The type of team we create – and the way we behave in any team or group – is quite likely to be shaped by how we learned to act in our own early lives – our first ‘team’ being our own family.
How I wish I’d known this in my twenties and thirties when I was climbing the corporate ladder in organisational life. It was only when I did my first Coach Training in 2001 and subsequent Coaching Psychology training – where I got to do some challenging and deep personal development work – that I started to get the links between early family life and corporate life – and how I was replicating learned patterns of behaviour from my childhood in my work. It was the biggest ‘light bulb moment’ I think I have ever experienced.
So where and how does this play out?
I’d learned, growing up, that alpha males rule. No one ever said that, of course, it was just how I saw things happen in my own family. Our brains are hard-wired for survival so we all learn how to survive by repeating those same patterns – it’s how we ‘get by’. So with my learned view of the world that ‘alpha males rule’ I was unable to stand up to senior men and get my voice heard in my first and subsequent more senior management roles. I’d never learned how. (Fortunately, I have now – It was one of the things I really HAD to learn to work at senior level with alpha males and females and to be able to challenge their thinking and their behaviour). If I can learn to stand up to the chest-beating CEO then you can too!
The thing is, once we recognise these patterns it gives us CHOICE. To do what we’ve always done or to do something different.
Roger Jones says in his brilliant Harvard Business Review Article ‘The Family Dynamics We Grew Up with Shape How We Work’ ‘Early family life affects how leaders respond to pressure and react when team members compete for their attention. It influences whether they have close or distant relationships with the people who report to them, communicate directly or indirectly, micromanage or empower, encourage debates or shut them down.’
More on this next week.
You can download this article as a PDF file here – The Family – Team Connection.