High performing teams operate like a high-performing family. As an analogy: In a high performing family, the leaders (parents) provide security through love, food, shelter, guidance, and mentoring (a.k.a. “parenting”) and the followers (children) react to the level of security they receive through their individual performance in school, activities, etcetera. Unfortunately, there are dysfunctional families where the opposite occurs – a low security environment is provided by the parents and the children react accordingly.
As it is with families, so it is with teams. Any team in which you participate will have the same characteristics in structure and in social currency (i.e. sense of belonging, guidance, mentoring, etcetera) as a family. Why? Because this is how we, as humans, are wired. We’re biologically programmed to be social and to achieve together. Families exist to provide security for children in a social setting to bring them to adulthood. Other human groups exist to achieve some other purpose be it a hunter team of Paleolithic types on the steppes of Central Asia or a project team in the conference room of Central Consolidated, LLC.
If you are thinking it’s odd to consider a team you lead at work as your “family”, stop. These people are, in fact, your family at work; the ones with whom you will share successes, failures, camaraderie, joy and the occasional meal (or many meals!) You’ll most likely spend the best part of your waking day with these people versus the people who may be your actual family. There’s nothing odd at all in viewing a team, organization, or company you lead as family.
It’s All About the Circle of Safety
In fact, those leaders who do consider their role as that of a “parent” of the organization bring two characteristics to their leadership art that all but ensure success: (1) empathy and (2) a commitment to keep their “family” safe from outside and internal threats. In his book “Leaders Eat Last,” Simon Sinek uses the concept of the Circle of Safety to illustrate this. Humans as social animals have been teaming-up to achieve forever. Our ancestors were faced with a dizzying array of threats, from starvation to physical brutality; and they looked to a leader to be strong to keep them safe from these outside threats. read more