Over the years, we’ve made some observations about how groups appear when they’ve shifed from a collection of individuals to a cohesive whole.
- The sound of the group shifts. The sound of the voices at work in subgroups takes on a hum or buzz. Voices seem to be attuned to one another. There is a rhythm, a contained vitality to the sound.
- The silences are profound. There is an energetic sense of peace, calm, ease…a supreme presence that makes the silences feel very full. One of our past participants, a police officer and K-9 handler, brought his German Shepard into the workshop during the last two days. During the time that we sensed the group had reached a state of high-function, we noticed that the dog had fallen asleep. The room was very active, but there was a peaceful, almost sacred sense in the room.
- Expressions are clear, direct, even poetic. People are less tentative about sharing their observations, perspectives, and feelings. Communication is more authentic, concise, and respectful. There are fewer wasted words. Often what’s shared seems to contain a quality of wisdom and eloquence that didn’t exist before.
- The group becomes more important than the individual. When a group coalesces into a highly functional team, there is less concern with individual needs. The group has evolved and aligned to meet a greater need that transcends and includes individual needs.
- The line separating personal and work life begins to blur. There’s something about being part of a high functioning group that shifts our view of ourselves and the world. Being part of such an organism fulfills many of the needs we’re all after. One participant made the following comment at the close of last week’s workshop: “When I started this workshop on Monday, I was planning on quitting my job. Now, that’s changed. I’m going back next Monday and I think it’s going to be OK.”
Cultivating Collaborative Structures
The shepherding of highly functioning groups resemble the natural cycles involved in the parenting or nurturing of any living thing. We believe that structures that progressively unfold the following elements will cultivate collaboration.
- Structures of involvement that increase in complexity and responsibility over time. Relationships deepend naturally as trust develops over time. A group’s ability to work together increases as relationships evolve.
- Purposely introduce and nurture the formation of factional subgroups. This is a natural stage of group evolution that allows smaller groups to create community with one another before they are ready to be absorbed into the larger group.
- Offer challenges that require the resources of the entire group encouraging them to reach outside of established factions. This reaching out creates new bonds and connections that stengthen the collaborative capacity of the larger group.
Cultivating Collaborative Cultures
The following actions by the leaders will help to facilitate a culture of collaborative relationships within a group.
- Decrease facilitator interventions as the group matures, culminating in nearly complete withdrawal from the group while maintaining conscious energetic support.
- Encourage participants tools to be present in the moment and to cultivate their awareness around what’s happening within the group at multiple levels.
- Trusting in the intelligence of life gives life the space of operate. Any issue in the life of an individual or group will find its own best resolution if those involved express their experience and provide the space and time for the solution to unfold. Any efforts to force, cajole, or manipulate what is, impede the natural flow of life.
- Mutual Reciprocity. True community requires both giving and receiving of gifts, insights, and inner experience. Each member must share and make requests in response to inner promptings to speak, or to satisfy personal interests, desires, and needs and they emerge in the context of the group purpose.
- Offer each other honest and respectful feedback. People need to understand the impact of their actions on others in order for the community to evolve in accordance with the highest good of all concerned.
- Understand that no one reaches true community on their own. They reach out to participants to whom they feel less of a connection and seek to bridge divides.
- Know that simply expressing their simple truth to the best of their ability is curative. Expressing our relative truth allows the wisdom of life to unfold as needed, when needed. We must be willing to jettison the idea of political correctness in service to our personal version of truth, however it looks. If something sounds complicated or doesn’t make sense, it’s most likely a head trip and not really true. How a process unfolds can be extremely complex but always elegant and beyond the mind’s ability to anticipate or significantly influence.
- Understand that presence facilitates flow. The inner space occupied by each participant influences “the field” of the group. Noise in any mind adds noise to the field. Quiet minds clear the field. A clear field makes what’s next self-evident and facilitates the flow of the group’s work.