Co-Equal/Collegial Interactive Communicative Teams Requires Structure

A team is a number of persons associated together in any work or activity.  A baseball team functions as a unit and in this unit there is structure.  There is a captain and positions that each player holds and participates.  When out on the field if one person gets out of place, one of the other players would step in to fulfill the role of another all for the benefit of the success of the team.  For example if a baseman steps away from his base to get the ball another player steps up on the base to cover that position which often results in an out.

I had a job where the owner of the business had what is known as a Hierarchal leadership structure, that is everything had to pass through him for his approval.  Many people in his employ were afraid to make decisions on their own without his approval .  He decided to take his wife and go on a one week vacation without leaving contact info in case of a business emergency.  While on vacation a piece of machinery broke that was vital to the smooth operation of his business.  The manager contacted me after being informed of the malfunctioning machine.  Seeing the owner was not there and out of contact, I being the next in the positional structure of the company took the lead.  I called the manufacturer who had the replacement part but could not deliver it because it was a weekend that he had planned to visit family, on top of that it was in the next State.  I asked where he would be early the next morning in his travels.  He informed me he was traveling near the State line and at about a certain time should be in a particular city and if I could meet him at a certain time and place I could get the part.

The next morning very early, I took a company vehicle and drove three hours to meet the man in another state, picked up the part and returned.  Installed the part and we were back in business by 11 am that very morning.  When the owner returned from his vacation he asked how things went.  I explained the situation and awaited his response.  I was not sure if my actions were the correct course of action so I was expecting a little rebuke.  However his reply was, “Sounds like you did the right thing.”

Being part of a co-equal or collegial team means we are willing to take the responsibility to make difficult decisions when the leadership structure has been temporary disrupted from its normal processes or function.  And to do so without fear that the wrong course is taken.  Taking responsibility if need be even if that person is on the team at the moment can also take place because sometimes things are over looked by others when they are focused on their particular duties.  This is known as co-equal interactive teamwork responsibility.

Another example can be found in the traditional family structure.  The team consists of a father (leader, team member) and a mother (co-leader, team member) and the children (team members), who by division of age function with certain levels of responsibilities.  Being a good leader I have communicated clearly each members responsibility and laid out contingencies for occurrences that should be followed in absence of leadership structure within the team.  Now let’s say a neighbor comes to borrow my power saw but I am not home  So he asks my wife if I can borrow the power saw for a few days but knowing I am particular with my power tools her next step is to call me and ask if it is alright.  This is a structure of responsibility that has been laid out by leadership.

Now let’s say that same neighbor comes and I nor my wife are home and my eldest is now left to make a decision.  He asks to borrow the power tool but there is no way to contact me to ask for my permission to lend it out.  The contingency plan is slightly different with an under aged or inexperienced person than it was with my co-leader.  So my eldest knows that I cannot be contacted and remembers the plan and informs the neighbor that she cannot lend it out without permission from me and apologizes for the inconvenience.  Now, I know my neighbor is disappointed but my eldest does not have the responsibility to lend out my power tools so she followed her instruction to the letter and did not lend it out.

But let’s say on the other hand he came to borrow a ladder and explained to my eldest that they are playing basketball and he needed it to dislodge the basketball from behind the backstop on their garage.  She knows the process but given the situation that she cannot contact me.  So she decides to make a decision and takes responsibility then loans the ladder out so they can dislodge the basketball and get on with their game.  My response when I get home is not negative because she was able to discern the difference between and immediate need and a need that could wait for a more official response.  Plus she knows the difference in value and need of a power tool for a longer period of time verses a ladder that is needed for just a few moments.

So what is the point in all this.  Both systems of leadership, whether it is Hierarchal or Co-Equal/Collegial, need to have structure for designated responsibilities or there will be chaos and nothing would get done in the team, the business, or the family.  which could quite possibly cause loss.

While both leadership styles have structure, the Hierarchal type is oppressive and gives no leeway for temporary internal change.  The Hierarchal type expects each person down a chain of command to follow certain protocol and even if there is some form of importance needed for immediate response no one can deviate from the structure without the leadership’s decision.  This works well in military warfare but not well in businesses and teamwork.  If this type of ridged structure is followed in a business it cost time and in the end could cost money, a client and in some cases lives.

In the Co-Equal/Collegial Leadership type of structure, everyone knows their place and responsibility and if there is a leadership structure breakdown or the leadership has by accident overlooked something, one of those in the lower structure take the initiative and responsibility to make a decision that quiet often will save time, money, clients and possibly a life or lives.  This is interactive Co-Equal teamwork at its best, and in the end creates a responsible communicating structure that relates well within the team which leads to success and profit and minimizes loss.

Structure is needed in either style of leadership but in Co-Equal Interactive structure there is less oppression and restriction which in turn leads to individual freedom to act when there is an immediate breakdown within that structure.  Structure is required in a Co-Equal interactive Teams but not always needed to benefit the team.  Yes mistakes can still take place but with the Co-equal/Collegial style teamwork there are less mistakes and more benefits.

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