You’ve likely heard the old chestnut “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM.” Whether said in jest, or in dead seriousness, it is simply not true. If you want to have a team which can navigate complexity and uncertainty, you need to recognise that it is filled with ‘I’s. Why?
“When we talk about similarities, we create connection; when we recognize and talk about difference, then we create the space for belonging.”Gail Barker, a CTI Faculty member
Sharing how we are similar allows us to connect. We are hardwired for connection. Notice next time you go to a party or a networking event how you search for what you have in common with those you try to get into a conversation with, how you try and build the connection.
However, I only truly feel like I belong in the team if I can reveal what is different about me and to let others see my unique self with my views, experience, and quirks. Not trying to fit in by looking or being the same as everyone else.
Similarities are the tip of the iceberg. Difference often remains invisible below the waterline.
And this fits very neatly into Timothy Clark’s framework of psychological safety:
- Can I show up as I am? (Inclusion safety)
- Can I make mistakes? (Learner safety)
- Can I contribute in a meaningful way? (Contributor safety)
- Can I challenge the status quo? (Challenger safety)
Why does this matter? Psychological safety is required for people to speak and act with candour. If I don’t feel safe, I will likely not share my questions, or ideas, perspectives or insights that might alienate someone or distance me from the herd. That is in part how groupthink arises. And it is kryptonite to innovation.
As a leader, and everyone is a leader once they choose to take responsibility for the world around them, you can encourage people to bring more of their ‘difference’ to your team by being curious, suspending judgement, and holding space for ideas, values and behaviours which are not orthodox in your team or organisation.
Take a stand for inclusion and diversity in your team because there is an ‘I’ in team. That makes an inclusive leader and enables your team to thrive.