CHAPTER 18Know Thy Team

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?”

—Henry David Thoreau

Prior to becoming a chief human resources officer, Mike often ran workshops for executives. One of these workshops was on empathy, and it included an exercise that always bewildered the participants.

In this exercise, the executives wrote down their top three values, chosen from a set list of potential values like honesty, courage, vision, humility, and efficiency. Then they would be asked to think about a colleague in the workshop that they knew well and do the same exercise for that person, identifying that colleague's top three values. Time and time again there were two key takeaways: First, most of the executives struggled to come up with their top three values and found it much easier to identify a colleague's top values. Second, most participants were wildly incorrect about their colleague's top values. Only rarely would someone identify even one value that a colleague had chosen for themselves in their top three.

In the discussions that followed, teams often came away stronger and more empathic toward one another, even when their core values weren't aligned. The act of talking through each other's values brought them together and often had positive knock-on effects in terms of their culture and alignment. This aligns with research on teams that finds that a key process in team formation is building team members' awareness of ...

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