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Battle through the chaos, and you WILL reach the calm – Team building the M.Scott-Peck Way.


How well does your team work? Do you feel that you’re listened to? Can you get your point across without being shouted down? Good communication is essential for any relationship to thrive, and for a team to perform as a whole it’s vital. I attended a 2 day community building course in Plymouth many years ago, where both my communication skills, and my patience were tested to their limits. The course was based on the work of M Scott Peck, M.D, a highly respected doctor of psychiatry from the USA. Dr Peck wrote many books, the first and probably most famous being The Road Less Travelled, a wonderful book looking into the characteristics and qualities that make for a fulfilled human being.

The course I attended however was based on another of his novels, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. Although I didn’t attend this course with team building in mind, looking back at what I learnt, the four stages we were taught could be compared to any well run training development program today. The aim of the course was to reach community. We learnt that to get to that point successfully, we needed to work through Pseudo community, Chaos, Emptiness and finally Community
Stage 1 - Pseudo community.
During the course, this was the stage where the members acted in a polite fashion, if a little guarded. People would give away very little of themselves and be very superficial in their line of conversation. This was done to avoid divulging opinions held, in case they upset or angered someone else. This forced relationship can never lead to community as it’s not based on anything that’s real.
In a team building course, this stage is known as Forming. This stems from the insecurities that the team members may feel about their role and position within the team. This discomfort only happens in the early stages of the team building and it’s the job of the person guiding the team building process to shorten this period as much as possible.
Stage 2 - Chaos
When pseudo community fails to work, and there is no progression, the members start to vent their mutual disagreements and differences. The group descends into chaos. It may not sound it, but this is a good thing. People realise that they can no longer ignore their differences. Chaos may look counterproductive but it’s the first genuine step towards reaching community.
In a team building exercise, this stage is known as Storming. This is where the team members frequently argue and air their frustrations openly.
Stage 3 – Emptiness
This follows the chaos. This is the stage where people learn to clear themselves of any personal factors that are holding up the process of reaching community for the group. Egotism, conceit and self importance are all high on the list of causes that need to be dealt with to progress further. Many people find this process quite difficult but it’s an essential stage.
Known as Norming in team building, the members are now at the stage where they are resolving their differences, learning to accept and listen to others and in doing so, clarifying the roles each need to play. Having learnt more about each other in the previous stages, they are now making progress and developing tools to help them work better as a group. The development of the team is becoming more apparent.
Stage 4 – True Community
Having worked their way through pseudo community, chaos and emptiness, the group has finally achieved community. Having gone through the process together they will have developed a level of both compassion and sympathy with one another. There will be a far greater level of understanding of others and an ability to relate to others’ feelings in the group, without questioning motives.
This is the penultimate phase of team building, known as Performing. At this stage the team is working as a unified group. Production is high and feelings are positive. The group communicates well, and deals with disagreements in a positive manner without emotional conflict. This is followed by Transforming. This is the final stage, and the icing on the cake. The team has accomplished what it set out to do. It’s likely that the members of the group will have developed a firm bond and potentially experience a sense of loss or relief as the process draws to a close. As a group they will have established trust and a deep sense of connection, and frequently leave the group with a genuine desire to meet again.
As a member of a team, are you not part of a community with the same common interests and goals? If you feel your team could do with a little help with the process of Forming through to Transforming, my advice is to either head straight to that well known online book store and purchase a copy of M.Scott Peck’s The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, or take a look at theTeam 360 development tool. 

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