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The Leadership Challenge – Activate Team Potential

The whole of a team is bigger than the sum of its parts, a popular expression often used. Team potential exists as a consequence of the human potential brought together in a team. As a result, the possibility of a vast reservoir of latent knowledge, intelligence, skills, talent and capabilities exist within a team. The more these latent resources can be activated and mobilised, the better a team will perform, whether it’s improving sales, service, revenue or profits. Unfortunately, it’s more the exception than the rule. .
The Group Affect – We all came into this world as part of a group, the family, and ever since have been in, out and part of groups (school, church, social, work etc.). Consequently we bring with us our own unique histories from those groups, with their advantages and disadvantages. The early influences of groups, family, school etc., often cut down our choices to take advantage of all our capacities, reduce our range of responses, even limiting us sometimes to the same old repetitive dysfunctional ways. As a result, our personal autonomy got negatively affected by these early influences with restrictive boundaries and limitations.
Learning to Follow – Leaders have followers, no exception. Leadership requires a skill different from all other skills. It requires follower acceptance. Learning to evoke followership through personal autonomy means enabling the freedom to self-determination, self-direction, self-realisation and self-responsibility. Becoming autonomous involves being part of something larger than oneself, a group. It includes a sense of belonging and an urge to grow through co-operation, collaboration and connectedness. In other words, we don’t experience ourselves as the centre of the world. It is neither an outcome nor a final destination, but an on-going process. It is a co-created phenomenon, generated in the here-and-now circumstances through enabling experiences and relationships.
Uncover Potential – Being part of a team is yet being part of another group. It will invariably trigger, at the unconscious level, certain beliefs and behaviours about yourself and others. These could impose certain embargoes of yesteryear that may not be helpful. This is where the team leader plays a vital role. Three issues need to be addressed;

  1. Role Authority – Due to our early childhood experiences, we all have a problem with authority, to a larger or lesser degree. The team leader occupies a role that carries with it an authority dimension given to it by the organisation. Combine that with a dominant type of personality and the affect could be very intimidating for other team members. Awareness & a sensitivity of this through appropriate self-management therefore become extremely necessary for people to feel equal, safe and not threatened.
  2. Leadership Permission – Permission is given by authority, to think, feel, do, say, and be. It is the team leader (the ‘authority’) that gives those permissions. The question is, in what ways do you offer and model these permissions? These are often at an unconscious non-verbal level. The problem is that too often there is a contradiction between the words and the ‘music’. And the power is in the music, not the words. Intention is the essence of communication, and takes place at the psychological level not verbal level. It is only in a climate of trust that people will experience freedom and learn to share their true feelings and speak their mind without a sense of fear. It offers protection in the process of exercising my freedom to choose freely.
  3. Personal Self-Esteem – The way I feel about myself, I’m OK. A high self-esteem indicates a high level of self-acceptance brought about by a high level of self-worth and self-respect. Conditions in a team can either be the catalyst for building or the destroying self-esteem. Giving recognition for any contribution, no matter how small, stimulates self-worth and enabling people to act out their commitments to self and team, builds self-respect. Personal autonomy builds confidence, reinforces ownership of actions, promotes critical and creative thinking, and enables us to live out our truths, our wants. It’s reclaiming our personal power to grow and be fulfilled in what we do.

Sources: Johan Cronjé; Specialist Team Coach, Intégro Learning South Africa; Dr Amy Edmondson, professor of Leadership & Management , Harvard Business School. Evelyne Papaux TA Counselling, Switzerland;