Chapter 16

The redis­covery of the high-perfor­mance group

The state welfare system has allowed many people to organize their life as singles. HR management also focused exclu­sively on the individual employee at companies for a long time. But now, however, people have redis­co­vered the superior perfor­mance of well-trained groups. You have to be competent and a team player to successfully contribute to the work of a group.

Erosion of the family

Nobody can survive alone in the long run. People are designed to live in groups. Humans are born much more “unfinished” than any other creature and will only develop when they are in contact with people that are fond of them. Mothers play a key role here. Families are the default group for survival. Over time, families have taken on a wide variety of forms: as a primitive horde, a stone-age group, clan, family tribe, collective, and extended and nuclear families.

Humans learn how to adapt their behavior to other humans as children in a family and later on in other groups as well, especially in groups of their peers. When this socia­lization process is impaired, behavioral disorders occur. These disorders also affect society. Conversely, changes to society have an impact on families. Today, families seem to be dissolving in some societies.

As in many areas of the world still today, families also were respon­sible for dealing with the impacts of life threats like illnesses, disability, and unemployment. Family members were there for each other. As a community for procreation and survival, families ensured that children and young people were prepared for their time as adults who are able make it on their own. Elderly people used to remain socially embedded in the family and were able to help out as they were able.

But then families were influenced by the impact of more indivi­dua­listic notions: It’s every man for himself. Self-realization, is desirable these days. Profes­sional life is considered a space for personal develo­pment. The workplace is a point of reference for income, prestige, contacts, and a social security net.

Conse­quences of the social welfare state

The welfare state created the framework condi­tions for shaping an individual lifestyle. The respon­si­bility of the family and the effects of threats to life have been shifted to coercive insti­tu­tions. Childcare at day cares and educating young people in schools are equally part of the government’s tasks that have been a matter of course for a long time. The last thing to be regulated by the welfare state in Germany was the risk of having to care for the elderly. Why would you need family any longer? The welfare state relies on successful businesses to maintain the basic condi­tions of individual wealth. This also applies for indivi­duals: People who need a job need to have a successful employer. Since companies need to survive on markets, the level of incidental wage costs plays a key role for their compe­ti­ti­veness. Because only profi­table companies can pay taxes, take over social security contri­bu­tions, offer jobs and pay wages and salaries. Unemployment in an economy indicates that the job market is unable to balance the supply and demand of labor. In parti­cular, compen­sation does not come about when labor costs cause losses for one company and are lower elsewhere. The only thing that works is reducing the costs of labor.

There are also problems for the opposite scenario: If there is a shortage of suitable young people for the work that needs to be done at companies, the companies will have to cut back on production or expand to other countries or recruit employees from abroad. This results in conflicts with the local population which would prefer that every­thing be produced locally.

A society that cannot balance supply and demand on the labor market due to state welfare measures bites the fingers off everyone involved — society, the state and the individual. Companies are no longer able to fulfill the tasks delegated to them by the welfare state. Their growth potential is shrinking, they are making losses and ultim­ately they are being worn down in global competition.

The welfare state’s job-based survival system runs into trouble when there are no successful businesses or not enough of them. Socialism’s radical attempt to turn the state into an entre­preneur has failed dramatically.

Entre­pre­neurs discover the power of the group

Until recently, companies too focused only on the individual. It was up to the individual employees. And they had a job description. The employee was expected to have highly specific profes­sional quali­fi­ca­tions, profes­sional experience, and job-related qualities. Many companies used to be (still are?) managed with an autho­ri­tarian style. Just like the motto that the Romans already knew: Divide et impera! Divide and conquer!

Employees were only connected with each other in the pecking order. The official channels had to be observed. The employees had to compete for the favor of their superiors. This was the only way to have a career. These times are a thing of the past in some indus­tries at least, which was a result of the compe­tition on the markets.

Compe­titive pressure has led many companies to rethink their approach to employees. They are no longer considered soloists but as members of a team. The companies have had the experience that an autho­ri­tarian management style no longer provides for the produc­tivity required for surviving on the markets. This is why they are redis­co­vering group-based perfor­mance potential.

Companies as pioneers of a new solidarity

At many companies, the profes­sional proof of quali­fi­ca­tions is merely a door-opener for the hiring process. Potential employees are selected according to additional quali­fi­ca­tions for which colla­bo­rative skills are starting to be of critical importance. During the selection process, the appli­cants must prove their ability to work on a team to pass the subse­quent aptitude tests.

Our develo­pment as a society has turned family people into singles. As a result, many people no longer have the skills necessary to work together successfully in a group. There is a lack of behavior such as informing others, listening, expressing yourself clearly, speaking in good time, showing appre­ciation for others, working together, planning together, making reliable agree­ments, taking a step back, helping if necessary, etc. In order to reduce this lack of ability to work in a team, companies are now spending lots of money on measures for HR and organiza­tional develo­pment. This is the only way to adapt and improve the quali­fi­ca­tions of the employees to meet the changed requi­re­ments, and parti­cu­larly the soft skills for employees in management positions. Companies are partner­ships of conve­nience, and not true partner­ships and certainly not life partner­ships. Companies try to catch up and compensate for what has been overlooked and neglected during the personal develo­pment of their employees. But: Companies are not partner­ships, nor are they families, they are working groups whose aim is to make a profit.

Self-develo­pment as a prere­quisite for the ability to work in a group

The develo­pment of social skills is necessary in order to be successful in profes­sional life: creating a community, gaining trust, being recognized and being productive. Peaceful coexis­tence with a partner, in a shared apartment or in the family also depends on social skills. They help avoid unnecessary stress. Improving social behavior begins with self-reflection. During this self-reflection, you should not lie to yourself, but openly and honestly admit what causes you diffi­culties when you are around and working with other people. Most people have no problem naming other people’s mistakes. But they are reluctant to admit their own mistakes. An important question — as parado­xical as this may sound in this context — is whether you can be alone. Those who know how to keep themselves busy and even enjoy being alone now and then don’t run the risk of becoming dependent on others. They rest in themselves, are balanced and balancing group members.

Freedom, power, and complacent slaves

Some people consider group norms to be like a strait jacket. Since they do not want to accept their loss of freedom, they attempt to take the lead. They want to have an impact on shaping the norms. They attempt to gain power over the other members of the group. They feel that their power over others gives them more freedom. This is what makes positions of power so attractive. People who see their life as a struggle are based exclu­sively on categories of power. They live out their freedom by restricting the freedom of others. History has many examples of how this works.

People tend to follow autho­ri­tarian leaders. This spares them having to take respon­si­bility. They try to avoid tasks that force them to make decisions. They want their peace of mind; others should take the rap. What is important to them is that they are doing well, that their standard of living is not in danger. Living like a sated slave is not an uncommon way of life.

Developing your perso­nality is a lifelong learning process that always requires new efforts. The insti­tu­tions of our society that ensure survival have recognized the great need for social skills. And the term “learning organization” was coined. Companies keep giving their employees new impetus to meet this demand with HR and organiza­tional measures. Collect all of the different sugges­tions and implement your personal develo­pment program.

Groups are not harmony clubs. There are tensions in every group. Misun­derstan­dings arise again and again. Conflicts of interest build up. Sympa­thies and antipa­thies resonate. Conflicts break out. Learn to deal with the group dynamic processes involved. There are workshops and seminars that simulate corre­sponding experi­ences and provide insights.

In the future, companies will pay closer attention to their employees meeting the requi­re­ments of working in a group. They need to boost perfor­mance, which can only be achieved through the synergy of groups. This means the following for the individual members of the group: being able to learn, keeping your knowledge up-to-date and always expanding it, constantly training your skills and honing them, as well as expanding your experi­ences and making it your behavioral fund of action. For, just like in soccer, only strong players can form a powerful team.

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