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The Game of Teams

Teams are the new unit of currency in business. Harnessing the wisdom and brilliance of teams is not easy. It can be messy, confusing, non linear and complicated. Learn from your peers and thought leaders about what it takes. Listen to their stories, pains, and pride when it works. This show is about the magic of mining work and relations for high performance, satisfaction and fulfilment on teams

Feb 1, 2024

Introduction:  Iris Clermont is an Executive Coach, author, and professional mathematician. She holds certifications from Team Coaching International, & Conversational Intelligence and is a Professional Certified Coach from the International Coaching Federation. Her mission is to motivate teams to work effectively while having fun and gaining energy from their business life.

Iris is also the author of the number one best-selling book Team Magic and has just written her new book Team Rhythm which is the subject of this podcast.

Podcast episode Summary:  Iris has chosen a xylophone as an image and metaphor to capture the chapters of her book. The conversation explores her Team Model the ordering of her chapters on this xylophone and why music and maths support her work with teams.

Points made throughout the Episode:


Who are you? Deep inside Iris is a mission to inspire teams to have more joy and energy in the workplace. Iris then goes on to share her career history and the early influence of Mother Teresa. After approximately 30 years in Corporate life Iris found herself moving “swiftly and smartly” into Coaching. She figured out that asking people for their ideas instead of telling them her ideas changed the game for her.

Is it true you are also a Musician? Iris has played music since she was 3 years old and her interest in music form part of the auspices of Team Rhythm.

What inspired you to write the book the way you did? Iris determined that many of the teams she was facing were in egoic conflict and were very serious. She was intent on approaching the solution to team rhythm in a different way using exercises and lightness in her approach.

Iris saw that business leaders know what they need in business and what they do not practice like listening and presence. According to Iris teams need to not only speak their concerns but use exercises and lightness as a way to find solutions – As such her book is littered with music riffs and exercises that teams can employ to begin to develop skills

As a child Iris listened to a talk given by Mother Teresa that she still carries. Emotional pain is a feature of business life and one Iris’s mission is to help people resolve emotional pain. She develops bespoke exercises for teams depending on their particular concern.

Why was it important to cluster the book chapters on a xylophone and in that fashion?


     Getting Synchronised comprises the first three chapters of the book and details the power of Listening, Creating a Clear vision and having Leadership Presence. Getting synched means looking beyond an individual’s ego and determining what is important to the team . Getting synched means raising a person’s listening skills, followed by a clear strategy & vision – this also requires checking for team and departmental understanding giving others a chance to question. Iris uses cartoons to illustrate her points. She points out that the Leader is there to serve and give direction. Finally Irish explains why her third chapter on Presence is so critical for team life.

     What in your opinion Iris do teams forget about those first three chapters? All three of them. Iris reminds us that we all think we are great listeners but when she encourages her teams to try out some of the listening exercises in her book, members realise they are not that good. Leaders are often pretty clear in their heads about the future strategy but do they check it is understood by all? Do they gain from the experts knowledge how they see the strategy working etc. Presence in the room is often disrupted by insecurity & Iris’s exercises help bring presence more assuredly into the room  Presence can change something. A lack of presence, often especially by the leader can communicate to others that the leader has more important things to do than be there for the team.

     What are some of the exercises you use with teams to build presence? Speaking to the last member in an audience as a choir is an exercise that iris uses with teams,

     What comprises the cluster called raising awareness? There are four topics covered across four chapters with skills that all have room to be enhanced.

     Raising effectiveness with Decisions. Decision making at the lowest level. Iris employs exercises to expand on Frederic Laloux’s work which says that bureaucracy gets in the way of effective decision making. He and Iris suggest moving decisions out and often down to the experts. This requires trust by Leaders to distribute power effectively to experts. Doing this is enabled by having done the work to get synchronised. A solid frame is provided that supports decision making. Trust is a big component for both the leader and the member. A leader can self-check to be curious if he/she does give power to the expert or has explained the strategy well. A member can ask if they trust themselves enough to honour the strategy and make a decision about which they are expert.

     Speed up Conflict Resolution: The blue note is used from Jazz as a way of helping teams to accept what might not be linear or clear from which beauty can surface. There is disruption on teams especially with diverse teams and Iris encourages teams to embrace the disruption and look to wonder what can be created. Iris explores building resolution on teams using Judith Glaser’s work, Conversational Intelligence. Iris explains the dashboard that Judith outlined in her book to support understanding between members on teams. The Conversational dashboard describes 3 levels of communication from distrust to trust. Level 1 is where people tell and ask. Level 2 is where team members advocate and inquire and Level 3 where two or more members are co-creating in a space of trust by sharing and discovering together. Team members have to suspend judgement and premature conclusions to accept that people have good intentions, have value to add and are not stupid. This helps move conversations from red/distrusting to green/trusting. Iris shares that the dashboard is an image or a picture in your home that you have to step back from and observe. Stepping back and inquiring helps a team wonder how they can move into the green area where engagement, encouragement, acceptance flourishes, a place of fun and creativity. Iris loves this chapter and since her work with Judith Glaser she only needs 30 minutes to bring this topic to light & resolution. The team conflict resolution team rhythm exercise helps a team see how they react to dissonance. The exercise is used to see how teams react, what is possible and what is learnt by dissonance and the use of it. Disruption is not always a negative phenomenon it allows for difference to be heard. Trust & Commitment, chapters 6  & 7 in Iris’s book are like twins. If commitment is honoured trust is built. Similarly alignment with the mission and strategy supports trust. Trust also has something to do with each individual and their respective histories. A person has to be willing to look inside and wonder what is blocking with respect to trust and trust for others., There is a team rhythm exercise on trust. The cartoons Iris employs in her book helps people self-assess and wonder about their own levels of trust. Micro-managing for example is an indicator that trust is not widely given to empower teams.

     What are some of the ways teams distract themselves from pursuing some of these ideas on effectiveness? Iris combines the knowledge and wisdom from her Commitment chapter with the chapter on Feedforward to suggest that team members need to be willing to open up to feedforward ideas

     Continuously Empower and Inspire your Teams. This cluster explores 4 topics housed in 4 chapters. The first speaks to the idea that you can add value to a team and its performance by engaging with mechanism and skills that encourage feedforward practices. The next chapter explores the nature of Virtual & Hybrid teams and how teams can move from being I-Centric to We-Centric and ultimately less egoic. The third chapter in this cluster speaks to value of using the power of diversity and moving away from blaming and shaming others for their difference be it with respect to their ideas, perspectives etc to gaining. This chapter uses exercises and rhythm exercises to identify how to make use of the full spectrum of diversity. The fourth and final chapter in this cluster speaks to the idea of gaining from areas outside of your own business. In this  Iris talks about Bands and what can be learnt for business gain. She also looks at film production and what is involved there in that domain a rich resource for business.

     What is important to you Iris about the difference between Feedforward and Feedback? The difference was experienced from Marshall Goldsmith. Feedforward is looking to the future and is hopeful. Feedback is backward looking and historic.

     The last few chapters are very current to the world we live, especially post the pandemic. What was important to you about including them in your book and on the xylophone? Iris wanted to update her book to reflect what she is seeing in business today, that is very different from when she wrote her book Team Magic. Iris is curious to explore with teams how they can gain by diversity. Iris tells a story about her favourite team  a virtual team she was part of twenty years ago.  Iris describes how she experienced this team and remarks that she felt special having team members come from Denmark and other counties. Iris shares that it was a hugely different phenomenon  in her working life then & she enjoyed it, The team worked well together and won a prize for innovation.  

     How comfortable are teams working in a hybrid or virtual way? Teams can get stuck in ways that are unhelpful. There are different types of people some who appreciate the technology that allows for video and others who prefer to be more private and not share their image. Some people like to see faces to focus on gestures and mimics and others are more focused on words. We have to allow for both.

     To practice for example on a band is so important, what do teams assume that they do not practice together? Teams often only focus on achieving results and forget the process necessary to get there. To be really effective as a team you need to have the skills outlined on Iris, xylophone listening, having a vision & strategy, leadership presence, decision making, conflict resolution, Trust, commitment, Feedforward skills, awareness of virtual and hybrid teams, making full use of diversity and gaining from the lessons learnt from the outside world. Iris understands why teams often take the shortest route to success. As a mathematician that is smart & it can also frustrate when you appreciate that others are different. It then becomes necessary to upgrade these skills in order to co-create and deliver collectively. There is a parallel here with musicians. As a musician you know  you need to work alone and then together.

     What are your thoughts about joy and how you infuse it across teams? Joy is linked to creativity and innovation. It also means looking at where I am stuck and what needs to shift. It is key to look outside of business and to gain from all of the experience we have from other domains.

     What makes you proud about this book? This book comes from deep within Iris’s heart to enlighten teams about what is possible. To bring lightness to the business of what is often serious business. Using cartoons, exercises and several rhythm practices can allow a team see an alternative perspective & explore their effectiveness with fun. Iris is proud of all of her 3 sons who contributed to her book and one of her sons, a musician co-created with Iris to get specific rhythm exercises.


Resources shared across this podcast

     Team Rhythm, Eleven ways to lead your team from overwhelmed to inspired. Iris Clermont

     Team Magic eleven ways for winning teams

     Conversational Intelligence, Judith E. Glaser

     Feedforward by Marshall Goldsmith -U Tube.