“To succeed as a team, the team collectively must hold all of the members accountable for their expertise.” -Jeff Heath, President and CEO of Allerion Oilfield Services.

This quotes suggests that people must transform their thinking; from being individualistic to identifying themselves as a collective; seeing themselves as part of the whole (and the whole is greater than any individual part.) This suggests identity transformation which is extremely difficult in today’s workplace, given its competitive focus, especially in today’s economy. With cutbacks being as they are, people are fearful of losing their jobs and therefore adopt an “it’s me or it’s them” attitude.

Furthermore, to hold each other accountable for their expertise means that we care about what each person offers, because we want to be the best we can be. It means honoring and valuing each person’s skill set (or expertise) and using them to make the collective stronger.

An individualistic approach is detrimental to our workplace. The “every one for themselves” attitude does more damage than good. For example, it erodes team building and pits one employee against another. The key is that there is more power in the collective than in an individual. This way of thinking is the foundation on which our Country is built. For example, our government is elected by majority votes (the collective decides) and we have a health care system committed to ensuring the collective well being of Canadians. When we were children collective values were instilled in each of us: learning to share, learning to play together, learning to work as a group and learning to take turns when talking and listening. It seems that as we get older, we place less emphasis on the importance of these lessons. We tend to become more individualistic and more fearful that sharing equates less for me or that listening to someone else’s ideas translates to not having our own ideas heard.

The workplace seems to be a prime example of this shift. How common is it to hear “I don’t feel valued, heard, or appreciated in my job.” Or “I don’t have any fun at work.” Or “My work environment isn’t conducive to growth, no one works together.” It seems like the workplace is taking us away from the values we were taught at an early age.

Feeling like we are part of a team and acknowledging a job well done are two vital things people need in order to feel satisfied in their workplace. It’s a pretty basic principle: if people don’t feel heard, if they don’t think their ideas matter to others they begin to doubt the whether they have anything to offer or whether their contributions make a difference.

Without recognition, work is experienced as isolating, disconnected and meaningless. The result: people won’t want to come to work. (They don’t enjoy work) If people don’t really want to be at work, they won’t do their ultimate best and productivity is negatively impacted. This becomes as cycle: people don’t feel valued, so they don’t put in one hundred percent. People are fearful of losing their position, so they continue to operate in an individualistic fashion.

It would be so much better if all of us just got back into the ‘sand box’ and started at ground zero. We’ll put the leaders in with the visionaries and dreamers. We’ll match up the math whiz and the book worm and get them talking. We’ll get everyone together and remind them that they are important and valuable in what each has to offer the group. And then, we’ll show them how powerful they are as a group. If a successful team is as Mr. Heath says, the entire team holding each member accountable to their expertise, we must remind the individual how important their expertise truly is. (And, that yes, they do have an expertise) The challenge in today’s workplace is to convince people that they have something to offer that is meaningful, when what they experience on a day to day basis is isolation and disconnection from organizational visions and missions.

Powerful Play Experiences is an Edmonton based company that delivers workshops. Powerful Play Experiences puts each employee and employer together in the proverbial sandbox. It’s not as hokey as you may think. In order to build a healthy and happy work environment, you need happy employees. You can’t have happy employees in an individualistic “every one for themselves” mindset.

We all have a unique set of skills and attributes that make us valuable to our employers, our coworkers and to the collective group. Reminding us of these fundamental lessons we learned as children is forward thinking and team building. Build up the person, build up the group and strengthen the team. Powerful Play Experiences workshops can result in thinking differently about the self, about the other, about the group and ultimately about the company. All of which translates to discovering the creative potential within each person as well as within the work environment, increased happiness and increased team success.

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