teams should manage their personal interactions with others based on commitment to common goals - with mutual benefits in mind. But this view of team-working denies the reality that human brains are impacted by emotions and stress reactions that can be outside conscious awareness. Also, regardless of how 'professional' we are in our efforts to empathise, none of us can ever truly understand what others actually see, hear and experience - even if we work closely with people everyday. And as the American writer Rick Brandon puts it so well, "If there is no politics, check for a pulse!"
Twenty five years of facilitation experience in 43 countries has shown us that these inescapable human factors will mean that at times there are likely to be opportunities for teams to further build their effectiveness. Occasionally, we also see teams that need to repair relationships after trust has been damaged because conflicts or communication difficulties have not be productively addressed - even though on the surface all team members appear to 'get on well together' .
Typically, leaders invite us to facilitate alignment sessions with their teams, if they sense that:
and even sometimes because...
- Mutual understanding, acceptance and trust between them and their team - or between team members themselves -needs to be strengthened
- New strategic directions and/or organisational structures mean that team members from different functional backgrounds are challenged - or even stressed - by performance demands requiring them to quickly engage with others whom perhaps they might have known only for a short time.
- External perspectives can help to encourage more creative thinking about how to approach unexpected events or tough, highly stressful business challenges
- Differences in cultural backgrounds might be holding certain team members back from taking the risk to fully express their views about the actions needed to meet business goals
- As a result of differences in leadership or communication styles the 'shadow' of the leadership team in the wider organisation is not as positive as intended - even though individual team members might be passionately committed to doing what they think is right for the business
- Leaders might be concerned that apparently positive relationships between them and the team might deter individuals from openly expressing their different opinions - in case by doing so they put the team spirit at risk