Are you feeling comfortable?

Comfort is one of those things I cherish, not just in my home, but in everything I do. When I speak of care in work and team settings it always starts with ‘comfort’. If people are not comfortable, they will not share openly or function well, because there is always the sense that something is missing, or they have to check over their shoulder to see who is watching them. That level of comfort is something to achieve.

There is another form of comfort that hits people which is not helpful. At least comfort is the word most often used when describing this affliction that stops us from working towards our best together. ‘Complacency’ might be a better alternative.

Teams that fall into that second category of comfort take on bad habits. And the result is often dangerous to their mission together.

This is a very short book summary and review! Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, outlines a pyramid of items which build upon one another, and much like an iceberg, may only be identified by the very peak. He and his team have written and discussed the topic extensively and the book has given a lot of hope to organizations who struggled but were not sure exactly what the issue was. As with many things in life, the symptoms were evident, but the root cause was not clear. As with many of Pat’s books, this one also comes in fable format and is very easy reading.

Why is this so important? I think of many church groups asking this question. (Incidentally, this book and accompanying material has been used by many churches in their search for organizational health)

Teams that do not help each other grow together set themselves up to fail together. If the final goal or whatever your output may be is the only thing you pay attention to, it does not take much for dysfunctional practices to make it harder to achieve and diminish in value.

Looking at the pyramid it is our tendency to look to the top first. But we have to start with the foundation and work our way up. So, when you are looking at how your group operates, start at the bottom:

  • Absence of Trust – Are you able to be vulnerable with one another?

Who will take the first risk?

  • Fear of Conflict – Are you only ‘making nice’ with each other? Or do you go through the tough stuff for actual harmony? Is it safe to disagree?

Consider something you need to talk about stays off the table. Start there!

  • Lack of Commitment – Is everyone willing to step out and go with what you have agreed to together? If you were safe to disagree, then you are willing to work together to commit.

What is a goal you can all hold in common and work towards? Can you articulate it clearly as ‘ours’?

  • Avoidance of Accountability – Do you challenge one another to bring your best to the table? We shy away from this one because it can feel ‘uncomfortable’. But if we truly care for those we work with we will want to help each other do our best.

If you feel that something missing or someone needs to be called out, how can you do it naturally?

  • Inattention to Results – Is our focus on ‘I’ or ‘We’? Personal status, individual pursuits, all can take the focus off what we are striving for together in the collective. If results are dictated only by what I want, then only my ideas are good enough, and eventually, everyone is working towards their own end.

Consider how you will celebrate after you have reached your goal. Can everyone see the collective together, or only your part?

As this year kicks off and you may be looking at a fresh start to what lies ahead, take a moment to have a tough conversation with those on your team. Are you working together? Or are you competing for personal gain?

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