Remember the list in my blog post concerning Team Strengths? One of the zeroes popped out in full force today.
How did this happen?
Earlier today, my team and I met to review our experiences at the nuclear power plant yesterday. Everyone enjoyed the trip and found the experience and information we obtained as extremely beneficial for our work. I started our tagup today by saying, “I’d like for each of us to talk about what he or she observed yesterday during our tour and discussion. We’ll capture the observations here” – I pointed to a Word document projected on the screen – “and we will review and refine the entries once we get all of them on the page. Each of us may have observed something a little different due to our own internal filters, so let’s get the observations on the page first, then start combining and refining.” We started, and it was going well at first.
One of my team members was sensing that the observations captured up to a particular point could lead to a position that is contrary to one he has been advocating for a few weeks. He said something along the lines of “no matter what you observed, I cannot support a position that…” and he elaborated on details. One of my other team members took the bait and argued the opposite position. Soon, the review collapsed into a debate of opposing positions, and I sat there, momentarily shocked.
I recovered and shared my observation of what happened: “Gang, our conversation has diverted into arguing positions. There will be a time for us to create our team’s position – not opposing positions – and that time is not now. We don’t have enough data on the table yet to even build a position. Let’s return our focus to capturing, then coalescing, our observations from yesterday.”
The first team member then said that he is not adding value to our current conversation, nor to our team since he was a minority voice. Another of my team members said that he was incorrect, that he did make everyone think about what we are saying. I added that, “It’s not about a majority versus minority. It’s about US, and you are a part of US. In your objections are the kernels of ideas that we need to surface for all of us to be able to address – if we don’t we may be missing something crucial.”
Then it hit me. I glanced at the whiteboard where I had the chart of Team Strengths and the inventory of the top 3 strengths of my team members. There, in glaring letters, was this entry in the chart:
“Validators (0) – those who keep testing the robustness of new knowledge”
No one on my team identified being a Validator as a personal strength; thus, my team lacked this strength in its inventory. As a team, our conversation attempted to validate each of our observations, yet we were doing it wrong. We were validating against our individual pre-formed positions that could be defended on the basis of selected observations!
When I realized this, I ended the tagup and said we would reconvene on this topic later. In an offline discussion shortly after the tagup, I shared my observation concerning the lack of a Validator strength with one of my team members and said, “I don’t know how to approach building a framework for validating our observations that will get us around the problem of opposing positions. In the end, we need a team position, not a majority versus minority slug-it-out position. That is unacceptable to me. Perhaps where we can start is to identify the features we like about some of the options we are considering and go from there.” In this one thread of conversation, the MBTI “E” in me came out – I had to think aloud, and from that drew confidence and energy that we could find a solution to this team weakness. The team member with whom I was speaking offered to pull together a list of features based upon the observations we captured.
I still face a challenge of lacking the validation strength in my team. I asked for outside help on validating our new knowledge, and will get some feedback on that tomorrow. I also still face the challenge of a team member who appears to me to have a closed mind and is not open to listening to alternative points of view. He is a strong “F” and talks a lot from that position: “I’m uncomfortable with…” “I feel that…” which is OK – I’m an “F” as well (just not as strong as he is). I need to find a common ground from which to reach him in a feeling way to extract the nuggets of gold I believe are there. I’m going to try the features list and see what happens.
It can’t hurt to try, right?