The Hedgehog Effect: The Secret of Building High Performance Teams

Kets de Vries M. F. R. (2012)

Reviewer: Colleen D. Naylor BA, MA – Freelance Trainer UK

Schopenhauer described a problem hedgehogs have with each other – they are too prickly (literally) to get too close. They can’t huddle together for warmth without hurting each other. This has been compared to human relationships where people, maybe couples or teams, want to be close to one another, but somehow they can’t help hurting each other. This book refers specifically to Schopenhauer’s tale in that, eventually the hedgehogs learn to keep just the right distance away so that they both warm up and remain unharmed. Might this be an effective metaphor for teamwork? Just how close should or might team members get to one another? Without doubt a proven contributor to organisational effectiveness and competitive advantage is the creation and maintenance of successful teams, particularly for those organisations that do business in environments requiring high levels of collaboration.

Such is the high degree of need for effective team working that the question goes begging; why are so many teams dysfunctional? There is an interesting dichotomy in that the manager/leader of team or teams has been or is the product of a team working situation. However, why is it that too few ‘emergent’ managers realise that ‘emotions’ play as much a part in the success of a team as do strategies, goals, KPI’s or milestones, etc. Any team or ‘individual’ parts thereof can ‘feel’ exposed, hurt, reticent, disappointed, anxious, unwanted, the list goes on. This can be a metaphor for teams at work; how close should team members get to one another? Being able to create successful teams is a competitive advantage, especially for charities that operate in an environment that requires a high level of collaboration.

Why are so many teams dysfunctional? It could be because too few managers realise the importance of emotions. A new team can feel anxious and exposed. A more interactive culture where respective participants can have, indeed are encouraged to have, candid, respectful conversations, freedom to report relationship tensions or fears of retribution, will result in more close comfort and less harm in doing so in.

“The Hedgehog Effect” presents the case for leadership group coaching as an experiential training ground for learning to function as a high performance team. His group coaching model, incorporating living case studies, has been developed over more than 20 years of delivering programs to top-level executives and sets the standard in the field of leadership group coaching. Written for coaches, consultants, leadership development directors, and anyone working in or with teams, it begins with an in-depth analysis of what teams and groups are all about. The intricacies of leadership coaching are illustrated with an elaborate example of a team coaching intervention.

In Part Two, the author applies a psychodynamic lens to the dynamics of teams and groups, taking a close look at relationship patterns, how groups evolve, and the phenomenon of the group-as-a-whole.

Part Three takes a more systemic perspective, addressing the challenges that change processes pose for people in organisations, and how to create best places to work. Kets de Vries supports the whole with the story of an organisational change initiative accomplished through group coaching.

Manfred Kets de Vries is the Raoul de Vitry d'Avaucourt Chaired Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Founder of the INSEAD Global Leadership Centre. He is a world-class authority on global leadership and executive teams. His Global Executive Leadership Inventory provides a tool and a process that has been widely recognised and used in the US and Europe. Manfred Kets de Vries and his associates have a distinctive competence in the in-house assessment of the quality of organisational leadership.


Preface ix

About the Author xxiii

Part One: An Introduction to the life of groups and teams

Chapter 1 How a Group Becomes a Team
Chapter 2 Swimming in the Relational "Soup"
Chapter 3 Leadership Coaching and High Performance Teams

Part Two: A Psychodynamic perspective on individuals and groups
Chapter 4 Understanding Individuals in Groups
Chapter 5 The Secret Life of Groups
Chapter 6 Into the Cloud: The Phenomenon of the Group-as-a-Whole

Part Three: Creating authentizotic organisations
Chapter 7 Toward Systemic Change in Organisations
Chapter 8 Being an Effective Change Agent
Chapter 9 The Zen of Group Coaching
Chapter 10 A Holistic Design for Organisational Interventions


Appendix: Instruments


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