(In this series of posts offering excerpts from the book, 'The Wisdom of Teams' by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith (Harvard Business School Press), the excerpts are in bold.)
Interpersonal skills. Common understanding and purpose cannot arise without effective communication and constructive conflict that, in turn, depend on interpersonal skills. These include risk taking, helpful criticism, objectivity, active listening, giving the benefit of the doubt, support, and recognizing the interests and achievements of others.
. . . . . .
This statement from the remarkable book by Katzenbach and Smith reinforce 2 significant insights consistently experienced through "CorporateTheatre" workshops.
One, the undeniable and uncompromisable need of members in a team to bond and relate to each other beyond their roles, hierarchy, and designations. To use "CorporateTheatre" parlance, to integrate as 'actors' because you cannot integrate 'characters' (kings and slaves, assassins and victims). Interpersonal skills can manifest as behaviour only when there is interpersonal relationship at the level of actor to actor.
Secondly, the statement reinforces the critical role of communication in the formation and sustenance of 'natural' teams.
A key learning from "CorporateTheatre" workshops is that communication, creativity, time management, quality, etc., are not isolated skills or techniques. Rather they are interrelated and interdependent attitudinal and instinctive possibilities of a natural human pack, instantly available given a natural team environment.
The 3rd pillar of the natural team environment is Trust. (The concept of 'Natural Teams' and the 3 Pillars that create natural teams have been defined through several other posts in this blog.) Many Organizations struggle with this challenge of 'trust building'. They do obstacles together, go on picnics, do trust exercises, all with the objective of building trust among team members. Building trust among 20 or 30 or more people in a team becomes a formidable challenge. As many of us are aware, people can live together for years - siblings, spouses, parents and children, partners, and still not trust each other. Yet, as is repeatedly shared by participants in the "CorporateTheatre" workshops, every time new teams were formed, there was complete trust among team members leading to powerful, open, and non-possessive communication, collaboration, and openness to critical feedback, leading to continuous creativity, innovation, and collaboration towards collective excellence and success.
From this we understand that to form a powerful team we need not know each other too well, or like each other, or even trust each other as people. However, we must have complete trust in each other's clarity of the same goal and commitment to the same success, on this project NOW. And this is achieved almost entirely through appropriate team definitions, goal definitions, role alignment, and very importantly in the way we define, appraise, and reward collective performance and success. (As described repeatedly in this blog, this framework offers ample scope for recognising and rewarding individual star performance without diluting the collective focus).
One of most striking and lingering memories that participants take back from a "CorporateTheatre" workshop is the 'active listening' behaviour displayed by participants even without being aware of it. They demonstrate almost child-like ability to put aside all other concerns, thoughts, and priorities, and listen not just with their ears, but with their entire being to the entire being of the other. In the process, it is delightfully touching and beautiful to see how everyone, without exception, shorn of their 'personality cages' can be extremely attractive and approachable.
The ability of these brilliant writers to pack so much wisdom into a single paragraph, is truly remarkable.