Nobody gets in your way on a desert island!

Nobody gets in your way on a desert island!

Internationally certified (team) coach Angela van Dorssen talks about her daily practice. She has been a certified Neuro-Transformational Coach since March 2020.

On a beautiful autumn day, I am working with a management team (MT) from a healthcare organisation. It is a big team with various disciplines and backgrounds. They are faced with an enormous job with a high degree of complexity, as is often the case in healthcare. In the two preparatory talks, it emerged that they wanted to work on improving the connection in the team and on strengthening mutual collaboration. The different regions were now working primarily in isolation: everyone on their own island.

Team or group?

So-called ‘rake structures’ are drawn in organisations, also referred to as organograms. Tasks are clustered and teams are formed. And then it turns out that teams don’t work together as a team. You see that happens when things become tense. In that case, team members prioritise their own interests at the expense of the team result. Yes, this doesn’t help with achieving objectives AND it can be logical that it happens as collaboration does not happen automatically if a team actually turns out to be a group of people.

Definition of a team: ‘People who are dependent on each other AND have a shared identity or goal.’ If one of these elements is missing, then it’s a group. Collaboration is possible, but it is more of a choice than something that is automatically encouraged by the way of organising.

The definition proved to be a good starting point for this team to have an open and honest conversation: Where are we dependant on each other and where not? What is our shared goal? The interesting conclusion was that according to the definition, they are a team, but that they experience it as a group. Now, they can build on mutual collaboration.

A team is at the expense of autonomy

The song by the Dutch children’s choir Kinderen voor Kinderen puts it into words well: ‘Op een onbewoond eiland, loopt niemand voor je neus. Ja, je voelt je d’r blij want, lekker leven is de leus.’ (Nobody gets in your way on a desert island! Yes, you feel happy there, because living freely is the watchword). On your own island, it is brimming with freedom and autonomy. And this is the crux of the matter.

According to Patrick Lencioni (2002), focusing on team results, above one’s own status and ego, is one of the conditions for performing optimally as a team. And that is at the expense of autonomy. This means that when necessary, each team member abides by a decision made by the entire team, even if it’s not the best outcome for their own business unit.

1st step = island hopping

Start small and visit, as it were, each other’s island. What works well there and why? Which challenges is this business unit experiencing? Once all islands have been visited, together determine the framework within which you want to work as a team. What will you do together? And where can the different departments make their own choices?

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Team coaching