One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious. Carl Jung
“What most concerns you about the upcoming team session?” I asked one of my clients. I had been hired by the manager to help the team rebuild trust after a rather messy and complicated situation left many deeply hurt.
“That things will get really emotional and end up being worse.”
“That’s a pretty normal response,” I replied, “but surfacing those emotions in a healthy way will lead to healing and transformation for the team.”
My client looked skeptical but knew that not doing anything was no longer an option as people were avoiding each other and the morale was in the tank.
Dealing with those dark emotions we go to great lengths to hide is indeed uncomfortable. But hiding them leaves us depressed, anxious and stuck (and perhaps broke, overweight and alcoholic, depending upon what you do to keep them hidden!)
The next time you find yourself hiding from a dark emotion, take a moment, breathe, and:
- Surface the emotion.
- Name it.
- Experience it fully – where do you feel it in your body?
- Accept it as a part of being human.
- Ask yourself “What’s possible from here?”
- Consider developing a mantra, like the one I developed in the image above to help you move into those dark emotions.
A big thanks to Lisa Sonora whose 30 day journal challenge led to me developing this mantra and blog.
Transforming dark emotions is at the heart of my book, How to Forgive Your Boss. Visit the website and you can download the first chapter free.
When it comes to building or rebuilding trust, there comes a point when someone needs to have the courage to go first, let down their guard and defense mechanisms and be vulnerable. Revealing what is REALLY happening for us creates the opening for trust to be built.
We often get asked “why should I go first?” Because if you don’t, your world becomes smaller and smaller and the one who suffers is you.
I’ve noticed that energized teams are the ones that make time for their learning, are open to and embrace learning, and focus on and help each other develop their strengths.
The team had just spent an incredible few days, working hard to understand each other, letting go of past misunderstandings, and setting an inspiring vision and ideal of themselves that had them jazzed about what they could accomplish. I was excited as well, but I had witnessed this energy before only to return for a follow up session and discover the progress wasn’t quite as expected.
So what happens to some teams? They get stuck in the “actuality” of daily organizational life and instead of learning from things that don’t go according to plan, they look for who or what to blame and get stuck there. This judgement (which can also include judging themselves) leads to feeling stuck at best and bad communication, morale, and illness at worst. Judging is a pretty human reaction.
Our other option is to choose learning, where we first take a moment to breathe, then accept the human condition, and bring some curiosity, compassion and humor to the situation. This doesn’t mean we accept bad behaviour or sub par performance. It just means we accept human frailty, that we all make mistakes, and bring a more open energy to learning our way forward.
I love it when I find books that capture ideas that have been swirling around for me, but that I haven’t put into some kind of order or framework. How Successful People Lead by John Maxwell is a recent find that does just that. It is an informative read, with tons of great insight and practical tips about how leaders can continue to develop. Key insights for me from Maxwell:
- He challenges people who only view themselves as positional leaders to move beyond that.
- He does a nice job of blending the age old productivity/people dilemma.
- He provides some great insight around delegation and developing your people.
- He addresses the idea of one’s legacy as a leader.
He suggests we develop our leadership through progressing through 5 stages:
- People Development
I have been doing a lot of team coaching lately and have noticed a very powerful (usually negative!) pattern, that of ghosts on the team. These are the people who have had some sort of impact on the team, whether they are part of the team or not. The team spends a lot of time talking about what this person has said or done in the past and it’s evident by the emotion that this person is still influencing the team, even though they are no longer there (or perhaps never were part of the team!) The way the team continues to talk about this person starts to have more of an impact than the actual events themselves. The way through this is unique to each team, but in general the team needs to
Notice and name it
Identify the positive and negative influences the person has had
Identify what to keep and what to let go of
Identify how the team will handle future situations so as to minimize negative impact on the team
One of the most powerful sessions at the IABC Canada West Conference was given by Kurt Kadatz, Director of Corporate Communications with the Calgary Stampede. I was especially moved by this presentation as I used to live in Calgary and return there a lot for both professional and personal reasons, AND flew over Calgary during the worst part of the flood.
Given the devastation I saw, I was truly amazed that the Stampede did in fact happen. The videos Kurt showed during his presentation documenting the clean up were moving and inspiring. Kudos to those folks who didn’t sleep for weeks to make it all happen.
The most fascinating part of Kurt’s talk was that it was the fans who started the hell or high water campaign, and how important it was to put their brand into the hands of fans. This is a great leadership lesson. How open are we as leaders to the initiatives started by others?
For more details of Kurt’s talk, check out Rob Cottingham’s sketch.
I was fascinated to learn about Dr. Raye Kass’s research about extreme teams and, in particular, her work with the Mars One mission. While I have heard lots of talk about missions to Mars, I didn’t realize that there actually is one planned for 2023. Dr. Kass is on the team who will be selecting and then training people for the mission. She provided one of the most engaging and authentic presentations I have seen in some time.
There are so many fascinating moral dilemmas in this mission, as the people who do eventually go are on a one way mission. They can never return home to earth. The top 5 psychosocial characteristics they are looking for in the people selected:
- Trust of self and others
- Creativity and resourcefulness
Well, indeed. I think I might add slightly crazy and an amazing ability to not ever freak out. Some more interesting tidbits from her research:
- Only 2% of people actually like what they do for work.
- On Russian space teams, if one member gets sick, they replace the team with a new team.
- She used appreciative inquiry in training space teams to work together.
- That in submarine culture, pinging is an extreme form of hazing whereby someone teases you about something until you get angry.
- Also in submarine culture, the long eye is giving someone extreme forms of silence to isolate them.
And more about the Mars One application process:
- 200,000 people applied
- 154 countries
- all manner of education and occupation and ages 18-80
- They will choose approximately 40 people, who will spend 4 months for 4 years in a Mars simulation
- 4 will go in 2023, followed by more people every second year when Mars is close to Earth
I am truly fascinated by this … from a distance. I am in awe of those people who will go through this process. Our next great adventurers!
I have the honour of working with many talented leaders, and I am struck by how often I say in response to angst ridden questions of what to do about something related to their people, “Why don’t you ask them?” I think the skills of analysis, innovation, risk taking, and execution lead many individual contributors to get promoted to leadership positions and those same skills need to be tamed in order to lead a team. It can be a tough transition to put those skills in the background and bring forward collaboration, reflection, empowerment, and inquiry. I have learned much about this myself this past year in that regard!
There’s nothing more demoralizing and destructive to a team than someone who says they are on board, but whose actions show otherwise. When do you stonewall and what gets you moving?