Life force of a team — key elements for self-organised teams (3/3)

Working in a self-organised team isn’t all happy and rosy; it can be complex — after all humans are not simple. If we look at a team as a living organism, what would be the life force?

What essential elements make self-organisation possible, and bring to life what we collaboratively create beyond what any of us could pursue individually?

Here is part 3 of some collective learnings we have identified at SenseTribe so far (read part 1 here and part 2 here). Please keep in mind that this is my personal experience, with some input from the tribe, which may or may not be transferrable to experiences in other self-organised environments:

9. Holding space for each other

We often end up in the day to day rush and it becomes difficult to create space for personal connection and for appreciation of our work.

Presence can be the best present. In many moments advice is not what people are looking for, but simply an open ear and heart without judgement, ready to witness a state of vulnerability.

No matter if it is breakfast together, a short walk in the park, a laugh while heating up your lunch or an emotional breakout in the toilet queue — nurture and cherish moments of human connection and whenever you sense the need, try to create space for them.

10. You are not alone

No one should be left alone with any challenge by default, as long as it is not a personal choice.

In an organisation each individual constantly juggles between satisfying personal needs and team/organisational needs. Sometimes it is possible to satisfy all of them and sometimes they are completely incompatible.

I often find it useful to have colleagues and peers that can provide an open ear and support in figuring out priorities and solutions. After all you don’t want such a struggle to become a source of suffering or a drain on your relationship or family life.

I also find it important to have communities of practice that you can reach out to. It can be a real comfort to hear that someone has been with a similar challenge in his/her organisation:

‘We have not gone completely crazy after all, others have been here before.’

11. If you need a break, you need a break.

And that’s ok. I often find I have little energy after contributing a lot to team needs and organisational needs. Sometimes I realise only when it is too late that I haven’t properly taken care of myself.

It’s like in the airplane: Put your mask on first before you start helping others.

This is easy to say and difficult to adopt as a practice; especially if you feel enthusiastic about what you do.

We believe it is important to allow each other space for a break. There are always ways to slow down, even though solutions do not seem obvious when things get stressful.

12. Embracing change

It takes time to find out what your individual team culture is all about and where the boundaries are. Newcomers will need time to adapt and find their place.

With every person joining or leaving the team, the field shifts and so do influence and team dynamics.

People may not stay forever: Some end up doing a short pit stop and some by-passers might eventually end up staying. Let’s be clear about our agreements and boundaries when welcoming new members, so people know what they sign up for.

At the same time, let’s acknowledge that the team and individuals are nurtured and enriched by any contribution made, even though things evolve in unexpected ways.

Want more of this article collection? Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Why get into this?

Given the percentage of our time we spend at work, let’s spend it in places where we can enjoy human connection and also learn and grow as human beings.

I cannot think of a better place to do that than a self-organised team. We get to experience a unique living system that evolves in often surprising ways, with blood pumping through the veins and outcomes that often differ from what any individual could come up with.

You probably will not find what you expect, and the experience will likely transform you.

SenseTribe Consulting S.L. is a pan-European multidisciplinary tribe that has been collaborating for one year. We practice (among others) Sociocracy 3.0, non-violent communication and participatory leadership, and we offer storytelling, collaborative process creation and training experiences around effective collaboration and collective well-being.

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Mira Bangel

Co-Founder & participatory collaboration processes @ SenseTribe // participatory leadership / NVC / Sociocracy 3.0 / design thinking