There are so many important values that are key to our well-being and how we want to show up in the world. Many wonderful ones like compassion, respect, integrity, health, and authenticity most of us would call no-brainers because they are qualities in us that help make the world a good place to live in. If so many of us can identify worthwhile and important values why do we so often feel like we live in a war zone rather than our ideal of paradise on earth? Numerous sensitive people are confounded by the harsh conditions around them, especially in their work environments. I hope this discussion about teamwork will help.
Human social arrangements have been built to protect us and they are therefore built on distrust. They expect the worst from people and in doing so often create that result. Obviously we are all vulnerable; however, it is worth questioning whether or not our current approaches could not be changed to yield happier and more productive results. Is there a way to build social arrangements of all kinds that support and create trust? It would be a fundamental change but there is a way to at least start doing so. We can make a lot of improvement if we change teamwork from a social arrangement to a value – perhaps even the most central value in our lives. I will explain more about how and why this works after we take a tour of why current systems too often do not work.
Why Teamwork Often Feels Wrong
For thousands of years, humans have conducted their lives and work in top-down hierarchical systems. Power has been concentrated in the hands of a few because they had the knowledge, wisdom, and experience to decide for the many. That may have in fact been true in earlier human systems which had few ways for people to learn, few books, and few ways to share knowledge. Unfortunately, the top-down model is also a military model. It is most often used in militaristic organizations where obedience is one of the highest values. Obedience is not intrinsically “bad” except that we are handing our power over to others, and if those with authority are ill-informed or worse, compliance can create internal integrity conflicts. People can become ill from social and cultural demands that are detrimental to their well-being. This is one reason that many sensitive people struggle in modern organizations.
Why Teamwork Often Is Wrong
Most organizations are still top-down arrangements. Top-down can be useful in some situations. If you are working in a position that requires a lot of skill or knowledge, a top-down structure can be a great way to develop skills from people who have more knowledge and experience. A top-down arrangement can save a lot of time. In a situation where time constraints are an issue like an emergency, the top-down arrangement can be productive.
However, and this is a big however, top-down arrangements too often for a variety of reasons insulate those in positions of power from the reality on the ground. This is the problem that many people encounter in organizations – the separation of vision, goals, and ideas from reality. The work reality and politics that ensue gum up the works with unnecessary and counterproductive actions and people try to make the work environment work for themselves and others.
In modern culture, reality is just something we “transform” to serve our objectives. Many short-sighted top-down organizations, because they ignore many factors, create a lot of problems for others. The consequences of their actions create a lot of side effects for people, communities, and countries. Current social and environmental problems are examples of these side effects.
Because top-down organizations force a set of results rather than trust that the best choices and solutions can come from grappling with reality, issues, and challenges, they increase the sense of urgency and instability in the world around them and increase the investment in more military-style crisis-oriented systems. Healthcare in the United States is a perfect example of a system that has been transformed from low-cost community-based services to large crisis-oriented command and control institutional systems.
In our modern world where ideas have strong social currency, context is often not considered. Context is the situation, the reality we are always dealing with. Context can be complex and when fully embraced offers a window on all factors creating reality. It is holistic, transpersonal, present and long-term oriented. We are better served when we work with all of reality to create what we need. Of course, it takes work and time to develop to listen for an understanding about reality so informed choices can be developed. In our fast-paced world, it can be challenging to create space for the investment in understanding that is required especially in a world as complex as the one we currently have.
There is a different approach to working together that can ease many of the issues associated with top-down management styles and command and control styles of decision making. Turn teamwork into the value you live and your organization lives.
Teamwork is a wonderful approach to living and working when it is transformed into a value. It then creates a different non-adversarial kind of social arrangement than the kinds of teamwork we usually see today. This is why.
Teamwork – the kind that is productive and friction free – only occurs when it is a lived value and that is because it then becomes a combination of friendship and service. That means that this kind of teamwork:
- includes values like respect. Lived teamwork realizes that positive results require the best from each of us and to achieve that we must offer each other respect as well as other values commonly associated with mutual regard: empathy, fairness, and equality.
- includes the value of openness. Openness is especially beneficial because it means that we all have the information we need to do our best work. We all benefit from the result.
- recognizes that “we are all in this together.” The best teams recognize that we each bring something different to the table and that enriches us all.
- has a long-term view. What we do today affects our tomorrows so being as smart as possible about our impact is important.
- is not adversarial. Having a world that supports us well is more important than winning a competition. Sustainability is a greater value than status.
- has an ecological view of service. It embraces the idea of a shared world and therefore, service becomes a way of supporting and sustaining that shared world that served us all.
- heals the wounds of social competition and ranking systems by allowing us all to be different and equal.
- helps people be themselves and still included.
- makes the greater good or the common good the top priority.
- considers listening the most important skill and a requirement.
Does this sound idealistic? Perhaps it is but perhaps not. We know that we create our own reality which means we can create a different one. However, we also need to be able to create a new reality together. That is called co-creating and is it the important skill of people who treat teamwork as a lived value.
When you recognize that life is not just a competition it is important to look for a new arrangement that is workable to replace it. Turning teamwork into a value lets you live in a more harmonious way with others and with the natural world. It embraces interdependency, the changing nature of things, and that none of us know it all. It can handle ambiguity – the grey areas of life because we know that nothing is really fixed and permanent.
It All Starts With Listening
Teamwork as a value offers us a shift that lets us live in friendship to ourselves and all of life. It is a path to making the world a friendlier and more peaceful place. It is also a skill – one that is essential in a shared world.
If you want to live this way you have to start with listening. Listening to everything in your life and around you. You are giving voice to everything and in doing so allowing your own. It is that allowing of voice that makes the value of teamwork egalitarian.
Human culture is gradually shifting to structures that foster egalitarianism and sustainability. To do that we all need to learn how to listen, collaborate and coexist with greater ease and effectiveness. Turning teamwork into a value as well as a skill will help you find your way to the path of collaborative living as we shift toward sharing as a foundation for culture; you will be ready and able to participate effectively.