The Unified Philosophy

Most leadership is remedial.
For me, a Leader has three key roles…
1. To articulate the vision of what the collective is going to achieve.
2. Agreeing the strategic direction that everyone’s going to follow.
3. Carrying the group along and ensuring the values of the beliefs of what it means to be part of the group are upheld.
The problem is that much of management is about picking up the pieces.
When communication has failed. When there’s conflict. Or when people are struggling.
We put an enormous amount of pressure on leaders to be superhuman.
And then we’re surprised when we see so much ‘bad leadership’. The problem isn’t the person. The problem is we set the bar too high.
What if instead of asking one individual to lift the group, we raised the team?
What if the team managed their own relationships. Kept communication flowing. And worked collectively.
This is what I call a Leader Ready team.
Ready to lead. Ready to be led. A team bonded in purpose.
Today is a different podcast episode.
I wanted to share the philosophy behind The Unified Team Podcast.


[00:00:00] Today, it’s going to be a slightly different episode. I wanted to explain some of the depth and the layers behind what I mean by a unified team. So if this podcast is the unifying team podcast, I want to be able to explain a little bit of the thinking behind that concept, so it gives some context to everything else we’re trying to do.

I want to start from the premise that most leadership is remedial. For me, a leader has three key roles. One is to articulate the vision of what the collective is going to achieve. The second is agreeing the strategic direction that everyone’s going to follow. And then the third is carrying the group along and ensuring that they maintain the standards, the expected standards that we’ve agreed upon.

It’s a custodian of the values of the beliefs of what it means to be part of the group. 

The problem is that so many leaders get so caught up in the everyday [00:01:00] problems they never really get a chance to focus as much as they need to on driving things forward. They get caught up in problems because communication hasn’t happened. Something falls down, efforts get duplicated, something is going wrong.

They get caught up in problems of people where it’s conflict, where there’s drama, where there’s politics, where there’s power struggles, where there’s conflicting agendas, where there’s not engagement, where someone’s struggling.

We’re expecting leaders to have this superhuman ability to rise above all of the barriers what we put in their way and expect them with Herculean effort, lift everyone up by their own superhuman abilities. 

It’s not realistic and it’s why people feel that they’re leaving an organization with a bad manager because we’ve given people so much that it’s not human to do. 

So they’re pretending that they’re this super person and they’re failing and their team’s seeing they’re failing and they’re not admitting [00:02:00] because there is an expectation.

“You’re the leader. You should do this. You’re a bad leader”. 

But what if instead of putting so much energy and training and focus into the leaders, 

Instead of making leaders super, we raise the team up so they join as equals and so that they’re ready to work together as one.

This is what creates the safety, the communication and the connection that lets individuals and teams thrive. 

A lot of the podcast is looking at what people do and where their background comes to why they think as they do. 

So I want to take a moment to explain that my background shapes, the perspective that I have about organizations. And I think it’s very different from most people think about organizations.

Most people look at organizations as a thing. It makes sense because I’m looking at my laptop and to me, I look at my laptop as a thing, but the laptop is actually made up of many atoms. 

People are the atoms of organizations. 

Organizations are made up of many [00:03:00] people who bond together like atoms.

So people talk about changing a culture and organization as if it’s this thing, and if we just manipulate these levers. But for me, an organization is a grouping of individuals. 

A culture is an ecosystem. It’s a collection of people. Each of whom is in relationship to each other. And those relationships are the aggregate of all the interactions that they have.

So culture is that aggregate of all the interactions between the ecosystem.

Culture is the aggregate of all the interactions within that ecosystem. 

It seems logical that we don’t change culture by a decision in the meeting or deciding to change the wording on our mission statement. We change them by our interactions. 

When we help people to relate better, the interactions get better, the relationships get better, and the culture becomes more positive.

Each of us is walking around with a gut culture. Our health or sickness [00:04:00] is largely made up of how much positive gut bacteria we have against negative. When we have too much negative bacteria, we get a bacterial infection. 

So just as the health of us is on maintaining our gut bacteria, the health of an organization is in maintaining the bacteria of the organization, which is the interactions within the culture.

We have to start with the basic building blocks of an individual. An organization is an idea. It’s a shared idea that individuals have. Each individual is like atoms, they’re relatively insignificant. There’s not so much we can do alone. It’s by bonding together that we can achieve meaningful goals.

But we bond in purpose, and we bond because it enhances both of our lives in some way. Sometimes for how it feels, and sometimes for what we can get done. 

So the individual has to move through levels of identity. 

I’m an individual. With my girlfriend, I’m a couple. With my [00:05:00] family, I’m part of the family.

If I work together with people, I’m part of a team.

I identify with certain groups. They become my tribes because they’re what I see some of myself in. So we express ourselves and we express our identity in different ways.

We express ourselves in different ways from individual to couple to family to team to tribe to universe and beyond. When you look from a big enough perspective the earth is one, so we all bond together as one and then that works right down to the individual. 

The problem is that we don’t naturally join so well together.

We bond, but few bonds last. Not in our personal relationships or in our business relationships. It’s natural for us to bond together. 

We would bond as a tribe against the common enemy. We bond to go hunting. We bond as organizations, but the difference between us and the factories of the past are, we’re not dealing with logistics anymore.

We’re dealing with knowledge work. We’re dealing with [00:06:00] creativity. We’re dealing with perspectives. We need more creativity from people. We need more of the person displayed.

And the problem is that our relationship frames aren’t strong enough to sustain those relationships. 

We need deep connections so that people feel safe enough that they can show more of themselves so that they can access more of their creativity so that they can do better work.

But our egos and our emotions get in the way of sustainable relationships. And so our relationships get fractured and we end up not communicating. And this is where so many organizations and so many projects fail because someone’s not saying what they really feel. We’re not talking to each other. 

So work gets duplicated or it’s not even done. And leaders spend all of their time managing all of these remedial issues. 

This shows up as three core problems within a team.

First of all, there’s a lack of trust and safety in speaking up. So [00:07:00] people don’t speak up. They don’t share what they really feel. They don’t really connect because they’re hiding because they’re afraid of speaking up. They’re afraid of conflict. 

This creates poor communication that creates conflicts and problems in getting stuff done.

And then there’s a division within teams where you have silos, where you have individuals with power struggles, you have different agendas, you have politics that muddy the waters and people don’t know what they’re doing. And so where there’s more confusion, the level of complexity rises and rises.

And leaders are spending their time in resolving these problems, which are basically remedial issues.

Being a leader doesn’t start with a blank slate. They start with a deficit, and this is a problem in the wider ecosystem. Leadership is remedial in that the leader then has to raise the team from a negative place just to get even into a positive zone.

Now there’s three deeper problems in our wider global ecosystem [00:08:00] that make teams dysfunctional. 

The first is we operate in an environment that clashes with our natural biology. People are stressed and feel unsafe. We’re built to be hunters within small tribes where we know everyone. 

We live in a world that’s natural.

We work on the time of the sun. We do things when we want to do them. 

Now we live in cities where we commute without ever speaking to someone and studiously avoiding eye contact. We’re overcrowded. We don’t know most of the people that we come into contact with. We haven’t grown up with them.

We don’t know everyone like we would have in the village.

we’re among strangers and that creates this amount of stress that means that we’re operating from a place that doesn’t feel safe. 

The second part is that our operating system for relationships is broken in the sense that the relationships we’ve always had to have up till now have never been that deep.

They’d never been that connected. 60 years ago, when [00:09:00] people started wanting more emotional satisfaction from their relationship is when the divorce rate skyrocketed. Up till then, people were together because they needed to survive. In the same way, people would work in a factory with a supervisor cracking the whip because they needed a job because they understood the contract.

They don’t need that today. They want connection. They want emotional expression from their work. And if they don’t get that, they’re not going to engage

the third. Is that we work in a system that prioritizes profit over people. What do we call people in an organization? We call them a human resource. We give them an employee number. 

It’s quite clear to someone in a big organization that you’re just a small cog in a big machine. We don’t care. It could be, you could be someone else.

That doesn’t work with someone’s biology. Someone wants to be valued. They want to belong. They want to feel that they matter. They want to feel that they’re doing something that’s meaningful. And so we work within a system that makes people [00:10:00] feel unappreciated, which is contradictory to everything that an individual is looking for.

And then we’re surprised that there’s a lack of engagement we need. 

We’re asking leaders to be the human element, to make up for the deficit for the whole system. And we’re surprised when we get so many bad leaders, we’re expecting someone to be one day, just a piece of the cog.

And then we’re expecting them to be another piece of the cog that holds it all together. We don’t have enough knowledge base. We don’t have enough to teach them about to be a leader today. 

You need to be a super person. So many skills is unrealistic to expect it of someone.

So the result is most people. are operating in an environment where they don’t feel safe. 

They’re operating from a basis of stress. They don’t want to open up. They don’t feel safe to speak up. They don’t feel valued. They don’t feel that they belong. This is where all the conflicts, the communication and the disengagement issues start from that suck up all of a [00:11:00] leader’s time.

Building morale, resolving conflict, getting by and aligning goals. 

Management can become more about herding sheep than driving performance. 

Now, for me, the solution to this is the unified team. It’s what I call a leader ready team. It means this is a team that’s ready to lead and to be led.

 It’s a group of individuals that come together from choice, like atoms, to bond together to create something greater.

A team that works together to get stuff done. They manage their own relationships. They resolve their own conflicts. They keep communication flowing on them on their own. 

Now, can you imagine what the leader would do when they start from that basis? 

They can focus on the vision. They can clarify this strategy. They can uphold and maintain the standard so that the culture becomes more and more positive. They focus on leading. And the team focus on getting stuff done. That is what a unified team is about.

It’s unified so that resources go where they need to when they need to. [00:12:00] Resources aren’t held up in personal power struggles or I need this and divided agendas. They’re going to where they make the most impact because everyone cares about the same result. The individual side of this is that each of us needs to unify.

Each individual needs to feel that they belong where they’re accepted, that they feel valued within that group, and that the tribe overall is doing something meaningful. An individual learns to join together with others and be more conscious about the relationship and why they’ve bonded.

We bond together with our partner because we want to feel love. We want to feel supported in building a life together. We bond with our family because this is who we care about. This is where we show love. This is where we create that stable base for us to go out in the wider world.

We unify with our team because we join together because this is important. This is where I can express myself and do [00:13:00] meaningful things. 

We join together with the tribe because this is what I believe. This is what I care about. I want to be a part of this. I want to help this.

I want to be a part of this. And so it meets the individual’s goals. And as a side effect, it makes the team work together so that it meets the organization’s goals. 

Now we can’t change the fact that our world is artificial and we feel naturally stressed and that the environment doesn’t match our biology.

We can’t change the fact that the economy is driven by profit. But what we can change one by one within our teams is we can change the understanding of how we join together. 

We can learn how we unify with others. And this is what I try to do in my work is I teach people.

How do you build trusting relationships? 

How do you keep communication flowing past conflict? 

How do you bond together as one? 

And how do you understand yourself as an individual to have the [00:14:00] self awareness, to accept, express who you are, to share what you think and to contribute to the wider whole

That is the context, the perspective that we’re operating from in the context of being unified and in the unified team podcast, that’s the philosophy that drives all the conversations that we’re having, all the conversations and the discussions that we have.

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