Teams that are learning and growing tend to be creative and innovative say Susan Leahy and Freeman Michaels

There is no denying that to be a great team, the members of that team need to respect one another. But often the level of respect required to generate TEAM is not fully understood. In fact, often the behavior that we think of as “respectful” is trapping us in the dysfunction of “group”.

Before we introduce you to the various levels of respect, we want to introduce you to a few of our Group to TEAM Leadership Solutions’ core premises.

1. Group IS, while TEAM is earned

A group is a collection of individuals who are each looking out for their own self-interest.  A TEAM is a collection of individuals who organize their efforts and attitude around shared interest, mutual goals and/or a common cause.  Every collection of people starts off as a group – it is through deliberate connection, collaboration and cooperation that these groups elevate to TEAM.

2. You only have two options – Group or TEAM

Everything you do, you think, you say and you feel is either keeping you stuck in group or is elevating you into the experience of TEAM.

3. TEAM is NOT a Destination it is an Experience

Most teambuilding trainings treat TEAM is if it is a destination. That is not our perspective. For us, TEAM is an aspiration, a commitment and an experience that we seek to generate. Remember premise 1: Group IS, TEAM is earned.

The Three Levels of Respect

Respect, from our perspective, occurs on several levels, and each level creates a quality of connection.  In our trainings we teach that they are “Three Levels of Respect”.

Level 1. Tolerance (This level keeps you in group)

Tolerance doesn’t generate the positive feelings that create TEAM. We offer the example of “tolerating” your children.  Every parent has stood on the step of tolerating his or her children, this doesn’t make you a bad parent it makes you a person. We begin to tolerate when we feel overwhelmed or upset.  Tolerating becomes a form of coping.  However, if we reside on the stair step of tolerating for too long it erodes happy, fun and trusting relationships. When we tolerate we are not able to generate the energy of connection that fosters TEAM.

Tolerance is the lowest level of respect. The easiest way to discuss this with your co-workers is to ask the simple question, “How does it feel when someone is tolerating you?” From this discussion, the group will begin to understand that tolerance doesn’t feel good because it is rooted in separation.  Tolerance often involves critical judgment, hierarchy and fear.

Level 2. Civility (This level binds you to group)

The Second Level of Respect is a big trap.  At this level of respect people are “playing nice” and demonstrating “good manners”.  While this can feel comfortable, it is often an unconscious way of creating and maintaining distance between oneself and others. Civility never fosters real trust or true connection. On the second level individuals can rationalize their behavior because they are “playing by the (cultural) rules”. Operating from this level will keep you stuck in “group”.

The second level of respect, at best, keeps a layer of separation between people, and at worst can act as a rationalization and/or justification for bad behavior. As mentioned above, we often use the term “good manners” to illustrate this level of respect. How many of us hide behind “good manners” instead of being honest or really connecting with another person? The issue with civility is that the rule or manner of how someone is “supposed” to act becomes what is most important. We use manners to protect our position.  The “rules” of engagement, at this level of respect, maintain a certain level of separation.  Maintaining manners becomes a hindrance to cultivating a real relationship with another person. Reverting to ritualized interactions can be hard to interrupt because there is a voice in our heads justifying our position, “I am just being nice.”

Sometimes the meanest thing a person can do to another person is to be “nice to them” rather than “real, open and vulnerable” with them. Civility works great to keep people in low to moderate functioning “groups” but it will never generate the energy need to experience a high functioning TEAM.

Level 3. High Regard (This is the only level of respect that fosters TEAM)

In order to generate TEAM, you have to make the commitment to hold yourself and the people on your TEAM in high regard. It is important to realize that you can commit to holding people in high regard regardless of whether or not they are holding you in high regard. You can disagree with people but still hold them in high regard. Many people wait to see if other people are going to show them this level of respect before they are willing to offer the care and attention that high regard requires. True leaders consistently show their commitment to high regard by treating others with this level of respect.  Ultimately, you have a much better chance of enrolling and elevating your TEAM members if you commit to holding others in high regard first.

Really holding someone in high regard means that you choose to care about what they care about – what is important to them is important to you. You may not agree but you care.  High regard is where you can transcend self-interest and being to organize around shared interest – “how can we all win”.  This doesn’t mean that we always have to agree with others – in fact, how we “disagree” is a strong indication of the level of respect we are operating from.  In one of our recent trainings we had a participant who had a profound realization. He recognized that it was possible to disagree with what his co-worker was saying but still hold that co-worker in high regard. The intention shifts from trying to dominant the person that you disagree with or “put them down”, to trying to understand their perspective. The act of considering “other” – truly honoring that other people have other ideas and experiences, opens the door to dynamic discussions that can lead to profound learning and growth.

Teams that are learning and growing from their relationships with one another tend to be creative and innovative – they also tend to produce incredible results.  Diversity is a hallmark of great teams and diversity implies that there will be different points of view.  High regard is the foundation on which diversity becomes an advantage and a natural experience of TEAM.

Holding “others” in high regard is a practice.  In our live trainings we complete each day by asking everyone to get up, shake hands with every other person in the room, and say to them, “I commit to holding you in high regard.”

We want to encourage you to make this article actionable. If you are working in a group setting, such as an office, and you desire to experience more TEAM amongst your co-workers, try upgrading your “level of respect”.

If you decide to take this opportunity, sit down with your co-workers and do these three things:

  1. Print out this article as a reference and/or email it to everyone beforehand.
  2. Start the meeting by sharing your intention. “My intention for this meeting is to create a greater experience of TEAM, by upgrading our level of respect.”
  3. Start the meeting by discussing The Three Levels of Respect and invite open discussion.

When we do this exercise in our Group To TEAM trainings, the energy and connection that is created in the room is palpable. This exercise is a powerful demonstration that creates awareness and a commitment to think about how we are respecting the members of our TEAM. Holding one another in high regard is the starts with a personal commitment that leads to the experience of TEAM.

If you have committed to have a conversation with your co-workers we encourage you to end your meeting with this exercise. Ask everyone to make the verbal commitment to holding each other in high regard. This exercise is a great way to end a meeting and foster a positive energy that will promote TEAM.

High regard is a practice and is the type of respect required to elevate you and your co-workers to the experience of TEAM.

Group to TEAM Leadership Solutions was founded by Certified Speaking Professional, Susan Leahy MA, CSP, and business coach, Freeman Michaels MA. Through keynotes, customized live trainings, webinars, on-line training products and consulting services, ... (Read More)

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