Daily Living

A New Way to Understand “Teamwork”

Recognising and allowing how each member of the team naturally operates - even when that team is in you

Natalie Howard Natalie Howard
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It can be challenging working with a team. It can be challenging working with yourself, when you are the team. There are so many variables, so many perspectives, and so many possible results. So how do we direct a team, or ourselves, to achieve what we want?

Whether you’re working on a large scale business operation, or just your own personal goals – the principals are the same. And we can get these principals from the Personalised Health system.

This is because the system doesn’t just help you understand yourself and how you work, or how someone else works – it helps us understand how we work together – in very real ways. It personalises the collective – within us, and between us.

To break it down – while we each fall into a category of a certain Health Type at any point in our lives, we are each so much more than just that. We each have the ability and potential to express a whole range of behaviours, actions, thoughts and feelings from across the spectrum. This is what genetic expression is all about – our genes are activated to express in response to our environment, both internal and external.

I’m not saying anyone can be or do anything – we have a set framework that we exist in (like the structure of our bodies.) But we all have a range of potential far greater than many of us realise, or fully accept. Some of us fluctuate more than others, because the range of potential gene expression that we have is fairly set, but different circumstances will widen or decrease the range.

This is essentially why we can seem like a “different person” in different situations. Why we can do things that seem “out of character.” Why we can really struggle with behaviours or expressions of others, and then feel a conflict of emotions when we express that ourselves.

So while first and foremost we must learn our essential tendencies, we must also accept our full range of potential – and not just try fit into a label. We must not resent or shame parts of ourselves, simply because perhaps they expressed in an undesirable context, or we have been told to believe them as unacceptable. When we can do this for ourselves, only then can we do this for others. It is only when we know how we operate, that we really know how to co-operate.

This is what I am discovering even more in my personal experience. My range of expression is wider than it ever has been, due to my circumstances. I’m a Sensor, with a selection of Crusader characteristics, who has shifted through being in an Activator and Connector phase in pregnancy, and then a Guardian phase after giving birth; and now, no joke, I can fluctuate between all of them in the course of a day (it can be hard to keep up…)

And this isn’t just at a superficial level – how we might dismiss just “feeling” a certain way doesn’t mean actually “being” that way. (Although what we feel is in fact a very clear expression of what we are at the time.) To keep it simple though, the shifts in hormones create different neurological and physiological states. And those brain and body states align with what we term Activator / Connector / Guardian etc.

So while I am a Sensor, my brain and body shifts into a Guardian state when I breastfeed, due to the elevated levels of prolactin that is produced during and after nursing. It shifts into a Connector state from the elevated levels of oxytocin that come when I cuddle, kiss and play with my little boy, and the role it also plays in breastmilk production. It shifts into an Activator state from the adrenaline surges that come day and night from caring for and keeping up with an expressive and active little person. I’m in a Sensor state when I’m doing activities like teaching or reading to my son, and we are quiet and focused together. (Or when I get the opportunity to get some writing done.)

And my behaviour and emotions shift with all these states.

Sometimes my Ecto mind is just desperate for order and peace so it can actually complete a task. Properly. Without anyone around distracting it or putting demands on it with their needs.

Sometimes my Endo mode is just going along taking care of everyone else, day and night, when it realises it doesn’t even know what it wants for itself or how to give it to itself, because it can’t actually bear to stop taking care of the family even to care for itself.

Sometimes my Meso mode is just jumping from thing thing (keeping up with a Connector toddler) and totally forgetting about all the things that need doing until suddenly they’re not done – so now it feels like they’ve all got be done. Right now. Quick. Before it loses it.

So it’s a sometimes chaotic, sometimes smooth operation in shifting roles and working with the “team” that is within myself.

This became really clear for me when I was working through a decision with a friend of mine, a fellow coach. We could see that either choice was good, but neither was really jumping out as the clear preference at the time. I was telling him, “It’s like the Meso part of me just wants to jump in and do it now, the Ecto part of me wants to be logical and take more time to prepare and execute all the details, and the Endo part of me is just sitting back watching thinking, “hey guys, just chill, it will all work out fine, everything else has so far, let’s just see what happens.””

(Meso = Activators & Connectors, Ecto = Sensors & Crusaders,  Endo = Guardians & Diplomats)

And that was actually it. I have all these parts in me. And they would each make the choice in the way that was natural for them. But, given that I can’t make the choice three different ways (not exactly), the issue was not so much which to choose, but how to get all members of the team on board with the choice – so they could then all cooperate to carry it out. Because each will have strengths to bring at different points, and each will be pushed out of their natural, comfortable spaces at points too.

It’s a micro level of what we need to do collectively – in families, schools, workplaces. We need to get everyone, of all the Types, understanding themselves and each other so they each confidently contribute what they are excellent at, and then comfortably step back when another is more suited to something.

To know when to step up, and when to step back, is really hard if we don’t know what we are good at, or what we can truly bring to a situation, or we don’t trust others, or ourselves. It’s “taking turns” in the most complex and yet basic way – not the way most kids are taught, which is “everyone gets one turn each,” often in some arbitrary order, like boy/girl, or alphabetically.

So how do we get the whole team on board with a project, when each team member would naturally complete the project differently?

We have to each express our strengths, and accept when we each express other sides too. We have to give others the opportunity to express their strengths – and their other sides too. And, incredibly, when we can all come together in this way, nobody is actually detracting from anything – because the expression of one behaviour from one side, can be exactly what is needed to activate the expression of the counterbalancing behaviour from someone else.

As each part of me (the Ecto, Meso, and Endo) is really strong and convincing, it was difficult to decide “who” should decide on what to do.

So I took a good long look at the parts of myself, and the tendencies that I know they express…

If I were to go with the Meso part that says “Yes! Do it Now!” it would have to accept that it will not always be new and fun, and things will probably get repetitive, boring and difficult, because it didn’t predict or plan, or wait, it acted. It will want to quit and do something else that comes along and feels far more interesting.

The Ecto and Endo parts would need to accept that this is what the Meso will do. And that is ok. That is healthy. They will be the ones to keep things going. Most importantly, they will have to agree to not shame and berate the Meso for naturally wanting to jump in and go, without thinking it all through, nor stick around the whole time. Because shaming and resenting the Meso will just cause anger and conflicts. Letting them express what they are meant to – activation and connection – and then letting them go move on to the next thing is exactly what the team needs.

The Endo will have to accept that it might not feel ready when everyone gets started, and everyone will need taking care of when they all start getting tired, bored, hungry and emotional. They will need shoulders and ears, and they won’t want to hear how if they’d all just taken a bit more time about things it might not have gone this way. But you’ll be the one holding it together, when the others will always believe they are the ones “doing everything”. They probably won’t notice what you do, or pause much to take care of you, so you’ll have to be strong enough to do that for yourself. You’ll have to be strong enough to say no to them sometimes, even if they get upset, so you can keep your tank full. Because you know you’re the one carrying everyone – whether they realise it or not.

The Ecto will have to accept that the project will not go to plan. It just won’t. There will be interruptions. Everyone else will want to take a break before anything has even been achieved (the Meso will need to go snack and have some fun, and the Endo will need to take some time out to slow down and digest everything already.) There will be team meetings where the Meso is bored and fidgety and throwing in ideas for totally left field things, and the Endo is still saying that we should slow down a bit and maybe reconsider. There will be contingencies that no amount of predicting and risk assessment can prepare for. Because probably nobody else will read the forecasts or schedule or risk assessment anyway. So you’ll be the one constantly updating the plan.

Most of all it, it will have to accept that it can’t just tell everyone what to do, because that will upset and offend them. Nor can they just do it all themselves so it’s “done properly” – because the whole point is for this to be a team project. If the others have nothing to do and no chance to express themselves, they will feel ignored and completely unvalued. So they will probably not like you much. At all. And they sure won’t see all the hard work you’ve been putting in behind the scenes. It will just be a given that you will solve things.

But that said, the Meso and the Endo will have to accept that sometimes the Ecto is going to take charge and direct, not because they are mean and controlling, but because they can see what needs to be done to see this project through. And they aren’t necessarily going to direct the team down the easy, comfortable way, because they are aiming us all for a success much higher than that.

And, the truth is, while the project will not go according to the perfect Ecto plan, it will actually turn out far more complex and creative if everyone’s genius is involved, everyone is given the space they need to express, and nobody’s tendencies are shamed or resented.

This is quite literally the process I went through in considering the decision I had to make. And once I did, it became clear to me what to decide. I followed the Ecto choice. It makes sense, as I am essentially a Sensor (Ecto). So it became clear that if the Ecto part of me felt like it wasn’t calling the shots about embarking on a new project, if it didn’t get to plan it out properly, it would get really, really, angry at the other members of the team. And Ectos don’t tend to pretty it up when they are extremely displeased (I know). So the Ecto will plan and prepare, which also provides the Endo time to wait, and the Meso can enjoy something else for now, and then be enlisted to be the one to bring all it’s energy and excitement when it’s time to launch.

While it may have been obvious externally – “just make a decision like a Sensor, you’re a Sensor” – this wasn’t so. I knew this and my coach knew this. I had to go through the thought process (of course, like a Sensor) in order to sift through the perspectives. And in doing so, I understand parts of myself even more, and I understand others even more. I don’t just have the principals of how the Health Types operate – I have the experience of it.

All thanks to allowing and recognising the full range of potential in me – which reflects that of all of us.

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