Is Your Inner Team more than the sum of its parts?
In coaching teams over the last forty years in many parts of the world, I have realised that one of the teams that most needs coaching is our own ‘inner team’. Each of us has many different roles which are matched by different sub-personalities. We think we have just one ‘I’, but we have many ‘I’s. Sometimes these different parts of ourselves complement and support each other: other times they disagree and fight together. The great 20th century Sufi teacher Gurdjieff would point out in his teachings, that the ‘I’ that goes to bed determined to get up in the morning to get a job done before breakfast, is not the same ‘I’, as the one who wakes up tired in the morning and wants to rest in bed.
We can start developing our inner team by discovering more about each of the team members. Each of these is cocreated in the space between us and the worlds we inhabit. I have in my team, the teacher, the writer, the organizational consultant, the coach, the gardener, the husband, father, and grandfather. Then there are the less prominent members, such as the avid reader, the one who loves good food and wine and entertaining, the humorous one, the meditator, the one who loves young children, the poet, the friend, the walker, the one who watches cricket and sport. Then there is the integrating and orchestrating ‘Self’, who witnesses these different roles and sub-personalities and who needs to play the role of the team leader.
The next step in helping this team to be more than the sum of its parts, is to find the team purpose. This work can be done by addressing the questions:
- what can this team do through collaborating together, that they cannot do by working separately in parallel?
- who and what does the team serve, which require their teamwork?
- what are the top priorities that they all share?
Only then can we turn to explore how the team members need to collaborate better to serve the collective purpose. We can inquire into which of these support each other and which ones compete for attention? We can look at our own inner diversity and inclusion – which team members get all the limelight and demand attention, and which ones easily get overlooked and ignored?
One way of addressing this is to use the method I developed for feedback between team members and the wider team, entitled “Team Contribution Grid” (Hawkins 2022, pp.376-377), for each of your internal team members. You fill out a separate grid for each member. Here is the grid I created for each of my team members to complete.
|Three ways I currently contribute to Team Peter |
|Three ways I could contribute more fully to Team Peter |
|Three ways I receive value from team Peter |
|Three ways I could receive greater value from team Peter |
Once they have all been completed, then If you can, put each separate grid on a different chair and imagine them all sitting there, and one by one giving feedback, as you stand in the middle representing the whole team.
If this is not possible, stick them all up on a wall or white board. Arrange them in clusters, with those who get on well together, close to each other, and those who are disconnected at a distance. Think how they would respond to each other.
Having listened to all the parts, as the team leader, where do you need to coach and facilitate better connections between members? Which team members need more attention and time in the spotlight? Which need to be less prominent and move into more of a support role?
Now compose the message you want all your team members to hear and take on board. Completing the following seed sentences might help you do this:
- Our biggest collective challenges, which requires help from all of you are………
- Together we could achieve so much more in……… by………..
- To achieve that, the help I need from all of you is…….
Once you have written this, try reading it out loud imagining all the different team members in different places in the room.
Then compose individual messages for each of the individual members.
- What I value about your contribution is……
- What I find difficult about you is……
- What the difference I need from you going forward is…..
In response to each of these, write the commitment that you need each of these roles and sub-personalities to make. Try and be as specific as possible.
As team leader we need to love and appreciate every member of our inner team, and not be ashamed of any one of them. If there are any, we are ashamed of, we need to find a way of developing them to change or help them successfully leave the team. Our biggest challenge is to help the team to be aligned to the collective purpose and key future challenges; to work together so the team becomes more than the sum of its parts.
Peter Hawkins April 2023