If a team is like an ecosystem, then how sustainable is yours?



The key to any successful ecosystem is biodiversity and symbiotic relationships. So too, a team that harnesses behavioural diversity builds strength and resilience and is sure to prosper.

Complex sets of relationships exist in ecosystems and teams alike, and both can be threatened by imbalance or ill-considered change.

In natural ecosystems, complex symbiotic relationships exist between plants, animals, microorganisms, water, soil and air. In a team such relationships are mirrored with the interwoven and interdependent thinking and behavioural styles of its team members. These human elements are equally critical to maintaining balance and harmony in that system.

Ideally each behavioural element within the teams’ ecosystem is allowed to make its contributions and play its role role clearly in helping to sustain the viability of whole.

It’s therefore at our own peril that any ill-considered change is thrust upon teams and eco-systems alike.

In complex ecosystems we know that if even one vital element is out of balance, hastily added or disappears it then has profound impact upon everything else. The same goes for teams.

Clusters of behaviour within teams generally site with action, social and thinking categories (Belbin’s famous Team Role Model breaks these into 9 types that can be accurately measured). Imbalances, surpluses and deficits will lead to certain cognitive biases that will impact relationships, planning and daily execution.

To curate healthy human workplace eco-systems, we recommend seeking a better understanding of the actual behavioural interactions clusters present, and that have an impact each day.

We suggest three simple steps to help conserve healthy ‘human ecosystems’ at work:

1 - Use a reliable evidence-based assessment to measure behavioural strengths and weaknesses that actually exist within the team.

2 - Identify any potential surpluses or deficits.

3 - Create practical working relationships with follow up steps that enhance the sustainability of the team.

Behavioural preferences such as those measured by the Belbin Model and its profiles and reports offer evidence-based insight into how well balance exists, or can perhaps be better cultivated within a human eco-system.

Creating balanced teams with quality working relationships that are complimentary to one another ensures sustainability.

Akin to symbiosis in nature, productive working relationships enable ongoing benefits. The benefits to the team from each contribution ideally outweigh any possible weaknesses that will naturally come along with it.

When a team or ecosystem is in balance it is simply more ‘sustainable’ and resilient, but when out of balance, or meddled with without care for the impacts that will follow, it is highly susceptible to decline.

Once the behavioural strengths and weaknesses of a team are fully understood, then better-managed and sustainable teamwork can follow that truly maximizes the diversity that exists.

For managers and leaders this level of understanding about their own teams is mission critical in this day and age.

Embracing behavioural diversity within a team for greater strength and longevity is thus akin to the biological diversity required for an ecosystem to prosper.

When a variety of styles can all play to their strengths at the right time, the team prospers. When something is lacking, or is overabundant there will be a price to pay in the way the team operates.

It’s therefore worth learning as much as we can about the behaviours present within a team for truly ‘sustainable teaming’ to occur.

We actually also have a great new CSR Business Game called "Ecosystem of The Team".

To see more about how we help build the ecosystem of The Team in a more complex way also check out our Team and Leadership DNA packages.