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Unleash The Power of Collective Wisdom with a Team Resume

We just had the inaugural meeting of the Collective Wisdom Mastermind group. OMG. I am just blown away by this incredible group of leaders.

I’ve worked with other badass teams before – the team of faculty at Chrysalis Charter School, the founding faculty of the Department of Science Education at CSU Chico, the Lawrence Hall of Science GEMS curriculum developers, the diverse scientific minds in Howard Field’s lab at UCSF where I did my PhD thesis. Time and again, I’m left in awe, mouth hanging open, agog at the talent and accomplishments of the awe-inspiring teams I’ve had the privilege to be part of.

There’s something so very reassuring to know that no matter what I am struggling with, I have a powerful brain trust behind me supporting me and cheering me on. An incredible support network feels spiritual in a way – like you are part of something larger than just you. Thus, you can trust some of your own burdens and fears to that larger entity.

Today, I facilitated an activity for our group that I’d like to share with you and YOUR incredible, badass team. It’s designed to build trust, deepen connection, and vividly illustrate the depth and breadth of the collective wisdom that your team brings to the world. For a group of less than 20 people, it can be facilitated in an hour or two.

Their Homework – Give your group two homework assignments:

  1. Collect the resumes of everyone on the team. Tell your people: “Do not brush it up or add anything even if it’s dated. Don’t worry, it won’t be shared with anyone.”

  2. Ask everyone to write, draw, or contemplate the following question: “Who are you right now? And if the next 6 months were beyond your wildest dreams The Best Ever professionally and personally, who would you be then?” Every person should be prepared to share.

Your Homework – Collate all the individual resumes into a team resume. Count up the number of total years of experience in different areas such as business, education, nonprofits, leadership, project management, or other categories that are most appropriate for your group. Summarize the highlights from different people’s experience, making sure to include a little something from everyone. Like with your own resume, don’t pad it, but definitely don’t hold back. It’s not bragging if you’ve done it. (See the example team resume below.)

Ground Rules – If you haven’t already done so with your team, establish a social contract regarding confidentiality, respect, and other group norms that are important. For this conversation in particular it is essential to guarantee confidentiality and respect. For today’s conversation, without exception, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” And get a commitment from everyone that we are all here to understand, connect, be curious, and grow (not push back, argue, defend, or be right).

Opening Share – Begin the meeting by giving each person an opportunity to share their response to “Who are you right now? Who would you be if the next 6 months were The Best Ever?” The purpose of this opening is to help each an every team member feel seen and valued for who they are right now, and to feel worthy of becoming who they want to be.

I recommend starting off the share circle with your own response. If you set the tone with authenticity, vulnerability, and openness, then others will be much more willing to follow your lead. If time allows, before shifting the spotlight onto the next person, open the floor to others reflecting back points of resonance: “I feel that way too.” “I love how you phrased…” “What a beautiful vision.” A brief moment of reflection can really ensure that people feel seen and valued both for the inspiration of a hopeful future, and for the messy human they are underneath.

Going Deeper – Now, go deeper with three “speed round” questions:

  1. What does almost nobody at work know about you?

  2. What does almost nobody in your family know about you?

  3. What does almost nobody at all know about you?

The purpose of these three questions is to deepen the trust, deepen the connection, and get below the surface. Responses should not be long winded, only a sentence or so. Reiterate the commitment everyone made to confidentiality and respect before you begin. Nothing anyone says should go outside of this room. Period.

Introduce one question at a time. Pause for 30-60 seconds to give people time to think. Then let each person share in turn. Again, if you start first with something authentic, vulnerable, and open, that will set the tone for everyone else.

The last round is the hardest. Make sure that you leave extra time for people to think and allow for more than a sentence if necessary. It’s likely that people will express real emotion – impostor syndrome, fear of failure, deep anxiety about finances or their families, traumatic events, grief, anger. Acknowledge and welcome it all with empathy and compassion.

Team Resume – Finally, no matter what people are struggling with, it’s reassuring to be held in the arms of an entity that is greater and more powerful than any single individual. To that end, show everyone the team resume so that they can see, visually, who they are collectively. Show the team just how skilled, talented, and accomplished they really are. Let them shine brilliantly. Gush with pride. Reiterate, that no matter what their struggles, fears, grief, or challenges, that they have a brave, badass team behind them to catch them if they falter, to lift the big burdens with them, and to cheer them on when they shine.

Say something like: “Look at the hundreds of years of professional and personal experience in this room right now. What couldn’t we solve if we simply put our brilliant minds together?”

Closing – In a final share out, “What are you aware of now that you weren’t before?” You might be amazed by what your team has to say.

Ongoing Collective Wisdom – At our weekly staff meetings at Chrysalis, we would offer collective wisdom to one another. Any faculty or staff member that was struggling with something, could bring it to the group and gather questions, new perspectives, and best practices from the team. Setting aside even just 5-10 minutes for collective problem solving when someone needed support felt like releasing the steam from a pressure cooker – all the worry and struggle could be vented and a rich, nourishing stew full of insight and new directions to try would remain.

What do you think is the number one trait that correlates with how much a coworker trusts a leader? It's not accomplishments. It's not assertiveness. It's not confidence. It's how frequently they ask for help. People trust others that are willing to ask for help. So invite your team to frequently, regularly seek and receive help from one another. That goes for you as the leader too.

We used collective wisdom to decide how and whether to close our campus when COVID hit in March 2020. We also had a formal process of for collective wisdom to explore options to handle the most difficult student discipline issues in an attempt to exhaust every possible idea prior to expulsion proceedings.

How might you use use a team resume or a collective wisdom process in your organization?

Read More

I first learned about the team resume idea from this blog post by Venture Team Building. They build the team resume in real time on sheets of poster paper. Stephanie Affinito recommends using a team resume to kick of a professional learning community or big new group project. Thanks for the inspiration!

If you’re looking for a beautifully worded set of group norms that go beyond confidentiality and respect, consider this set of norms from Living Room Conversations. Their work is designed to help people have compassionate, respectful conversations across a political or cultural divide and can be adapted to keeping people open in just about any diverse group discussion.

Going Further

If you need some support to become who you want to be (or for your team to be who you want them to be) in that gorgeous next 6 months, beyond your wildest dreams, The Best Ever vision, reach out ASAP. I have a little room to take on a new 1:1 client or team this fall. I would love it to be you!

If you are longing for a team to belong to, reach out and I’ll add your name to the waitlist for my next mastermind cohort.

And finally, if you found something in this post helpful, consider subscribing to my blog or sharing it with a friend.

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