I work in a school. I am the fly on the wall or the mouse in your pocket. I am often invisible no matter the amount of noise I make. I hear things.
I hear a lot of things.
In the school setting they talk about teams a lot. They talk about building teams as a way to teach and a way to relate and a way to communicate. They talk about teams a lot. They don’t have a clue.
Teams are more than a mutual goal. Teams are more than completing an assignment together. Teams are about more than working together under guidance from a coach or a boss.
Teams, real teams, are not a corporate structure. Real teams make a commitment. Not to the work; to each other. Real teams are really marriages of commitment to each other. The work can be a binding piece like shared passions are a binding piece in a romantic marriage. I remember in high school fighting with the pitchers on my baseball teams like brothers fight. They could, and did, call me names and treat me in ways that were appropriately awful for a teammate. They would have lined up to kick the ass of anyone else that called me those names or treated me like they did. I would have done the same for them. Our commitment to each other was organic and personal. And, it was only coincident with our love of the game of baseball.
I have been thinking about how you can see the teams that are organic within the school. It is harder than I thought it would be, mostly because the people I am observing are indoctrinated into the corporate way of thinking about team. There are personal connections between the teachers to be sure. But, there are also fences. It has been intriguing to watch and learn how those relationships make ripples and waves in the pool of personalities.
I think I have isolated a couple of behaviors to watch for that describes a team. They are very similar behaviors but I note a difference in importance. The first behavior is ‘checking in”. I see that there are a few folks who seek out others to check in with when they first arrive. This is the least of the two, but still descriptive of a commonality that is unavoidable in a team. The need to see a face, shape an attitude, and map the work for the day is a critical component of team. When the first thing that happens when you arrive at work is not a solitary activity but rather a checking in with a member of your team it describes the primacy of team over work. This is how things really get done. The second more important and telling of the behaviors is “checking on”. The last thing a true teammate does on the way out of work or off the field or out of the house, is to check on your teammates. You check to make certain all is well and good and that nobody on the team is left holding the bag. This is a more definitive indicator of team. It is important to the organization that teams are formed and that teams interact with personal commitment throughout the day. It is a sign of true commitment that team members want also to check in at the end of the day and make certain that the personal connection shown in the morning is about more than getting through the day.
So, if you are assigned to be on a team, are you really? Or are you just on a committee named team this or team that? Who do you check in with first thing in the morning? Who do you check on when you leave? Who is checking on you when they leave or checking in when they first arrive? If the answer is nobody, you need to ask yourself why not?