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The process toward community on a work team is much different than that of social community. Social community consists of relationships thatВ begin with and are centered around a mutual interest individuals have in one another, with no greater purpose, goal, or project. It is generated by a completely people-oriented process involving relationships existent for nothing more than relationships’ sake. Team community, however, is developed out of entirely different, task-focused relationships, generally centered around a set of tasks. And because team community begins from a completely different starting point, it develops out of a completely different process.

This process can be separated into four stages:

  1. Cooperation
  2. Celebration
  3. Collaboration
  4. Community

ONE: Cooperation (or more appropriately, convenient cooperation) is the stage at which each team member is willing to help another accomplish tasks as long as his/her ability to accomplish personal tasks is not affected. In this stage, an unstated bartering system of favors regulates “teamwork”, resulting in mutual back scratching becoming the standard act of “teamwork.” Here, the underlying mindset is: “I’ll help you win, if you help me win; as long as my helping you win does not hinder my ability to win”.

TWO: Celebration exists when team members begin to genuinely appreciate the successes of one another. Though still very uninvolved in one another’s work, there is a felt desire for each member to succeed. This felt desire derives from the recognition that everyone’s work is beneficial to the team and subsequently beneficial to everyone on the team. It is important to understand, though, that this celebration is still out of an interest in the team and self, not a true interest in the other individuals on the team. The mindset in the stage of celebration is: “When you win, I win.”

THREE: Collaboration begins when the paradigm of team members shifts from (A) recognizing the value of each person’s work to the team and self TO (B) recognizing the value of working together for the good of the team and self. Here, members begin to realize that if the success of the team (and likewise oneself) is dependent on the success of each member’s task area, personal investments into the task areas of others are just as beneficial as investments into one’s own task area. As a result, individual task areas merge into a single team task area. Still though, members’ interest in one another is still centered around the project. The mindset becomes: “If, when you win, I win; and when I win, you win; we should help each other win.”

FOUR: Community involves the largest paradigm shift. Here, relationships begin to exist less for a project’s sake and more for relationship itself’s sake. Projects are still important and central, but the team’s community is rooted in a deeper, social community that continues past 5 o’ clock. Relationships move from the conference room to the living room, as team members begin to share lives alongside tasks. Those involved are no longer at work for the tasks they could probably do anywhere else; but instead for the friendships they cannot imagine finding anywhere else. (Which, as a side note, results in increased employee retention and decreased personnel costs.) In community, the mindset simply becomes: “I want us to win together.”

In order to successfully develop team community, we must each recognize and begin from the stage at which our teams currently exist. The next few posts will focus on making the transition between each of the stages and toward team community. But to begin…

  • Where is your team currently in this process?
  • What are some other benefits of developing team community?
  • What can you do to move your team a stage closer to community?

Leave a comment and begin the conversation. We’ll continue it over the next few posts… (Mondays & Thursdays)

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