This is Number Four in a series about what behaviours to assess, monitor and develop with respect to high team performance. It gets to the heart of becoming a team and overcoming fractious behaviours. The key behaviour is finding our shared interests. By shared interests, I also mean shared 'wants’.
In our training workshops, we sometimes use an icebreaker that we call the “common ground” activity. I like to use it if I am facilitating a planning session where there is potential for conflict or disagreement about which direction the group will be heading at the end of the day. I start off asking people to stand up, mingle and find a partner. I give them 2 minutes to find as many things as possible that they have in common (besides the obvious things that come with being human and working with the same company). When two minutes is up, this pair finds another pair and repeats the process to find things the four of them have in common. I have continued the process until I’ve had the final group of 30 or more finding those things they have in common. Finding common ground and things we agree upon in this way sets a positive tone for the day. And while disagreement is very valuable at times, we generally try to start the day appreciating simple things we have in common so that, at the end of the day, we can also share a desire for outcomes that meet everyone's personal needs and wants.
Conflict between team members or between a team and other groups is often based on conflicting interests of this type: I might feel that outcomes that satisfy your needs can’t meet mine. Furthermore, If I don't have a good relationship with you, I might have no interest in meeting your needs. A team that has the ability to find the commonality in their 'interests' and 'wants' as a starting point will likely have a better chance to care about one another and find ‘win-win’ solutions in the end.
To what extent do your team members enjoy common ground with other team members? To what extent do they care about meeting the needs of team mates, clients and partners? To what extent do they strive for ‘win-win’ solutions with others?