This week my group had to rapidly adjust to what I can only describe as a class emergency… We were informed at 9pm on Sunday, that we had to correct an assignment error asap or receive a zero on the assignment. I noticed the message first and quickly messaged my group mates. The responses started with a trickle but increased in intensity. The intensity quickly subsided and we jumped on the task almost immediately. The error was corrected and we received full assignment points! This short but epic arc was only possible because my group has placed an emphasis on open communication. So far, we have only focused on solution-driven dialog and are able to quickly move through issues that arise.
It may seem like a non-sequitur. Of course, things can work better if a group knows how to communicate. This isn’t always the case though.
There was a time, not so long ago, when I was the leader of a band. We had regular rehearsals, were working on multiple songs at a time, and were performing fairly regularly. There weren’t a whole lot of people in the audience but the camaraderie and enjoyment of music-making were more than worth it. We would meet a few times a week to rehearse in what was once a movie theatre. Imagine a small theatre with no seating and where most of the interior lighting was removed and boom you have our practice space. That scenario was a great one but our communication was not good. I was a band leader, songwriter, and band manager. Since I filled many roles, many decisions fell to me. This facilitated a scenario where the band defaulted to my vision the majority of the time. While this can feel great for a while, the pressure began to get to me.
Soon enough, I began to develop resentment towards my bandmates and felt that the majority of work was being done by myself. It all came to a head one day when I (wrongly) confronted the two other bandmates. The conversation ended with me voicing my concerns but not much else happening. If I was able to do that whole thing over again, I would have continuously reminded my bandmates that they had agency in our shared situation.
I never spoke in-depth with my bandmates about that day but I can imagine that they probably felt like their ideas wouldn’t be heard, especially not by a person reprimanding them for something that wasn’t their fault. Of course, the easiest way to avoid this would have been to establish open communication early on. Getting a positive culture set up is MUCH easier in the beginning.
Establishing a great culture isn’t something you can just wish into existence. I am indeed no expert at either setting up or facilitating a positive culture. What I do know is that it takes an entire team of willing individuals, working together with compassion and patience. If members can keep those ideas in mind, I am almost positive a productive culture will form!