David Schwinn addresses the importance of relational teamwork—in work groups as well as with families.
A few weeks ago we attended the graduation of one of our “adopted” granddaughters. The idea of an “adopted grandchild” came from one of my mentors, Sandy Jimenez, who was a treasured member of the core team that worked to transform Jackson County, Michigan many years ago. Sandy was a Vista Volunteer who taught me about the “hard” side of that community. She brought me face-to-face with the members of that community for whom, despite their best efforts, the system threw up more roadblocks than gateways. That experience was mind blowing for me and may be the subject of another blog.
Besides teaching me about the “hard” side of Jackson, Sandy shared with me the idea of an “adopted grandchild.” When I was commenting to her how much we would love to have a grandchild before we had any inkling that there might be some on the way, she simply pointed out how many children in our community who would also love to have a grandparent. She thought that maybe we should adopt each other. Our amazing “adopted granddaughter”, Alyse, is the youngest of three Guenther’s. Her recent graduation summarized the exceptional nature of her accomplishments while at college. The observation that my wife, Carole, and I made about the event was the close relationship those three siblings have with one another. As I thought about that relationship, other similar relationships came to mind.
Carole and I have a blended family made up of six children and their spouses. They have by now given us six more grandchildren. We have been blessed to be part of that close family relationship, too. We have also been blessed to be part of the core team of which Sandy Jimenez was a part. You may remember that from time to time, I discuss the Macaroni’s, a group of consultant colleagues with similar characteristics. You may also remember that we were honored to be part of the Fetzer Fellows and Scholars Program many years ago that has evolved into a similar community. Even from time to time, my relationships with work colleagues have grown into that kind of close relationship. Let me describe a few interactions within these groups of people:
- When we share what we’re up to, we receive praise for the importance of our work.
- When we share accomplishments, we are told they are result of our talents, abilities, and just plain hard work and perseverance.
- When we share a problem, such as a need for grandchildren, we get wisdom, encouragement, and opportunities to solve those problems. Other problem sharing also sometimes gives us actual resources.
- When we share interpersonal problems, we get insight into possible alternative perspectives and approaches to take.
- When we are looking for a job or a better job, we receive new insight into our own valuable attributes, skills, and abilities and even, from time to time, a new approach to solving our dilemma and some new connections we never thought of before.
- When we share a need for resources, they come as if by magic.
- When we make suggestions to each other, we receive thanks because those suggestions are made with a clear intention to help and with no criticism.
- When we just listen, insights abound from world views and knowledge we had little sense of.
Being close with others, then, gives us praise, encouragement, insight, resources, new perspectives, and thanks. It also brings us performance for the common good. We all know about the value of team work that I’ve discussed in more depth in other blogs.
An unusual example of that team work comes from a recent example of the unexpected gifts that come from a close connection. Our son, Steve, gave me a book, Absolutely on Music: Conversation with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2016). Although I knew nothing of Ozawa or Murakami and almost nothing of classical music, I immediately started reading the book, because Steve always has something to teach me as do all my other close friends. Toward the end of the book, I read a piece on teamwork that does not go by that name.
Murakami was present at the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland, an annual ten-day seminar for talented young string players that ends in widely attended small group and orchestral public performances. A short segment of the conversation between Murakami and Ozawa near the end of the seminar follows:
MURIKAMI: To tell you the truth, the first time I heard them playing—I think it was the second day of rehearsals—I had some real doubts about what they could accomplish. The Ravel didn’t sound like Ravel, and the Schubert didn’t sound like Schubert. I never imagined that they would come this far in a little over a week.
OZAWA: Well, they were still getting to know each other at that point.
We all need to get to know each other…and remember that process never ends. Our wellbeing as individuals and as a group can always get better even if we think it is already perfect. In my own workplace, one of our colleagues has been undergoing a personal trauma that has served to make transparent the deeply affectionate feelings we all have for one another.
In our workplaces, we can continue to strengthen those ties we have with our peers and others for our personal benefit and the benefit of the organization. We can even begin to strengthen ties that we were not aware of such as those with folks who work for us, our bosses, the folks for whom we provide products and services, and the folks who supply us. Strengthening these communities can surely improve the wellbeing of our organization, each other, and ourselves.
As always, I treasure your comments and questions.