Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Unity through Harmony

Boulder County Sheriff's Office
(Photo credit: Boulder Country Sheriff's Office)
One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is team building. Taking a group of individuals with different personalities, skills, and experiences and molding them into a cohesive unit is not always an easy task. The leader must assess the strengths and weaknesses and commonalities and differences of each person and determine how each fits into the whole, if they do at all. Building the team may happen quickly or it may take some time.

Consider the following excerpt about a unified effort from Leading in the Wildland Fire Service:
The longer it takes to develop a unified effort, the greater the vacuum of leadership. Delays increase confusion, which in turn magnify the risk to our people and increase the likelihood that people will take unproductive or independent action without understanding the larger intent.
A unified leadership team sends a powerful message: when all leaders follow the same priorities and reinforce leader’s intent through consistent actions and words, our people develop a strong sense of trust for their leaders. It dispels the propensity to second-guess command decisions as subordinates recognize that the leadership team moves as one and is solidly in charge.
Unified in Harmony
Building a team is like playing in a drum circle. From what I have witnessed at the Seattle Center, someone shows up with a drum and starts playing. The next thing you know there are hundreds of people drumming away. Now there may very well have been a leader who picked the venue and notified the drummers, but what happens after they converge is pure magic.

There is no sheet music. There doesn't seem to be a set of rules or procedures. People come and people go. In this group, no two drummers are the same. As one would say "each marches to the beat of a different drum." Even though each person creates his/her own tune, he/she relies upon one another to create the musical experience. Unique individuals unify into one harmonious group. The beauty of harmony is that each person is part of the beautiful whole just as they are. They do not have to fit a certain mold in order to be a part of the group. Most importantly, a team in harmony can be unified without the barriers and stigma of uniformity or the heavy hand of a demanding leader.

Look what happens when a team is harmonious and not just acting in unison.

Building the Team

Fire leaders build cohesive teams—not simply groups of individuals putting forth individual efforts—to accomplish missions in high-risk environments.

Cohesive teams are more creative and adaptable when dealing with complex situations. This enables them to detect and mitigate errors before irreparable damage occurs. Cohesion allows team members to anticipate the needs and actions of other team members. This increases efficiency and saves time.

Fire leaders set the stage by creating an environment in which cohesive teams thrive: establishing a foundation of trust, enabling healthy conflict, requiring commitment, setting an expectation of accountability, and bringing focus to the team result.

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge
Take a moment to assess your team.
  • Are you unified through harmony or unison? Do you think alike? Act alike? Are you clones?
  • Develop innovative ways to bring individuality into the success of your team.
  • Embrace your positive differences and find ways to minimize the negative differences (whatever those may be). 
  • Support one another.

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