“Everything Starts with a Jam Session”: Grounding our Teamwork

Posted on  by Tesni Ellis

Although sometimes it happens naturally, in an “emergent” way if you will, it’s sometimes helpful to set ground “rules” from the beginning of a new project or team. Rules is a funny word. Maybe I’d prefer agreement? Or… feelings? That’s where my head is at lately. So, setting ground feelings. Some things we agree upon as a team that are important to us, so we can work together and make great things.

Like John’s noticing of the word “arrangement” in his life – I’ve been thinking a lot about “relationship” lately. And about the “contract” of sorts you enter into with someone when you work together, develop together, be together. And I think for me, one of the grounding feelings I need in a team is an effort to try and practice care for each other and the different stages in our learning we might be in, the different language we might use, and the different experiences that have brought us to where we are now. And understanding that everyone processes information differently. Personally, I take time to process and it’ll often be a few days later that I’ll bring something back up that has been taking up space in my brain.

I like the way adrienne maree brown puts it in “Emergent Strategy”, a book about transformative justice and movement making – “Self-transformation: Both/all people in the relationship and community are committed to their own self-transformation. We see ourselves as microcosms of the world, and work to shift oppressive patterns in our bodies, hearts, minds, speech, interactions, liberating ourselves into purpose, liberating our communities into new practices. We each set the pace of our own transformation.” (emphasis mine, p. 194)

Another word I really like is the word “practice.” I like to think of my work as a practice. It leaves more room for problem-solving, for accepting challenges that arise, and for working through things as a process, in a non-linear, non-fixed, non-normative way.

So, what are your ground “feelings” or rules – what do you need for a team to work together, safely, collaboratively?


Addendum: Some of what we talked about as a team include the following:

  • understanding differences
  • “Everything starts with a jam session” – openness to improvising, ambiguity, figure it out as we go
  • combining our strengths
  • communication; honesty
  • productive communication
  • understanding various styles of addressing things
  • language
  • processes of learning and unlearning
  • empathy and positivity
  • determination
  • we are searchers
  • none of us are experts
  • collaborative leadership

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