Teams: only neurotics and character disordered should apply

One of the main dilemmas for team leaders and members is the thorny issue of responsibility. We often fixate on the problem of members (or leaders) not taking enough but Dr Scott Peck, renowned psychiatrist, reminds us they can also do damage if they try to take too much!

team_problems_c.jpg


This really is a dilemma in the true sense of the word as it requires a very tricky balancing act.

The responsibility dilemma is beautifully described in Scott Peck's classic book The Road Less Travelled where Dr Peck describes two unhealthly extremes of the responsibility spectrum which he describes in clinical terms as "character disorders" and "neurotics".

I have tried to capture the essence of this difficult balancing act in the cartoon above.


Character disorders

This is the most common responsibility disorder and is defined as taking too little responsibility.

The mindset is "I have no power of choice" and everything is somebody else's problem or fault.

I am sure we all have been in teams where members have adopted this outlook.

Team members operating like this focus much more on compliance than commitment and may follow the process unthinkingly, even if it is not producing the required outcome, as a defensive measure against blame.

So be careful about 'over elaborating' team member responsibilities if you are worried about this kind of mindset - you can make it too easy to comply without committing.


Neurotics

Less common but equally damaging is taking too much responsibility.

The mindset here is "I am always falling short" and everything is my fault.

This is not only damaging to the individual but it also can nudge fellow team members towards the character disorder position on responsibility.

We do them no favours whatsoever when we take others' responsibilities and problems - we remove their opportunities for personal growth and learning.


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