Where do we go from here? As we emerge from the last 16 months of the Covid-19 pandemic many people are asking this question. Workplaces have changed forever. We were forced into experimenting with different ways to work. It was quick, due to necessity, Just like the vaccine. I know for me, although I experienced some major stresses, I personally and professionally discovered growth. I have learned some new skills and changed a few paradigms of mine about work, its purpose and meaning to each of us, and what our future might look like.
I for one believe that we will continue to thrive. These changes are inevitable as technology continues to create options for how we get things done. The next couple of years should be interesting to see how we evolve. Certainly being aware of the consequences of change can help us get ahead of the 8 ball in how we design the “New Workplace”. Facilitated dialogue with your teams is and will continue to be critical to the success of your change journey.
With all of the talk about when and how to start reopening business in the news it is a good time to start thinking about what reopening might look like and planning for a different normal. Many things have changed in the past 3 months from how we interact, the safety of sharing spaces, to what do we do now?
Businesses need to think about office structure. Who is essential to come to the office and who is not and can work from home? How will you coordinate work differently? How do we spread people out so they have appropriate distancing? How do we reuse conference rooms and breakout rooms? How do we maintain sanitation? People touch everything from computers to phones, bathrooms, doors, kitchens, break rooms, printers and other shared machines. What about visitors to your office? How do you screen customers, venders, deliveries? What about human touch? many jobs require people to hand each other work materials, papers, office supplies, and touch people for procedures. What are the office rules on human to human touch?
Wow! who would have imagined this time we are in with business shut down, the threat of severe illness with every interaction and no idea when it will end. If you did not have symptoms of stress and anxiety before I am sure you are experiencing them now. Over 21 percent of adults will have diagnosable anxiety in a given year. That is 42.5 million people! and that is in normal times. Imagine what that number must be now.
Stress and anxiety affects our body (heart palpitations, nausea, headaches, etc), our thoughts (worry, what if thinking, self doubt, “spaciness”, irritation, etc) and Behavior (startle easy, avoidance of people and places, short fuse, etc). All of these symptoms of stress and anxiety are disruptive to your life both personally as well as affecting your relationships, especially now that we are quarantined in our homes with very few options for distraction and no real end in site.
There are some very helpful things you can do to help cope in these unusual times. Thanks to technology we can still reach out for help from wherever we are hold up. I am an MSW clinical Social Worker as well as an ICF Certified Coach.
If you need help I am offering coaching and counseling sessions via Zoom, Skype and FaceTime. This way you will be able to get the support you need from the comfort of your home while still meeting with me face to face. I have over 30 years of experience counseling and coaching individuals, couples and groups. If you or someone you know could use some help and someone to talk to I am offering my Coaching and Counseling services via live video sessions and would welcome the opportunity to offer you support. Couples focused coaching is available as well.
Sessions are 30 minutes long and I am offering them at half price during this crisis, $50 for 30 minute session. If you would like some help contact me at 812-345-7519 or email@example.com information and scheduling.
Managing relationships in teams is critical to high levels of effectiveness, results and employee satisfaction. In my last article I wrote about the misnomer of personality conflicts and how what we call personality conflicts are actually relationship conflicts. How we interact, communicate and work with others is the foundation to how we experience life.
There are 14 core relationship principles described by scholars Finkel, Simpson, and Eastwick in 2017. The factors are distinct from one another, though interrelated, in how they influence relationships. I have applied these sound relationship principles to teams.
Uniqueness: Relationship outcomes depend not only on the qualities of different people but also the unique patterns that emerge when they interact. Positive or negative feelings are generated by the interpretation of difference and ability to integrate those differences into team output.
Integration: Through interdependent interaction, team members will start to blend together. Self-regulation can get replaced by mutual regulation and a sense of shared identity. Research has shown that when people get closer to each other they tend to think of each other in more positive terms and will help to further one another goals.
Trajectory: The trajectory of teams relationships over time is affected by team members continuous perceptions of interactions and experiences over time. Relationships grow and develop in stages. Much like the stages of group development; forming, storming, norming and performing.
Evaluation: People on teams typically evaluate their relationships based on commitment, trust, caring, contribution, reciprocity, safety, and satisfaction. If evaluations are only private, no one gets the feedback to help improve team relationships.
Responsiveness: Responsive behaviors are important to teamwork. The ways teammates are responsive to each other can be seen in different light. One may feel others responses are too quick or too late, lack depth or sincerity. Higher levels of support promote higher levels of well-being.
Resolution: How well teammates communicate about relationship events affects long-term quality of the relationships. Negative events have a stronger impact than positive events. A teams ability to share openly, listen to each others experience, and respond with empathy is critical. Forgiveness is key!
Maintenance: Positive team relationships are maintained by thinking and behaving in ways that show a willingness to put self-interests aside for the good of the team. Team relationships are a series of deposits and withdrawals over time. Teams must maintain a positive relationship account. Withdrawals will occur in the life of a team and so intentional positive deposits on a daily basis are a must. A good start is just with manners and social kindness and recognition of each others value.
Predisposition: People bring basic personality and temperament qualities with them into teams. Some of these will be seen as strengths for the team and some will be seen as liabilities. The more neurotic the team members predisposition, the more difficult and challenging the relationships will be. Emotional intelligence is important as well as high levels of trust that allow for individual growth within a team setting.
Instrumentality: Teammates bring their own goals and needs into the team relationships. The dynamics of the team can positively or negatively affect the degree to which each team member is able to meet these goals and needs. The teams ability to discuss, understand, and integrate these goals and needs is critical to continued commitment toward the teams results. In high performing teams members goals and needs are understood and the team finds ways to support and assist in meeting these.
Standards: Team members bring relationship standards to the team. Shared values, expectations, and desired outputs need to be clearly understood and realistically managed. Standards can be too high or too low depending on the team member and perceptions of each team member. High trust teams manage this by coming to understand each others standards and then being willing to flex these standards into a common understanding and agreement. College student team projects often run into this dilemma when talking about expected grade. Where the single unemployed student expects nothing but A’s and the single mother of two who works and goes to school is ok with a B grade due to all of her life reponsiblities.
Diagnosticity: Team members tend to assess themselves and others, and the environment they are in. People naturally assess how their team relationships are going and what is going right and what is going wrong. When under stress teammates tend to have a higher propensity to think about their relationships and identify problems. When one team member sees something as a positive and another sees it as a negative, relationship “strain” occurs. Taking risks during times of uncertainty and working through them successfully can actually build trust and commitment.
Alternatives: FOBO (fear of better options) occurs when team members are disgruntled with their current environment and so rather than focusing on working through issues and developing the team, they instead are focused on wishing they had a better option/team. Teams can avoid this by working on relationships in an environment of psychological safety where openness is not just valued but practiced and supported. If you have invested yourself in a team there is a tendency to want to invest in its continued improvement.
Stress: High demands on a team can exceed the teams resources for coping. Stressful situations test team relationships. Team members are more likely to be defensive and retaliate when their buttons are pushed. Breakdown in communication occurs as team members try to distance themselves from each other. Recognition of the stresses and team adoption of effective stress management skills are important to surviving stressful times.
Culture: A team culture (values, beliefs, behavioral norms, traditions) exists whether intentionally created or not. If not intentionally created a default culture will develop and many times it is not optimal for achieving results. Teams need to align their culture to a shared set of values that are aligned with the organizations values. Identify your teams culture and agree on elements that help move your team forward effectively.
How to Build Good Work Relationships
1. Develop Your People Skills. Good relationships start with good people skills. For instance, how well you collaborate, communicate and deal with conflict.
2. Identify Your Relationship Needs. Look at your own relationship needs. Do you know what you need from others? And do you know what they need from you?Understanding these needs can be instrumental in building better relationships.
3. Schedule Time to Build Relationships. Devote a portion of your day toward relationship building, even if it’s just 20 minutes. These little interactions help build the foundation of a good relationship, especially if they’re face-to-face.
4. Build your Your EI. Spend time developing your emotional intelligence(EI). Among other things, this is your ability to recognize your own emotions, and clearly understand what they’re telling you. High EI also helps you to understand the emotions and needs of others.
5. Appreciate Others. Show your appreciation whenever someone helps you. Everyone, from your boss to the office cleaner, wants to feel that their work is appreciated. Genuinely compliment the people around you. This will open the door to great work relationships.
6. Be Positive. Focus on being more positive. Positivity is attractive and contagious, and it will help strengthen your relationships with your teammates. No one wants to be around someone who’s negative all the time.
7. Manage Your Boundaries. Make sure that you set and manage boundaries appropriately – all of us want to have friends at work, but, occasionally, a friendship can start to impact our jobs, especially when a friend or colleague begins to monopolize our time.
8. Avoid Gossiping. Don’t gossip – Gossip is a major relationship killer at work. If you’re experiencing conflict with someone in your group, talk to them directly about the problem. Gossiping about the situation with other colleagues will only make the relationship more stressed and will cause mistrust and animosity between you.
9. Listen Actively. Practice active listening when you talk to your teammates. People respond to those who truly listen to what they have to say. Don’t try and be right. Focus on listening for understanding and you’ll quickly become known as someone who can be trusted.
When I think back through my 30 years of working with teams and consider what the most common Challenge I hear from team members and managers is, Personality Conflicts has made every list. It is easy too feel overwhelmed with how to help teams deal with the challenge of “fixing personality conflicts”.
If you think about it, what a daunting task to undertake! Is it even possible? What are the benefits and consequences if you even could?
First we have to understand what is meant by “personality” if we are going to try and influence change. “The word personality itself stems from the Latin word persona, which referred to a theatrical mask worn by performers in order to either project different roles or disguise their identities”. The Enclyopedia of Britannica defines personality as “The term personality has been defined in many ways, but as a psychological concept two main meanings have evolved. The first pertains to the consistent differences that exist between people: in this sense, the study of personality focuses on classifying and explaining relatively stable human psychological characteristics. The second meaning emphasizes those qualities that make all people alike and that distinguish psychological man from other species; it directs the personality theorist to search for those regularities among all people that define the nature of man as well as the factors that influence the course of lives.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/personality
Another more concise definition given by Kendra Cherry and Steven Gans, MD, 2019 states that “personality is made up of the characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that make a person unique. In addition to this, personality arises from within the individual and remains fairly consistent throughout life.” https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-personality-2795416
The most important addition in Kendra Cherry’s definition is that it “remains fairly consistent throughout life”. In a sense it is the core of who we are and is developed both genetically through biological inheritance and socially through our early childhood experiences.
I have come to believe that what we call personality conflicts are actually relationship conflicts. We are going to have an impossible and frustrating experience if we set out to change people’s personality. On the other hand, if we set out to improve relationships, I believe, and the research confirms, we can identify, discuss, and more realistically improve the connections between people and their different approaches to life . The goal should be to improve understanding of each others personalities and how best to connect our personality with the different personalities on our teams.
Understanding the diversity of our teams personalities can be assessed with tools like the Myer- Briggs, DISC, Iopt, Advanced Insights, and many others. The goal of these tools are self-awareness (give language to what you innately already know) and other awareness (give language to safely discuss differences and how to connect them for the teams good). These tools can help team members to not mis-label personality traits as good or bad and gain recognition that your own personality characteristics can be interpreted from many different perspectives. What we don’t understand about others, often get’s a negative label by team mates who’s profile falls on the opposite side from you on a measured personality scale. Research shows that many of us marry partners who are on the opposite side of these scales. What on the surface can seem like the perfect recipe for conflict can also be extremely complimentary if understood. They complete us giving access to information we might not even see if left to our own accord.
Relationship conflicts on the other hand have to do with how we behave with others. As humans we have been gifted with Self awareness, a Conscience, Free Will, and Imagination. We also have a genetic and psychological need to belong. If we use our human gifts we can learn to relate to all people regardless of personality. Relationship problems are usually created by misunderstandings and the difference between our intentions and others perceptions. We can often mislabel connection problems as personality conflicts.
The key to resolving “personality conflicts” in teams is to first recognize them as relationship conflicts and then build, maintain, and repair misunderstandings. Get to know each others intentions. It is about showing caring for others and the respect of understanding versus judging. Relationships are damaged by misinterpretations of negative interactions. Get to know your team at a deeper level. Seek to understand the core personalities and how to synergies them. Behave in ways that build, maintain, and repair relationships. Relationship conflicts need an environment of psychological safety for open communication mixed with humility, caring, and a desire for strong connections.
In my last article written on January 16th, 2020 I wrote about the importance of Human Connection both to our work and all other parts of our lives and the science behind it. This week I am following up with an article on the importance of Social Emotional Development in teams.
Human connections are critical to business results and employee engagement and workplace contentment. Daily I speak with leaders about the joys and challenges of the workplace. All of the joys and challenges boil down to successes or failures that at the root have a human component. You would be hard pressed to find a success or failure that was not at some level due to connection between people.
Working with teams over the last 30 years I have accumulated hundreds of experiences assessing and creating developmental opportunities for teams. One constant is that the human connection factor has been at the root of all of those experiences and the strength of those connections has been the key to current success or frustrations.
In my experience both as a consultant and as a Senior Organizational Development Practitioner inside of organizations, Emotional Intelligence is a standard Learning opportunity/course offered, BUT I usually see it offered only to leaders of the organizations. If it is a fundamental skill for all employees we should not just offer it to leaders but should instead offer Social Emotional Development to all employees. Most people have their main interactions throughout their day with teammates and other people they work with to complete the organizations work, not their leader.
Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making Skills are skills we all need in order to maximize our connections with others. Studies on human development would say that we should be learning and honing these skills from an very early age and should be part of our early education curriculum in the classroom. School Bullying is rampant and Teen suicides are up 47 percent in the past two decades. This is getting schools and parents attention that SEL must be integrated into our youth experience. Based on the research, these skills are fundamental to successful Teams as well. Instead of only training leaders in one day intensive EQI principles, healthy organizations of the future will make Social Emotional Learning part of an ongoing developmental strategy for teams and not just a 3-6 hour course. Ongoing Social Emotional Learning as a team is a great way to build trust and develop strength and understanding of team connections.
This attached article by Marc Brackett& Diana Divecha addresses the need for SEL as they celebrate the “30th anniversary of the first scholarly publication on emotional intelligence. In it, Peter Salovey of Yale University and John D. Mayer of the University of New Hampshire challenged the proposition that emotions mostly cloud judgment and get in the way of rational thought. Instead, Salovey and Mayer said, when we use emotions wisely, we make better decisions and have improved mental health and relationships.” https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/01/22/sorry-theres-no-easy-toolkit-for-social-emotional.html?cmp=eml-contshr-shr
Ask yourself, “What groups of people do I know that could benefit from being better connected”? Whether your thoughts went to work, community or family, we can easily identify connections that are strong as well as connections that are weak.
Why are human to human connections so important?
We are genetically and socially programmed to be connected to others. Evolutionary theory developed by Charles Darwin and widely accepted as having some scientific validity theorized that in order for a species to survive it must be driven to behave in ways that promote Survival and Reproduction. Because of these two basic “Survival of the Fittest” drives humans have continued to evolve specific adaptive behaviors to stay connected and Thrive. Believe it or not, even though the news of current events catches our focus, we are actually living in the most peaceful time in history according to historians looking at 100 plus year periods. Survival is actually getting easier to do. Reproductive adaptive behaviors drive what we are attracted to and can unconsciously effect our interpersonal behaviors, not just as mates but how agreeable or valued we see each other, how accepted we feel, how much automatic trust we place in each other and many other unconscious psychological dynamics.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; Physical, safety, security, love and Belonging, Self-esteem, and Self Actualization; all depend on solid close social connections. One failure to Maslow’s model is that we have examples both in the animal and human world where social connection is chosen over food, water and shelter. A study by Lunstad, Smith, and Layton at Brigham Young University and published in the Journal of Medicine https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316 showed that a lack of social connection has a greater detriment to your health than obesity and smoking. On the positive side strong human connections have been proven to lead to a %50 higher chance of life longevity, strengthened immune system, lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self esteem and greater empathy towards others. Social connectedness creates reciprocal connections that affect our physical and emotional well-being. We live in a time where a lot of people do not feel connected and technology seems to be pushing us even further from the authentic human connections we all need in order to thrive.
Most people’s primary social group is their work. This is where a lot of us spend 40 – 60 plus hours a week for the majority if not all of our lives. This is not including the time spent ruminating about work issues. Like it or not this is where we get most of our social connections. For those teams where the connections are strong, you are enjoying higher levels of endorphins, strengthened immune systems, overall sense of wellbeing, higher productivity, lower costs and very possibly a longer life.
For those teams that are struggling to connect, unfortunately the opposite is true. You will experience higher levels of fear and stress hormones (adrenalin, cortisol, and nonadrenalin) resulting over time in exhaustion, maladaption, burnout and dysfunction decreasing results at higher costs, and very possibly affecting the quality and quantity of life. (effects of chronic fear)
So… since developing strong connections is so important, how can we improve connections in and between our teams, groups, and families? Whenever I am asked the question “How can our team or organization improve its peoples sense of belonging”? I first ask “How do people in your life know that they belong”? I think too often at work we try to make human connection way to scientific and technical. True bonding and connecting with others is first emotional and second practical.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Use Greetings and manners, smile and acknowledge others, use people’s names, give compliments, apologize and forgive, offer help.
Be the teammate you would like to have, be reliable, thoughtful, timely, authentic, and sensitive. Intentionally include others and acknowledge their importance.
listen to others attentively, show genuine interest in what others think and feel.
Share things about your past, present, and future with each other. Trust only comes from practicing vulnerability.
Structure team building time, do a community service project together, plan informal social gatherings, include family at some of them.
Establish a strong purpose at the individual and team level that gives teams a reason to want to connect and stay connected. Keep that purpose front and center.
Ground the team with clearly shared goals that drive connection, make sure division of roles and responsibilities and accountability are mutually understood and the connections are regularly discussed.
Assure that everyone is getting to use their talents and strengths in contribution to the teams objectives.
Create a culture of true psychological safety where teams feel free to exchange passionate ideas, disagreements and dreams leading to synergistic solutions. A place where teams can feel free to be themselves without fear. A place where they can connect safely on an emotional level building Trust and creating a strong group identity.
Define and establish measures of success, regularly discuss progress. Strong teams are interested in their scorecard.
Support each other when the occasional hard work does not yield intended results.
Celebrate, have Fun, show love and caring for each other.
The Christmas season is the perfect time to think about Forgiveness. Forgiveness is the true meaning of Christmas and whether you celebrate the religious meaning behind Christmas and Hanukkah, or you celebrate the holiday as a family and work tradition, this is the perfect time as a team to reflect on forgiveness.
In my 30 years of working with teams I often spend time observing the interactions and dynamics of people working together. One of the least prevalent interactions I have witnessed is people on teams saying “I’m sorry” or “thanks for acknowledging that your interaction was hurtful. I forgive you”.
Interactive conflict at work is linked to absenteeism, lowered productivity, stress, physical and mental health issues. I have asked thousands of teams over the years these three questions “How often do you hear your team mates apologize?” “how often do youhear words of forgiveness?”and “are there missed opportunities?”. Almost always the three answers are “hardly ever”, “rarely” and “multiple times a day”.
The problem is that too many people are afraid to have these conversations, Their Ego won’t allow it or it is seen as a philosophical, psychological or religious principle that is “inappropriate” to discuss at work. Many organizations make it worse by using “safe” information against team members even though they preach open, safe, dialogue and even teach it!
In his book “Trusting You are Loved”, Epstein 1999 wrote: “We are by forgiving, in essence granting complete absolution and redemption. We relinquish the right to punish, cling to resentments, and hold grudges. We give ourselves and each other permission to move on, free of baggage and history, able to progress without the burdens of the past. Forgiveness fosters our wellbeing when we know that no matter what happens, we will forgive and be forgiven. In an environment of love and forgiveness, we thrive”.
If we fail to realize that by not openly forgiving our teammates for minor and major transgressions we pay a profound price. We lose, as a team, our ability to appreciate the strengths and awesome qualities of each other. Our discretionary effort is reduced, our health and wellness becomes threatened and we lose our ability to be fully present and focused on work issues. We then take this stress home with us and negatively inject this stress into those relationships and conversations. Many times people feel safer to vent their frustrations with people outside the team. This leads to distrust by others and questions about the teams ability to manage itself and its affairs.
So what can we do? Here are 6 proven strategies
1.Be the first. If no one on your team is practicing forgiveness, be the first. as people witness the power of forgiveness it grows in their hearts as well.
2. Create a team environment that is safe. Not feels safe, but is actually safe. A place where teammates are free to share and ask for help. Just one negative action by the leader can throw safety out the door.
3.Use Forgiving language and eye contact as a team. Look at each other and say things like “Thanks for letting me know”, “I understand”, “I apologize” “Thanks for talking with me about your concerns” “You are forgiven, no worries”.
4.Acknowledge anger and resentment but own your perceptions of the situation. Be respectful and use “I” statements. Separate facts from perceptions. Listen..
5.Make owning and forgiving a part of your teams discussions. When it is structured and practiced it becomes part of the teams culture “I need to apologize to Sara for not letting her know my progress on the work she needed” “I need to let the team know that I have had some resentments over how we made a decision and I would like to clear the air and move past them”
6. Team Development interventions. Sometimes the problems within the team can get out of hand and the team members no longer trust the intent of each other. Even a sincere apology can be filtered by mistrust and not believed. In these cases outside expertise can be very helpful. A good expert can help the team by being a neutral party with no agenda other than helping the team get un-stuck.
What are the benefits of using teams as your primary structure for getting work done? Organizationally we know the highest performing teams with the highest quality results, do so while fulfilling many of the members basic as well as higher level human needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies to our whole lives including work. In my many years of learning, playing, working in and with teams, I have experienced the joys, the frustrations, and everything in between. We all know what teams can do when designed with the right members and right support. We also know what the costs are of our dysfunctional teams who are stuck with little hope of what magic might change the daily dredge on both the organization as well as the team members themselves.
Teams are worth the investment and there is science to prove it. We humans have worked in collaborative groups since the beginning of time. In a sense, teams are the reason we are all even still here on planet earth, credited as a key to the survival of our species. In this linked articlehttps://www.atlassian.com/blog/teamwork/the-importance-of-teamwork Tracy Middleton shares 11 benefits of working in teams and some of the science to support it.
Research has validated for us many realities of being human. How and why we respond to different stimulus in similar and categorically different ways can be predictably measured. Research on teams and collaboration has been a specific human dynamic that man has tried to understand since the beginning of time. The difficulty is that teams are constantly changing in membership, focus, process, motivation, reinforcement, qualities of relationships and so on. In the linked article written by Catarina Lino and Brad Desmond in Positive Psychology, the writers discuss 7 Habits that if practiced and made habits, consistently create highly effective teams. https://positivepsychology.com/psychology-teamwork/