The Third Entity™ is concept developed by The Center for Right Relationship (CRR Global) to describe the relationship that connects us but essentially has an existence of its own. In an organization it’s called culture. If the founder leaves the organization, the culture (and Third Entity) change. This phenomenon isn’t isolated to corporations.
The same thing happens at home when my husband and I have had an empty nest for 6 months and suddenly have it disrupted by having an 18 year old at home. The Third Entity shifts. The relationship has more of a strain because there are more needs to be met (and more food to be purchased) and boundaries tested (dishes being washed at 3 AM).
I had the privilege to test out the Third Entity of my Rotary club a few weeks ago. I say, test out, because I had never used some of the tools that I learned from CRR Global until I used my Rotary Club as guinea pigs. I have to say it was an eye opening and inspiring experience. I’ve been a Rotary member for over 10 years but to actually work with this group to discuss our culture and aspirations was really gratifying. You just don’t know until you know.
So this is what I learned about the group culture that ties us together:
1. Alliance. It’s really important to clarify the team alliance. When was the last time you verbalized what your marriage or culture or relationship is all about. What is the basis for its existence. I asked the club what sort of culture they wanted to create and the first thing that anyone said was “Fun”. I have to say it’s one of the main reasons I enjoy getting up every Wednesday for a 7 AM (yes…7 AM) meeting; we always have fun. Always. There is always good natured ribbing, crazy birthday hats and a joke that’s just clean enough to tell but raises a few eyebrows. Clarify your team alliance.
2. Flourish. What will it take for your team or relationship to flourish? I was surprised that there were many viewpoints on this question. Some folks said we needed more members, others said more fundraisers, and still others said more participation. These are all very different tangents for a small club of some 30 members. When is the last time you asked your spouse or partner or organization at-large what it will take to flourish? I think you would be surprised at the answer. It might be time to ask.
3. Conflict. Find out how you want to handle conflict. As in Patrick Lencioni‘s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, “All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship, and certainly business.” If you can’t debate and raise some of the “Elephant in the Room” issues, it is impossible to progress. If you are surrounded by a lot of “Yes Men”…you are not likely to be making the best decisions. Create some ground rules on how to handle conflict and to make sure it’s not taboo.
4. Alignment. It’s not critical that we are in lock step as much as that we are headed in the same direction. You and I don’t need to be on the same exact path for us to succeed but we need to be in alignment. Marketing and Operations are going to take very different paths but if they know and are aligned with the overarching goal of “Outstanding Customer Experience” then we can succeed. Marketing might be creating authentic marketing collateral while Operations is making sure the quality and delivery times are superior. Different paths but aligned to the goal. Be aligned.
5. Listen. We need to be able to listen to dissenting voices. Some of the Rotarians wanted more members and others joined because we were a small group. These are dissenting views. But it had to be spoken. It needed to be acknowledged. This shows up all the time in parenting. Dad wants Johnny to go to the concert and Mom doesn’t. Let it be spoken so both sides can be heard. Listen to the dissenting view even if you don’t agree. Acknowledge the differing viewpoint. “So I hear you saying that Johnny shouldn’t go because there are likely to be drugs present”. Listen to dissenting views.
6. Decisive. Someone needs to make a decision; whether it’s the president of the Rotary club, the parent or the department head. Are we after more members or are we going to let it be? Dad acknowledges Mom’s apprehensions but they decide to say “Yes”. Decide and commit to move forward. If you don’t, there are back alley deals that will go on which will undermine the Third Entity. As Patrick Lencioni espouses, “Great teams understand the danger of seeking consensus, and find ways to achieve buy-in even when complete agreement is impossible.” Give up on consensus, make sure everyone has had their say, decide, commit and move on.
I think what surprised me the most about coming up with the team alliance with my Rotary Club is how much we were of the same mind. Here is a diverse group of professionals from varied fields, industries and backgrounds but we all had the same ideals. Service above Self. It’s the team culture that holds us together.