Healthy Teams: An Overview

Upon taking on a role within XR, you will find yourself joining a team. This can be daunting for some but being a part of a well-functioning team can be incredibly empowering!

What Makes a Good Team?

You already know your answer to this. Take a moment to consider the following:


Our Ways of Working

In order for our work to come together in a cohesive way, we use a Self-Organising System. This is essentially a collection of rules around how we organise and work together. We have these shared structures and processes to help us each hold something small and manageable; but collectively we can achieve our bold goals!

Your Place in the Big Picture

You can explore the XRUK structure using the XR UK Organism. By clicking on each circle, you can zoom into that space and see the circles nested within. In this diagram, you can see that The Hive is the widest circle within XRUK and so encompasses the widest purpose.

Rebel Ringers video

(Note: it is a misunderstanding to say that they hold the most power; their scope is too wide to be able to wield much power over anything in particular.)

You should be able to find the circle you are working within in this diagram, whether that be a team focusing on arrestee support in the East of England or a team advocating for Citizens' Assemblies across the UK.

Not every role is entered into Organism as this takes a fair bit of time, but most aspects of the work being done are represented or at least the circle they sit in is.

The information about groups held by the Hub feeds into the Organism. And the word "group" is taking over from the word "circle" in some places.

Interacting Between Teams

As you can see, our structure is a series of circles within circles. Each circle contains the role of External Coordinator who attends the meeting of the wider circle. So your External Coordinator (EC) will be feeding the progress your team is making into the wider circle, and the EC of that circle will do the same, and in this way information is passed through the system.

External Coordinators also feed from the wider circle back into your team so you can understand how your work fits into the teams close by.

Note: This should not be the sole interation between teams. It is recommended if you are working on something that overlaps or sits close to a team many circles from you, that you reach out to them directly. Your External Coordinater should be able to find their contact details.

Mandates

While exploring the Organism you will be able to see the purpose and accountabilities of each team and role in the system. These are part of what makes up the Mandate of that role or team.

We use mandates to distribute power through the movement. They help us manage without managers, and make our organisation transparent and accessible, with no mysterious 'black boxes'.

Simply put, a mandate outlines your purpose within the system, what is expected of you and what you are responsible for. It is typically split into the following:

Mandates are never set in stone; they are as dynamic as we need them to be. When you pick up a role in XR, you will likely be given a mandate with it. You can (and probably should) make this your own, either by handing back accountabilities that you don't feel you can meet, or by adding things that you think you can do to help.

To change a mandate, the desired change simply needs to be brought as a proposal to the meeting in which that role or circle sits. For example, if my role were to schedule trainings in the South West and I also wanted to do the scheduling for the Heading for Extinction talk, then I would propose that change in the SW Talks & Trainings meeting.

As part of its constitution XR UK requires that, "At a minimum, each circle must elect an Internal Coordinator, to be responsible for the healthy functioning of the circle, and an External Coordinator, responsible for liaising with the next broadest circle. The mandates for these roles can be found in Working Group Core Roles, along with other suggested roles that may be useful."

Want to know more? See Mandates in more detail (and how to write them).

Making Decisions

There are several different ways we make decisions in XR, and you will likely come across each of these fairly quickly.

Role Mandated Decisions

"Does this need to be decided by the group?"

Many of the decisions you come across do not need to take up time in a meeting. The first thing to consider would be if anyone has a mandate for the decisions that need to be made. It may be that you can make that choice without consulting the team because you have the responsibility (or mandate) for that thing. Or it may be that someone else does, in which case you should ask them what should be done.

Temperature Checks

These are used to make very simple group decisions. The question is usually phrased as "How do you feel about..." and then the group displays their enthusiasm by either raising their hands (positive) or lowering them (negative). A neutral response hovers around the middle.

These are often used to gauge how controversial something may be. If everyone is hands-up happy then there is no need to dive deeper into a longer process. But if some people have concerns, then it's advisable to move to the Integrative Decision Process or something similar.

Integrative Decision Making

This is a more indepth process for making group decisions. The object is to find a solution that everyone thinks is "safe to try." The process follows these steps:

  1. Stating Proposal - Whoever is making the suggestion brings their proposal to the group.
  2. Clarifications Round - Everyone in the meeting is then asked, in turn, if they need anything clarified to fully understand what is being proposed.
  3. Reactions Round - Everyone then has a chance to react to the proposal, what they think of it, how it may affect their work, any forseeable problems etc.
  4. Chance to Ammend Proposal - The person who brought the proposal has a chance to make any changes to it, any additions or changes to phrasing etc. They can also choose to withdraw the proposal or bring it back in another meething.
  5. Objections Round - Everyone in the meeting is then asked if they approve or object to the proposal. Objections must come from the role the individual is holding (not a personal view) and they must be concrete objections, either that the proposal will cause harm to the movement or it will stop existing work from being done.

If there are no objections to a proposal, it is passed and enacted immediately. However, if someone raises an objection to the proposal, the group comes together to try to integrate that objection.

  1. Integrating Objections - The objection is stated for the group and the floor is opened to suggestions on how this objection can be integrated into the original proposal. It may be that the wording needs to be changed or that the scope needs to be limited in some way.

The outcome of this process will either be the original or an ammended proposal passed by the group or, if the facilitator or person bringing the proposal choses, it can be taken away to be worked on between meetings and brought back at a later date.

Your Power Within the System

We have created our Self-Organising System with the intention that every rebel has a voice. On an individual level, there are several things that you can do within the system.

Want to know more? See The Self-Organising System in more detail.


What do you bring to your Team?

Task vs Maintenance

The two key parts of effective group operation are task roles and maintenance roles. Each role is really a set of behaviours to pay attention to in meetings and activities. Generally, task functions keep groups headed toward decisions and action. Maintenance functions help build a group's sense of identity and develop the social relationships in a group.

Task Roles Maintenance Roles
Initiator - Starts things off or helps to change direction. Encourager - Provides warmth and accepts different points of view
Coordinator - Clarifies suggestions and seeks agreement to move ahead Harmonizer - Tries to reduce conflict by encouraging sharing and respect
Energizer - Inspires and stimulates group into discussion Welcomer - Draws out quieter members and suggests processes to promote equal power.
Information Seeker - Gives or seeks to find out certain information Self-Discloser - Shares experiences to break through on a personal level "This also happened to me..."
Clarifier of Opinions - Encourages people to be specific "It seems like you are saying..." Process Observer - Helps to unblock the group and get conversation back on track
Summarizer - Clarifies and checks what has been said Standard Setter - Expresses best practices for the group

Maintenance group roles and behaviors function to create and maintain social cohesion and fulfill the interpersonal needs of the group members. To perform these role behaviors, a person needs strong and sensitive interpersonal skills. These roles include social-emotional leader, supporter, tension releaser, harmonizer and interpreter.

Task:

  1. Think of a group you have been a part of in the past; what roles have you taken on?
  2. Think of a group you are in now; do you think most of the roles in the group are Task focused or Maintenance focused?

Knowing your skills

When joining a new team, it is often hard to know where to start, what to pick up. Especially if that team is already established, how do you know what they need help with or what you are qualified to hold?

The first thing to remember is: They asked you to be there and so they WANT your help!

Now that we are clear on that, take a moment to think about what you CAN and what you WANT to offer the team. Here are a few examples you may come up with:

Knowledge (I know...) Functional Skills (I can..) Peronal Traits (I am...)
Java / Python Facilitate Meetings Creative
First-Aid Organise Information Empathetic
Conflict Resolution Manage Projects Patient
Accounting Analyse Data Fun
Animation Communicate Diplomatic

Note: Just because you can offer something doesn't necessarily mean you want to; it is important to set your own boundaries in order to avoid burnout.

Now that you know what you want to offer the team you are joining, we recommend going along to a meeting and letting them know exactly what you can offer them, both within and beyond the role your are stepping into.

Listening vs Speaking

Extinction Rebellion is not like your usual working environment, and we say this in both a positive and negative way! It can often be a bit of a culture shock if you are not used to how we work. So here are some quick hints to get you started:

Feedback

Being able to give and to receive feedback is important when working with others. It allows us to build trust, understanding and lets us make progress towards our goals. Without feedback we can't judge the impact of our own work and we just don't mesh well as a team.

That said, giving and receiving feedback is not always easy. Here are some suggestions which may help.

When Giving Feedback
When Receiving Feedback

What if I don't know to whom to give my feedback?
If you have feedback about something and you do not know who is directly involved, you should first talk to your Internal Coordinator (if it relevent to your team) or your External Coordinator (if it is relevent to a wider issue). They will most likely be able to either pass it on to the right place or signpost you to that place.


How can you best work together?

Every team is different because every team has different people in it. It may be that your team works well with brief meetings, mostly digital interaction, and minimal coordination, or it may be that your team needs longer, more discursive meetings, regular check-ins and some social spaces to let off steam together.

All teams work in different ways; the key is to identify and agree upon the way that works for your team.

Group Agreements

Having group agreements sets expectations for how you are going to work together and what to expect of each other. This is where you can personalise the dynamics of your team to suit the members in it.

Some groups will have agreements in place when you join and others may not; it's always worth asking. Any member of the team can propose an agreement. Here are a few examples that you may wish to bring to teams that you are in.

Roles

It is important for the smooth running of our teams that we are explicit about the roles each of us holds. This not only allows us to share out the responsibilities but also provides clarity for who is doing what. As a new rebel, your team should always welcome you by doing a round of role descriptions, letting you know what their role is in the meeting and providing some understanding of how things are set up.

As mentioned in the Mandates section, each role is adaptable; you can add to it, take things away that you can't do, as well as pick up multiple roles in a team.

Core Roles

There are a few core roles that you will find in your team with XR. These are typically suggested as the first roles to be filled when a team forms. Since a team usually starts off with 2-4 people these can often be shared fairly easily.

Core Role Purpose
Internal Coordinator To ensure that all aspects of coordination are met by the team
External Coordinator To represent the team in the wider circle and be first point of contact for the team
Integrator To actively look for new team members and welcome them
Budget Holder To manage the financial requests of the team

As you join the team, you will likely be in contact with either the team Integrator or the Internal Coordinator. They will introduce you to everyone else and you should consider them your first point of contact if you have any questions about the team or your role within it.

Aspects of Coordination

One of the big things we share as a team is the coordination. Despite having roles such as "Internal Coordinator" as part of a team, this does not mean that the person holding that role coordinates everything. It is the responsibilty of the team to coordinate itself.

Here are the different aspects of coordination that each team will encounter:

Aspect Description
Representing the Team Making connections and feeding back to the wider circle
Project Management Keeping track of progress and highlighting any barriers
Checking In Problem solving in 1-1 sessions as two brains are better than one
Team Building Strengthening the wellbeing and relationships of those in the team
Structure Keeping track of mandates and updating the team's structure on Glassfrog
Budget Managing finance requests and keeping track of budgets
Minutes / Facilitation Ensuring meetings run smoothly and a record of decisions is kept
Integration Welcoming new rebels and ensuring that they land on their feet
Communication Keeping track of team email adresses and ensuring team is contactable

It is highly recommended that each team shares these responsibilities amongst themselves; so, if you feel that your skills match well with an aspect of the team coordination, please let your Internal Coordinator know.

Facilitation

You will soon notice that each XR meeting you are in has a facilitator. This helps us have ordered and efficient meetings where we don't talk over each other or waste each other's time. We are all very aware that we are here on a voluntary basis, often in our spare time or between other responsibilities. Our time is precious and our work important, so good facilitation is key!

Some teams have a consistent facilitator whereas other choose to change facilitators each meeting to give everyone the chance to hone this important skill.

One tool which is universal within XR is the use of handsignals in meetings, both online and in person. The most common handsignals are in the picture below.

Rebel Ringers video

Facilitation Tools

We have many facilitation tools at our disposal. Here are some which you might encounter or may wish to use.

Help

Good facilitation is a skill to be learned and practiced. One important thing to know is when you need help. We have plenty of facilitators in our movement, and sometimes it is most appropriate to ask someone external to your team to facilitate you through a specific process or meeting.

If you are planning what could be a difficult session, or feel like your team is loose in it's use of good facilitation, we encourage you to reach out to either your wider circle or the SOS team of facilitators and someone will be able to step in to help.

There is facilitation training available on the Rebellion Academy, you can find it Here. There is also training available from our SOS teams, so if you are interested in some more in depth sessions.

Culture & Support

Think back to the start of this page, when we asked questions about what made you comforable/uncomfortable in a team and what values would your dream team hold.

Hopefully, you now have an idea of the tools at your disposal to forge that dream team, sharing responsibilities, playing to each others strengths and making open agreements on how exactly you are all comfortable with working together.

This is the start of building the culture of your team.

Sparking a Culture

When we think of our dream team, some of the same words always come up:

Trust / Motivation / Purpose / Direction / Respect / Cohesiveness / Fun / Openness / Safety / Energy / Efficiency

These are often shared values but it can be hard to know how to make them happen within a team. So here are some suggestions, but there are many many more.

Having Fun!

Remember, XR is not just the work we do but the experience of doing it! We are not here because of an undying passion for spreadsheets (or at least most of us aren't). We are here to change the world, to find a community that shares our values, to connect, to laugh, to cry, to play, the list goes on.

At the end of the day, we are here for each other!

Here are some things we have found during lockdown that have allowed us to get together without the work, blow off some steam and have fun!


This page was written by @Raenyah please contact me if you have any questions or think something needs to be added.


Revision #31
Created 4 January 2021 16:46:53 by Alex-and-ra
Updated 19 July 2023 16:38:29 by David Jennings