The environment is where everything starts

8 Aug 2020

Posted by Amenel No comments yet

I have a theory. Not a dream, mind you.

Let me take your hand and lead you, will you?

Here is a question: say you are a farmer and you have two seeds of the same plant, from the harvest of the previous season. Now, imagine that you have two pots and you are in the right mood for an experiment. Let's say that your experiment is to determine how important the soil is to the seeds being fruitful. In one pot, you have a soil known to be fertile, from your own field, the one that you’re so proud of. In the other pot, you have some dusty soil you wouldn't bet a dime on. Now, you plant a seed in each pot and in the following weeks or months, you give both pots the exact same care. Which pot do you think will be the most fruitful?

Let's repeat the environment experiment in a different setting. Take the best pianist you can find and have them play the same piece on two different pianos. One is a grand concert instrument, perfectly tuned and taken care of. The other piano is one that you can find in a modest household, passed along through generations and at many points in time, a key has been broken or lost in moving from one town to another, or through an accident of sorts. Now, on which piano do you think the pianist will produce the most euphonious music?

I could go on and on with some half-baked experiments, but you get my point: “The environment is paramount.” This is how important I think the environment is to getting the best out of a team.

In summary, the environment is the single most important pillar of the foundations upon which a team rests.

Team culture is hampered by a toxic or unsafe or unstable environment. Productivity is hampered by a toxic or unsafe or unstable environment. Teamwork is hampered by a toxic or unsafe or unstable environment. Any desirable feature X is hampered by a bad environment.

Work on the environment first. Then, desirable features will have the appropriate soil to emerge from. Otherwise, you’re like a freestyle swimmer who’s struggling to breathe when the solution is actually to lower the head back into the water and to regain horizontal balance. Otherwise, you’re only fighting the tide, you’re fighting gravity. You’re wasting energy that’s better invested elsewhere.

I’d rather spend my energy working on more useful concerns. For instance, whether each team member's needs are being met. Or whether the seeds of what I see as a likely catalyst for better performance, better well-being, better collaboration, etc. are being sowed.


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