Does Your Team Have A Visionist?
I met a visionist this week.
Teaching "Building Productive Teams" for one of my clients this week, I gave them several team projects to undertake that would translate back to their work in the organization.
One of the assignments was the classic "team shield" exercise. The task was to create a shield that depicts the team's mission (what we do), vision (what we aspire to), and values (what we stand for). They were free to use words and pictures.
In one of the four teams, an Operations member named James stepped up to the task of drawing the team's ideas on a flipchart. To everyone's surprise, James had a talent, a real visual flair, both in printing letters and in drawing images such as a sword, a bow and arrow, a mountain range, and a sunrise. His drawing reflected the input of his whole team, but the end result stood apart from the other three teams in visual splendor.
You could see that he felt very good about what he had contributed. And his team positively beamed as they displayed their flipchart to the others in the room.
Part of the assignment was to include the names of each team member, and next to each name a word or words to describe the strengths that each brought to the team effort. Next to James' name was the word "Visionist." The team came up with that word for James based on what he had contributed.
(Note: Curious about the word "visionist," I plugged it into google to see what I might find. This blog, called The Visionist, surfaced. The blogger, Dan Strasser, posts this intriguing definition, from the English wikipedia: "A visionist is an artist, a creator or an individual that sees beyond what is visible to the eyes and brains of human beings. Visionists are thinkers, they are the recognisable brains in society, but most times they are seen as absurd, "nerds" and misfits – they just don't fit into the societies. They are people with great dreams and minds." )
In talking about what a team needs to be effective, James revealed that he is a jazz musician. He said that in a jazz band, it's all about communication. Not just in words, but in looks, nods, and even the slightest blink of an eye. "In the best jazz groups," he said, "the team is telepathic. They know each other so well that they don't need to talk when they play together."
Expanding this theme, the group agreed that, like a jazz band, they improvise every day as they face the challenging reality of hunger.
James, and the others in this week's class, work in Operations at a major food bank in New Jersey. Donated food comes in on trucks, gets sorted, and then repacked for outgoing trucks that take the food across the state to various community agencies that directly serve the poor and hungry.
They work hard because they are on a mission to "fight hunger and poverty" in New Jersey and beyond.
They have a vision too. Believing that a better tomorrow is possible, they aspire to stamp out hunger and make the world a better place.
Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
That's the power of a team. And with a visionist on board, the team can see the future they are striving to create.
Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday July 29, 2011.