Over the past sixteen years, I have conducted over 90 workshops that have dealt with the numerous ways in which teams can work, behave and align successfully. Whilst each workshop is different and offers unique insights, there are some themes that consistently characterise the value of teamwork.

Of particular resonance, was a workshop in which a participant shared a profound personal experience that highlighted the role of critical thinking in shaping team identity and values.

The participant, who was an Executive of an organization, had just returned from India where he learned the two greatest regrets (sins), according to Hinduism: unnecessary suffering and unfulfilled potential. They are simple, yet impactful and can be applied in the workplace.

Where are we causing unnecessary suffering?

Unnecessary suffering can be distinguished from the simple annoyances or tasks that are mere inevitabilities of life. Rather, it refers to situations which create difficulty, confusion or pain by unnecessarily impacting or burdening others.

The participant applied this definition in the context of the workplace. He suggested that all leaders and team members should routinely ask themselves, ‘Where are we causing unnecessary suffering?’. Speaking from his experience, this phrase then prompted members to reflect on their practices and question whether they were unnecessarily impacting others. It also challenged the leaders to identify and acknowledge those activities that were, indeed, worth ‘suffering’ through in order to create lasting and positive change. When answered honestly and with consideration, the simple question had the potential to reinforce constructive practices and create a positive and motivated workplace culture.

Where have we got unfulfilled potential?

The second regret which the participant spoke of, was that of unfulfilled potential. This builds on the idea that every human has the capacity to achieve greatness. Failing to achieve this potential, or inadequately contributing to the growth of someone else’s, is therefore considered another great regret.

In the context of leadership, this regret is most undesirable, since it implies that a leader is neither performing at their best nor inspiring others to achieve theirs. This may be particularly detrimental considering that in today’s highly saturated market, the one crucial source of competitive advantage that differentiates organizations, is the people that work for them. It is essential, therefore, that a leader invests in his or her people and gets to know their individual strengths, motivations and aspirations.

Fostering an environment in which each team member can fulfil their potential is the only way to achieve self-actualisation and maintain a positive team spirit. The absence of such an attitude can result in a team that is lethargic and lacking in direction.
To mitigate this potentiality, each leadership team meeting could begin by asking, ‘Where have we got unfulfilled potential?’. This powerful question orientates each team member to think critically about their current attitudes and performance and, in turn, initiates an open dialogue about ways to improve.

For the participant who shared this story, this awareness and practical application of the two regrets, had a hugely beneficial impact on the way his workplace operated and performed.

What experiences has shaped your view of how people and teams should operate? Let us know.