The (dis)functionality of teams…

I have been spending some longer periods of time with one of the teams I manage- within a larger Community Mental Health Team that I used to work within.

In many ways it is a step back into familiar chaos which is strangely comforting.

Today for instance, we had staff shortages, no receptionist, a person in the building who was extremely (and noisily) unwell and had to be detained under the Mental Health Act. Also we had the usual variety of tensions and frictions between individual team members.

And it is the later that was most noticeable to me in my return. People in mundane group situations are always at their most ‘person-like’. Working closely with others in situations of stress will always make it impossible to hide who you are, at your best and worst.

All the usual characters were there today- the detached, the enthusiast, the out of control control freak, the idiosyncrat, the confidenceless, the overconfident, the people pleaser and the back stabber.

And the mess of me.

Some team situations distil from all this some fine spirit. They are generative and energising- for most if not all. To be part of teams like this is a lifetime high, even if only in retrospect. We are more as a result of being part of them.

Other teams are toxic by their nature. Whole books are written about how this comes about- leadership, followership, vision, poor skill/personality fit. Teams like this need to be taken outside and shot.

The surprise however is that both of these kinds of teams are rare. What is more common are teams like the one I spent time with today- teams full of faults and fracture lines- with some people working full on, others hardly working at all. With all sorts of disatisfactions, hurts and greivances just below the surface.

But still, these teams are productive.

In this case, the product is not easy to define- as it concerns the support of other people in distress, and despite our (dis)functionality, people are received, held, and then sent on their way on the way to some kind of healing for the most part.

Today I feel both hopeful and defeated by this. Hopeful because the humanity in the middle of us has this huge beating heart.

Defeated because the best of us is still beyond.

I think it comes down still to the difference between the efficient performance of a task and- love.

The difference between animal and divine.

The difference between a corporate mission statement, and the Beatitudes…


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