Can a Team-Hater Engage Employees?

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by Julia Paulus and Judy Ryan (referencing LifeWork Systems) SBM, March 2010

I don’t like teams. I’m a team-hater. Back in school, I hated classes when we had to do group projects.  My group was always the one where a couple of people did nothing and still got the grade.  The same thing happens in my office.  What is the key for building a successful team and getting everyone engaged and working toward a common goal?—

Frustrated, Creve Coeur

I interviewed Judy Ryan, Owner of LifeWork Systems.  Here’s what she had to say:   Build Trust And Team In Your Communications. Successful teams engage in healthy communications that build trust; a crucial component to teamwork. What most people don’t realize is this requires skills they may not have yet developed and an understanding of the progressive phases to reach authentic team.   First, healthy communication meets four criteria: It is honest.  It is caring.  It is useful; in other words, the person is receptive to hearing me.  And my words are intended to create harmony.   M. Scott Peck wrote in “A Different Drum,” his book on teamwork, that just as in any good marriage or friendship, after

  • Stage 1; putting your best foot forward, focusing only on where you agree, you play it safe by entering pseudo-community.  Eventually one must progress to
  • Stage 2; chaos where you begin to struggle and openly express all your feelings and opinions about differences in order to fix, convert, heal or change others.  When that doesn’t work, and if you are strong in character, you may enter
  • Stage 3; empty in which you loosen your attachments to your ideas, and getting your way and you begin to listen in order in order to understand others without trying to make anything happen. You can then reach
  • Stage 4; authentic community, where teamwork is about respect and trust, including openness and honesty and a high commitment to excellence

Inherent in the stages are the behaviors that build trust or break it. These behaviors include honesty, straightforwardness, disclosure, receptivity, respect, recognition, following through on commitments and seeking excellence. When in pseudo-community, especially disclosure and straightforwardness are absent and conversations between people are inauthentic, safe, boring and non-creative. Fear is stronger than almost any trust in this stage.

In the stage of chaos, respect, receptivity, excellence, and recognition are absent. Disclosure is used on one another as a cudgel rather than an opportunity for understanding and acceptance. Each person feels attacked as wrong, broken, not enough, stupid or some other version of inferior. This is a place where trust is characterized by only trusting the perspectives and validity of one’s self, not both.

In the stage of empty, this is where trust behaviors start to be exercised. There is respect, recognition of gifts AND differences, receptivity to what the other person is saying with open-mindedness and honest curiosity, seeking to see what can be appreciated, and disclosure is offered for positive connect, not to use as an agenda to change the other person. This is the beginning of acceptance and each person begins to relax and get curious and compassionate, even if they don’t agree on everything.

In the final stage of authentic community, people begin to be honest, straightforward, seek excellence in the relationship and follow-through on commitments they make because trust is high and regard for one another is high too.

These stages challenge people, many who at the point of chaos choose to withdraw, grumble, gossip, blame or ignore.  Conversely, when these stages are consciously navigated, and when communications are weighed by the four criteria, and when an intention is adopted to assist every person in becoming wildly successful and accountable, caring teamwork is the natural and enjoyable outcome.  We are here to help you with the systems needed for shifting from a team-hater to a team-lover! 

As published in the column The Extraordinary Workplace in St. Louis Small Business Monthly, March 2010

Why People Hire LifeWork Systems

Business owners and executives, community leaders, parents, educators and individuals hire LifeWork Systems because they know that effective conditions and conversations make all the difference in building trusting relationships, achieving dreams, and creating solutions and innovations for our evolving world. When people are happy and responsible, emotionally and socially intelligent, confident, and appropriately seen, heard, and supported, they always exceed expectations. We help instill into every person common concepts, terms, tools, and processes that result in healthy, happy, caring and contributing individuals, teams and organizations. Our mission is to create a world in which all people love their lives!

We appreciate you being here on our website and encourage you to reach out to us directly at or  314.239.4727. May something we offered in this article and website help you love YOUR life ~ because YOU matter!

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