The Element: Chapter 5


The Element: A series of articles to explore and improve the methods used for meetings between small teams striving to perform at an expert level.  The Culture Spy Syndicate (CSS) Agents Rusty, T, Freelance, Coach and Test Drive are together for a meeting about Listening.

The 5-Man Team from the Culture Spy Syndicate (CSS) found themselves wandering sidewalks in the downtown Wyandotte, Michigan. Coach had leapfrogged to Team Leader position, T moved to Point-Man, Freelance to First Defense-Man, Test Drive to Second Defense-Man, and Rusty followed up as Rear Security.

Coach spoke up, “well done on wrapping-up the Locus of Control (LOC) deep dive research that we covered in our last meeting. We found quite a bit of intelligence that focused around how leadership influences a team that is dominated by a strong internal LOC. People don’t enjoy being told what to do. A dictator style leader erodes the very relationship and respect from the team that they are aspiring to achieve. People want a leader to listen while their story is being told. When a leader can hear their team, guide action based upon the messages that are important to the team, only then will the leader earn the team’s respect and trust.”

Just as Coach finished, T said, “we are here.”

T had the Point-Man position, and the role comes the responsibility of setting the meeting location. They looked up at the beautiful mural and stained glass that adorns the front face of St. Joseph Church, referred to by the locals as St. Joe’s. They entered single file and slid into one of the clear varnished oak pews.

St Joseph Church

Freelance leaned toward T and whispered, “we had to meet in a church?”

T smiled and said, “anticipation is half the journey.” And without taking her eyes off Freelance’s face, she dropped the kneeler square on his right foot.

Wincing in pain, he felt this was another valuable lesson. Do not second guess the Point-Man, or any team member for that matter. He thought to himself that it was probably a good time to practice his listening skills.

Father Mike was leading Mass on this Saturday afternoon. Rusty was familiar with the well spoken Irish Priest, born and raised in Cork, where he joined the Ministry. He was a man that lived for the compassion of others, and often took the assembly into meaningful personal stories. Rusty thought that Father Mike would make an excellent Culture Spy, but knew it would probably be him that would end up being the recruit.

The 5-Man Team’s ears perked up for the Homily, focusing on God using others to speak for him as an interpreter. There was always a reason for the meeting location that attempted to heighten the experience. They listened to the message being presented in a subtle Irish brogue.

After the Mass, T opened by saying, “The focus of today’s meeting location is listening. Two weeks ago the readings touched on a person being ready to listen in order to hear the message. Last week focused on experiences that may guide a person, like a calling. We may not understand what drives the calling, but it does exist within ourselves, and that is a message we should be listening to. This week the point was made that we might need an interpreter to understand the message. Listening and hearing do not automatically equate to an understanding. Father Mike has a role of an interpreter during the Homily, drawing from his lifelong experiences to show modern day relevancy for the ancient text. He is also a listener, where very few achieve the experience of listening found in a Priest. He solves the problem for people that need to be heard, and he performs this challenging task through listening.”

Just then Test Drive reached between the group and pulled out what looked like a window shade from a secret pocket in his trench coat, and with a couple quick release wood clamps, he secured it to the back of the pew in front of them.  A couple of folks mulling around in the church were puzzled by the strange ratcheting sound, and Test Drive met their stares with a warm smile and said, “the pew repair should be complete shortly.”  A quick pull and a 24 inch piece of flexible white board material appeared. “Still working on my portable project board prototype,” he whispered.

“Very Nice,” said T. She continued without missing a beat. “We listen to empathize with the person and the message told to us. Without listening, what we learn is limited to our personal experience, and in turn it limits the knowledge available during future action.”

First Defense-Man, Freelance was up next. “I recognize the importance of the team procedure for taking turns during the meeting discussion, and how it gives everyone a chance of being heard.” He placed a Post-It note on the flexible surface with TAKING TURNS written on it. “It actually makes me feel good compared to meetings that are dominated by folks that have made out with the Blarney Stone.  By having an opportunity to speak, it makes me more aware of when it is time to listen.”

Test Drive, Second Defense-Man, was ready to add an additional thought. “So we know we are seeking a leadership method that promotes equal participation in the discussion, which allows an equal opportunity for others to listen.  We still need to clear the mind and focus on what is being said without distraction.  If we are not sure that we understand, we need to ask.” He wrote FOCUS and CLARIFY.

Rusty stepped up into the Rear Security role. “People will shut down when they feel others are forcing beliefs onto them. Why do people get turned off for reasons other than leadership? Do they need to rank what they are hearing as important to themselves or the team? The listener must believe the message relevant to the venture, and every minute counts.” He wrote RELEVANT and GET TO THE POINT.

T added the final thought. “I believe a common denominator revolves around empathy, doing the right thing for the team, like a golden rule.” She added GOLDEN RULE as a key ingredient. “People are more willing to listen when others reciprocate the same courtesy.”

Coach closed the meeting. “Now let’s diverge and do our jobs. All information is sent to T, where she will assemble into the Listening intelligence document. Freelance, you are next meetings Team Leader, so develop your experience topic and distribute to the team prior to your meeting. Test Drive shifts to First Defense-Man, Rusty to Second Defense-Man and I will jump back to Rear Security.

“Time! Shouted Rusty. “We are done for today.”

Freelance caught up with T on their way out of the church and asked, “so you and Rusty come to church often?”

“We are typically here every week,” said T.

“How did you get Rusty to come along with you?”

“Well, Rusty envisions God to be kind of like the Godfather.” In her best Don Vito Corleone impersonation, “someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me.”

Freelance almost doubled over with laughter. He enjoyed the lighthearted nature of T, and how open she was with sharing.

T continued by saying,  “he believes his calling is right in front of his face everyday, so he listens to what is around him and is amazed by how much sense it makes. Life is not random to him, it is filled with clues to knowledge. He also has that unique calling to give away all his knowledge without fear of losing his edge, hoping that others will do it better than he ever did. It won’t be easy to surpass him, because he is very good at what he does. He will make you work for it. If you want a shot at the title, you will have to earn it!”

Design Thinking [Empathize] Chapter 6 is up in our next issue.  You are on the team, so please comment on this issue to add additional experiences that can be drawn from to create a solid project definition.


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