Life force of a team — elements for self-organised teams (1/3)

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?

Photo by Yen Vu on Unsplash

Here is part 1 of this article collection with collective learnings we have identified at SenseTribe so far. 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:

1. Human connection & authenticity

The more we know each other, the more we feel at ease, show our true selves, laugh with each other, support each other and also hurt each other.

When we invite the human being in, it comes with emotional baggage, with mood swings and childhood wounds.

Today I can look into the eyes of a SenseTribe collaborator and have a sense of what may be going on in their minds (and I’m often surprised when I’m mistaken). With so much intimacy, tension can arise out of nowhere and bring the collective energy up or down.

Working in a ‘human’ organisation with often family-like bonds and constant feedback from your colleagues requires some adaptation.

You are confronted with your learning edges, can be emotionally triggered and find yourself (often unexpectedly) on a path of constant personal development.

2. Expectations and perspectives

Over time we develop individal expectations on what collaboration means in our context, as a team we then struggle to align individual visions to a common thread. In the process of this alignment, tension is likely to arise.

We often end up in paradoxical situations, where we have together walked a path towards collective well-being, and suddenly seem to have lost our way.

It is a bit like surfing really. You are on a wave and when you think you got it all, something unexpected happens and you end up in deep waters.

Perfectionism is a really deep water for example. You may lose each other completely there. It is all too often a matter of preference really. So let’s agree on something that is ‘good enough for now and safe enough to try’.

There is a fine line between success and failure of a team and often the difference is simply the perspective from which you approach a situation.

Like with surfing, you may have to swallow quite some water before you manage to stay on your board.

3. Feedback as a path of personal development
I often find myself receiving feedback from a colleague and first rejecting it completely. Then after a moment of digestion, I realise that the other sees something I was unaware of.

“No-one is smart enough to be wrong all the time”, as Ken Wilber puts it.

It requires courage and self-confidence to be confronted with deep, honest and authentic feedback. And we are certainly not always ready to receive it.

Check with the person concerned if he/she is ready to receive your feedback before you give it to them. Finding the right time, space and mindset can heavily impact how feedback is received.

I have been on a journey of self-discovery thanks to my team. It has led to increased levels of sensitivity, self-awareness, and certainly also too many moments of personal and collective crisis. At the same time with a work pattern like peer review, feedback can become nurturing, soothing and enriching.

Are you up for such a journey? :)

Photo by Mark Asthoff on Unsplash

4. Unique experiences

Offering our perspectives to others can create significant impact, especially if it is received in a safe team environment.

We tend to have an inner critic inside of our minds giving us a lot of ‘internal feedback’ that enjoys torturing us with self-criticism when there is an external remark made from someone that matters to us.

The more time I spend in self-organised environments, the more I feel comfortable with holding back my views and advice, allowing the other space for self-discovery and for finding their own solutions (mine might not work for them anyway) — unless there is an explicit request for support.

5. Self-care before solving the issue

We are all responsible for managing our own emotions, no matter how they may have been triggered.

That is difficult sometimes, especially when we clearly see ourselves as the ‘victim’. When we act before taking care of our emotions, this often leads to conflict, no matter if this means we blame ourselves or others (often one includes the other).

Non-violent communication and meditation practices have been very useful to help me identify needs in such situations and to increase my level of self-awareness.

Even though my impulses often tell me to resolve situations as they arise, we as a team have on a bumpy and insightful journey learned to separate operational meetings and spaces for ‘being’ together & handling emotional issues. This has also naturally helped us in many cases to separate individual from organisational challenges.

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Want more? Read part 2 of this article collection 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