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August 2023

Roots of Teamwork

Papercut people

Practical activities from Mapping Motivation

Welcome back for the third instalment of a new series of articles in which we use practical exercises to explore motivation and more. You can find the first article, which explores Roots of Motivation,  here. In the previous article, we discussed the Roots of Leadership. Today, we’re looking at teamwork. Of course, Motivation, Leadership, and Teamwork are all interconnected (or to continue the metaphor, we might say their roots are intertwined). In many respects, Motivation is the mediator between Teams and Leaders, for Leaders need to motivate their Teams, but likewise motivated Teams can buoy up their Leaders.

But before we can examine this interconnected triangle or trinity, we have to know what a team is! And the answer is not so simple as one might think. At Motivational Maps, we draw a distinction between a mere “group”—a bunch of people trying to do something—and a fully committed and effective team. Let’s take a look at a practical exercise from Mapping Motivation to get a sense of what the distinguishing factors might be between groups and teams.

This activity comes from Chapter 6, Activity 2, page 103.

“If a ‘group’ of people in a department, say, are effectively just a random collection of people who happen to have been put together ostensibly to work on some project or objective, what do you think might be the defining characteristics of a real team? List the core characteristics in your opinion. What do you notice about how real teams work?”

As mentioned in previous entries in this article series: it’s important to physically write down your answers, as it engages a different part of the brain.

Now, those of you who have read the Roots of Leadership article and participated in the activity will know that there were four (plus one!) important skills that a leader needed to possess to be successful and efficacious. Four was a significant number because it connects to the four principle domains of business: Finance, Marketing & Sales, Operations, and People (more information about this can be found on pages 19-20 of Mapping Motivation). It will therefore come as no surprise to you that there are four factors that distinguish teams from groups and that point toward the likely success of a team in any endeavour they undertake.

In considering your answer to the question of what these four factors might be, then, it’s important to contemplate how these factors or traits (we might also use the term “qualities”) intersect with the four domains. As always, the name of the game is balance here. For example, viewing the situation through the lens of the People domain may prompt you to say, “Teams need to be socially cohesive”. It brings to mind images of team away-days (paintballing and quad biking anyone?) or drinks after work. But as wonderful as these can be, a team that is only about the social cohesion and bonding is not likely to get much work done. Sociability can prove deleterious to productivity, not just because people feel more inclined to chat around the water cooler, but also because friendship can fuzzy the hierarchical structures upon which most businesses still lay their foundations. If your manager is your best mate, are they likely to insist you deliver a project on time?

Similarly, a team that is mandated only by the bottom-line results (which we might consider to be aligned with the Finance domain of business) is unlikely to be a place where cooperation thrives; all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, to quote a famous writer. Some may think invoking Stephen King’s The Shining is a little bit extreme—but Jack will go crazy and become alienated if his life’s meaning is defined only by material results. Just as too much sociability can create problems of complacency, too little can create friction which is ironically even more deleterious to productivity. Will Jack do what his manager tells him to do as quickly and efficiently as possible if Jack’s manager is always on his back about numbers, numbers, numbers and never stops to consider Jack as a rounded human being with loves, hopes, desires, and physical limits? I highly doubt it. How then to strike this fine balance between a productive and effective “workforce”, to use an old-fashioned term, and a socially cohesive and cooperative “team”?

Many would argue that no discussion of teams and teamwork is complete without also discussing leadership, and they are right in many respects, for teams require leaders. Though the topic is far too rich and detailed to discuss here (indeed, I have not one but two books dedicated to this very topic: Mapping Motivation for Leadership and Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams), we can say with certainty that the nature of a team’s leadership is another factor that distinguishes it from a simple “group”. But this raises more important questions. To what extent should a leader be integrated with their team or stand apart from it? To what extent should a team report to their leader? To what extent should a leader define the objectives of the team?

Now we have set your mind a-whirr with questions, it might be best we look at our answer to the question of what characteristics constitute and define a great team. You’ll be pleased to know this time round we have not cheated: there are four components.

(note - images from Chapter 1 of Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams)

So, these are the four traits of a real team: a clear Remit, Interdependency on one another, a Belief in the efficacy of teams, and Accountability. Each one of these is worthy of a chapter in itself. However, as you can see from our next simple diagram, each of these factors transforms a potential obstacle into a positive and progressive outcome.

To pick one example, Interdependency solves the dichotomy of “too much” or “too little” sociability. Instead of trying to build social ties outside of work and hoping they translate into effective collaboration in the workplace, you build them within the framework of the work itself and the desired objective, creating a team of people who need each other’s skills to achieve their end goal. Interdependency fosters collaboration and respect for one another’s skillsets, especially if those roles and skillsets are clearly defined at the outset. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t also throw your employees a barbeque once in a while, of course, but as you can see building collaboration into the very fabric of the team’s identity is a far more powerful way of achieving this cohesion than simply plying people with drinks or experiences that may be totally unrelated to their everyday experience of working together.

A lot more can be said about each of these factors, but we have run out of space. As a final thought, you may want to consider how these four factors intersect with the four domains of business, and how they underpin one another!

For more information, consult chapter 6 of Mapping Motivation.

And for more information about Motivational Maps please contact one of our Licensed Practitioners.

Roots of Leadership

Trees into the sky

Practical activities from Mapping Motivation…

Welcome back for the second instalment of a new series of articles in which we use practical exercises to explore motivation and more. If you missed the last article, which explores the Roots of Motivation, you can find it here. Today, we’ll be discussing leadership!

In times of rapid change and political uncertainty, the question of leadership becomes more pertinent than ever. However, it seems like no one can fully agree on what constitutes great leadership. Is it charisma? Determination? Creativity? Adaptability? Or is leadership entirely contextual—different horses suiting different courses?

Of course, narrowing down leadership to one skill or trait is possibly too limiting, and leaders often have multiple traits and skills that make them efficacious and inspiring.

In order to get a clearer picture of leadership, then, let’s do a practical exercise! After all, that’s what this series is all about: getting pragmatic about change and growth.

This exercise is very simple and comes from Chapter 8, Activity 3, page 145 of Mapping Motivation.

“What do you think are the four most important skills that a leader should have in discharging their duties?”

Please write them down. Remember, the act of writing something on paper uses a completely different part of the brain than merely thinking, and thus engages you with what has been written far more than simply tossing around ideas in your head.

Now, before we go on to looking at the answer, let’s consider the number of skills we’ve asked you to note down. Four is not an arbitrary or random number. The reason we have selected the number four is because it connects with the principle domains of business: Finance, Marketing & Sales, Operations, and People (more information about this can be found on pages 19-20 of Mapping Motivation).

What is interesting to consider is: where do the skills you have written down fit in with these broad categories? Do all of your skills / traits fall into one basket, or have you managed to spread them across three or more domains? For example, if you wrote down that leaders need to have skills in organisation, efficiency, process, and possess a practical knowledge of the product, then you might consider that all of these pretty much fall into the camp of Operations. Whilst Operations skills are valuable, they do not tell the whole story. Having more efficient processes will save the company money, but it will not generate new sources of income. Being organised will help the business run more smoothly, but that will not necessarily resolve conflict between departments or individual employees. So, as you can see, an ideal leader would possess a spread of skills that covered the four bases of the principle domains of business.

Secondly, we might consider the important adage that leaders need to be able to work “on” the business and “in” the business simultaneously. Working “on” the business is characterised by a focus on vision and strategy—aka, where is the business going?—and being able to implement that vision with the necessary processes, systems, and structures. Working “in” in the business, by contrast, is about the people: recruiting and sustaining winning teams, and ensuring everyone in the organisation is motivated.

Though I am well aware that military analogies are in reality unhelpful and misleading when it comes to business (yet still so many gurus use them left, right, and centre) I will risk being called a hypocrite to use one here!

If you were a general in charge of building an army, and commanding that army in battle, you might consider working “on” the business (or in this case the army) as strategic planning (where are we going, what obstacles will we encounter, how can we overcome them) combined with the implementation of hierarchical structures and fighting methodologies that might help you deliver that strategy. For example: we are marching West and are going to fight the Amazonians, who are exceptionally good archers. Every soldier must therefore be equipped with a shield, and in battle, they must use the phalanx “turtle” formation, each soldier covering the soldier to their left, forming an interlocking shield wall to defend against ranged attack.

But, as we all know, and as Tolstoy so profoundly observed in War & Peace, strategy, tactics, and technology alone are not enough for an army (or business) to triumph. Here is an extract from War & Peace, Book 10, Chapter 35, in which the humble Russian General, Kutuzov, is preparing for the battle that will route Napoleon from Russian soil:

 “He listened to the reports that were brought him and gave directions when his subordinates demanded that of him; but when listening to the reports it seemed as if he were not interested in the import of the words spoken, but rather in something else - in the expression of face and tone of voice of those who were reporting. By long years of military experience he knew, and with the wisdom of age understood, that it is impossible for one man to direct hundreds of thousands of others struggling with death, and he knew that the result of a battle is decided not by the orders of a commander in chief, nor the place where the troops are stationed, nor by the number of cannon or of slaughtered men, but by that intangible force called the spirit of the army, and he watched this force and guided it in as far as that was in his power.”

It is this “intangible” force that Motivational Maps hopes to make tangible, or rather visible. And this is where we enter the realm of working “in” the business, aka, being among the troops, feeling the spirit of the army, and “watch[ing] this force and guid[ing] it as far as that was in [our] power.”

So, what is our answer to the question of the four most important skills?

Chapter 8, Figure 8.5: 4+1 leadership model (p. 148).

Figure - Motivational Maps 4 plus 1 Model of Leadership (2015_04_13 13_00_23 UTC)

As you may have noticed, we’ve cheated slightly, in that there are actually five things! But the fifth is not like the others, and to use an old saying: four apples and an orange does not make five apples. The fifth skill, which is Self: self-awareness, self-insight, and self-development, interpenetrates and augments all the others.

We do not have room in this blog to unpack what all of these core skills mean in great detail here, but hopefully this article has given you some clues already. For more information, consult chapter 8 of Mapping Motivation. You can actually pick up Mapping Motivation at a 20% discount here.

And for more information about Motivational Maps please contact one of our Licensed Practitioners.