“The E Team”: what makes a group effective?

During this morning’s session the ADR Trainers Network delegates took some time to think about effective teams they’ve been a part of and what factors made those teams successful. This is something we can all relate to – even those of us who aren’t mediators – and I found many of the comments from the discussions helpful and thought-provoking.

Many of the responses felt straightforward and considered. Factors like making sure everyone is appropriately briefed, aware of what is happening and what the team hopes to achieve make logistic sense: here people can understand their contribution to a wider project, and have an opportunity to actively ‘buy-in’ to the team’s aims and ethos. In a similar vein, keeping lines of team dialogue open once the team is operational is also an important factor in success – there is real benefit in giving feedback on what’s working well and giving teammates the chance to reflect on other aspects of their approach and actions.

There were also some very pertinent questions asked, which I don’t profess to know the answer to and offer more as a springboard to discussion. Everyone agreed that factors like trust, respect and being able to have fun were important contributors to a successful, effective team, and that sharing goals was important. But how do we know that we share goals? Who decides what those goals and aims are? How are they decided? How do we know when our group goals and values have developed and changed? What signals potential in a person, even if they are not “top of the class” or feel unsure of their own abilities? If people in a team have different interests, how do we accommodate those and make a coherent, cohesive decision about what we can offer and how we can work?

It is of course part of my job to make the case for ADR and its role in society and business, but sessions like this morning’s emphasise to me with great force the breadth and depth of its application. At a conference intended to let international delegates share their experiences of training the trainers of mediators, I as a non-mediator have been encouraged to think about my own working style, attitude and approach.  It almost feels like internal or personal dispute resolution, where I am testing my own assumptions and habits against a fresh perspective.

These are long term, ‘big’ questions, and the answers will no doubt be different each time I am asked. A difficult answer does not preclude the question, however, and perhaps awareness that these are things to consider at all represents an important first step to becoming a more effective team participant.


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