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Team Effectiveness and Collaboration

meetups & conferences May 12, 2023

SmidigDig is a conference held by the Norwegian Agile Community and the topic this year was Trust and Collaboration over Command and Control and I was asked to talk about Effective Collaboration and creating Autonomous teams with Radical Collaboration. 

I would like to share with you the essence of my talk which was in Norwegian, and if you want to watch it, scroll to the bottom. 

Throughout my career, predictability and working within safe frame has been important to me. Looking back, I realize that I have allowed my own fear to be a big limitation. When I started as a developer many years back, I held a lot of fear inside. As a novice employee I feared to be seen as incompetent, not being good enough, not being included, not being liked and being rejected. I let many opportunities pass because of my fears. I am happy that I reached a point in my life where fear no longer is in charge. 

When I decided to become a professional coach received a lot of coaching myself. This has helped me to work through my own fears, and eventually it led me to leave a fantastic job as a consultant and become self-employed. To me, this was a huge step, and even led me to speak at a conference. 

A few years back, when I started as a leadership coach, I realized that it wasn´t just me that limited myself, almost everyone do. I see so much unrealized potential and I strongly feel that I want to make a difference in this field. 


What has fear to do with Team Effectiveness, collaboration and autonomous teams?

Fear is self-protection, we feel it when there is an uncomfortable feeling we do not want to feel. It is a physical response, it happens autonomously in us, it is super-fast and it happens unconsciously. We could say it has a life of it´s own. 

Whenever we are in fear we experience to be either in a fight, flight or freeze mode. This is a normal and human response which is triggered by the amygdala to help us deal with conflicted situations. 

At the office we could experience this in for example a meeting, someone say´s something that triggers me and as a response, I might zoom out by for example checking my phone or start thinking about dinner. Sometimes it is subtle and we might not even notice that it happens, but what the people around us might notice is that we become bad listeners. 

It is important that we realize that we all have different triggers, what triggers me, is not necessarily the same as what triggers you. The reason for this is that we all have different experiences and stories and we don´t know what our colleagues have experienced. Our past experiences can trigger us to react in ways that doesn´t make sense to us or our colleagues, it might have nothing to do with our current situation. Knowing this can help us meet our colleague with more curiosity and empathy. 


If we want to create autonomous teams and drive fear out of organizations, we need to understand the mechanisms that optimizes collaboration on an inter-personal level. 

The theory behind Radical Collaboration, The Human Element teaches us that a team goes through the phases of Inclusion, Control and Openness.

Inclusion in context of a team refers to the sense of being a part of the team or not, am I in or am I out? It is about the breath of relationships, how many in my team do I interact with? 

Control is related to Influence. Where do I find myself in the hierarchy of influence? If you are an expert in a certain area, you might have more influence in that area than others in the team. 

Openness is about the depth of relationships, how well do we know each other? Can I allow myself to be open with you about what happens inside of me? Do I dare to be honest and transparent? Do I dare to ask questions, challenge and disagree? 

Our behaviour will be influenced by fears we might have in relation to others and fears we might have on a deeper and personal level. When we are experiencing any type of fear it triggers our defenses. Our defenses may take many different forms, we could go into becoming the self-blamer, victim, helper, denier, critic or the demander. 

To avoid getting stuck in our defenses, The Human Element suggests that Openness is the grand simplifier, meaning that we meet fear with more openness, more transparency about what happens inside of me in the moment I am triggered. What normally happens is that we hold back. 

If we want to create autonomous teams and effective team cultures, openness is the place to start. It is an easily accessible tool that you can use to create trust and psychological safety. 


Why Openness?

 You can see Openness and Fear as two polarities. Fear is contraction and closedness, while Openness helps us avoid misunderstandings and assumptions. It is a simple tool, yet it requires more of us. It requires that you and me take radical self-responsibility in the sense that we need to understand ourselves better and we need to clarify with ourselves what we really want. What you can do to start including more openness in your conversations is to include your emotions and what you want, in addition to communicating around facts and thoughts. If you are triggered, share that first truth. Openness creates more understanding, we avoid uncertainty and create trust instead. 

We cannot achieve autonomy unless we feel safe in our teams, that is why openness is important. 

I observe in the tech environment that we focus on the "outside" of the organizations, on the "systems", I believe that we in addition to that must start focusing more on the "inner side" of organizations. With the inside, I mean inter-personal relationships, what happens inside of you and me and what happens between us. 


I encourage you to go for Openness, do not let fear stop you! 


Effektiv samarbeidskultur – Andrea Altier from Smidigkonferansen on Vimeo


 If you are interested in the english version, you find it here; 

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