‘Will they still like me?’

In this blog I would like to introduce you to Susan.
She is team leader of a team which consists out of seven people: four women and three men. Susan is extremely busy. She feels like she has a lot of weight on her shoulders and she cannot find the time to work on her management tasks.


She asked me to take a closer look at her team.
Susan says that she often thinks that her team members do not take her seriously, which places her into a difficult situations.She finds it difficult to accept this because she does the best she can. She knows how busy her team members are so she helps them by taking work out of their hands whenever possible. Susan works her tail off for them. Still, every time this approach seems to end up in conflicts. It seems as if her team crumbles down every day. ‘Exhausting’, she sighs. She doubts whether she is actually suitable for this position.


The (team)constellation
During our conversation, we literally take a closer look at her question. She places props to represent her situation. First she decides where to place her team members and then she places herself. When she positions the prop for herself in between the team, she immediately sees it. As a result of placing herself in the middle of the team she does not  take her own position. So regardless of the fact that Susan is officially the leader, she does not take the lead at all.


The system
She is quite disappointed. Susan wonders, does she have to place herself out of the team? She says that she considers herself to be a part of the team. She does not feel any better than the others. ‘We all should be equal to each other, right?’, Susan asks herself.

‘How can you answer this question  if you take a look at the broader context, Susan?’, I ask her. You are a part of a system consisting out of a leader and its seven team members. And yes, everyone is equal to each other but, and this is the most important part, everyone does have his or her own spot. Every spot, or position if you like, comes with own individual responsibilities, tasks, and privileges.

You are the leader and therefore you should fulfill the spot of the leader. Not the place of one of the other 7 members. Or as an eighth team member. Beware of the fact that if you do not fill in your own spot then sooner or later someone else will. This always lead to conflict. In this particular case, conflicts about who does what. It’s a logical course of action.


The spot of the leader
It is very clear to Susan. After trying to figure out what would be the best place for her, she picks up ‘her’ prop. Susan’s ‘what feels best’ outcome is a place not in but next to the team. From this position she thinks that she will stand close enough to the team to be a part of it and yet being able to be a good leader at the same time.

Immediately she experiences a feeling of calmness. Her body lets go of tension as she relocates her prop. Susan mentions that this place feels a lot ‘better’ and that she feels more secure. She also thinks that this move enables untangling everyone’s functions, tasks, and responsibilities. This will result in the needed clarity.


But… will they still like me?
This is Susan’s next question. Her new spot feels less personal than she is used to. And she wants her team members to do well. We further talk about these thoughts and along the way she finds her own answers. It has come to her attention that:

  • She currently turns everything into something personal- while it is not.
  • It is unnecessary and impossible to be friends with everyone
  • By taking work out of their hands she takes away the responsibilities of her team member
  • Her team members are perfectly capable to do the job
  • And last but certainly not least: A change within the team starts with yourself


Trough time I see Susan changing. During our last conversation I noticed she walks differently and comes across as more confident. Even her voice sounds different. Susan feels good and says that because of the arrangement and accompanying conversations she had almost automatically taken the place that belongs to her.

At first Susan was not aware of it, but something about herself changed which led to a different attitude of her team members. She noticed this by the declining of conflicts within the team.

It became clear to her that it can be very alleviating to leave the team members’ tasks up to the team members and to have time for her own agenda.

She then experienced one of the biggest eye-openers: the work continued and the desired results were easily achieved.


A happy team
Susan learned that her position within the team is different from her personal relationships. Also, she realized that she can be herself while being a leader at the same time, and still be respected as such.

The team members have expressed their happiness about Susan taking the spot of the leader. The result is that everyone has the time and space to perform their own tasks and to take their own responsibilities.

I consider the best comment to be that she can now focus on her own work, while the others feel like they are more supported than ever before.

Susan’s confidence continues to grow every day.

–    Karen van Hout