fbpx

Lessons from the Playground for the Hybrid Workplace

Lessons from the Playground for the Hybrid Workplace

Not long ago I was with my 7-year old daughter at a playground.  Also at the playground were a brother (7) and sister (6).  The kids quickly started interacting with each other, and soon they were actively playing together.  The two 7-year olds used their imagination to cook up a game that involved pretending they were in a distant kingdom fighting dragons and dodging hot lava, etc.  

The two older kids were fully engaged playing the game when after a while the younger girl said with a crestfallen look, “I don’t want to play with you guys anymore.  I’m never involved.”  When I heard these words, I felt a jolt of sadness come over me. I also had an insight related to the challenges in many Diversity & Inclusion programs.  

D&I programs work hard to ensure that diverse people are represented in the organization and included on teams.  But it’s up to the teams collectively to help each member feels truly involved; involved in the nitty-gritty challenges, involved in the moments of fun and play, and involved in the overall social fabric of the team.  

I guess that’s where the “Belonging” in DEIB comes to life. You can be on the playground, ostensibly playing the same game as the rest of the team, but if you don’t really feel “involved” then you will not have a sense of belonging.  As a result, you will feel like that 6-year old girl did: sad, disappointed, and disengaged.

Considering the story above, what can you as a team leader and team member do to make sure everyone on your team feels like they are truly involved in the team’s work?  For one thing, you can invite everyone to have a say in developing the “rules of the game” (group norms).  Next, you can check in with people and ask open questions like: “What’s it like for you to be a member of this team?” and “What aspect of being on this team keeps you from participating fully?”

In today’s hybrid workplace, it’s up to team leaders and team members alike to keep an eye on each other to make sure that no one “falls through the cracks.” Some people like to be checked on more often than others, so it’s important to inquire about the unique preferences of each individual.  Once you know another’s preferences, you can adapt your leadership/membership style to be optimally responsive to another’s needs.  

The modern workplace is demanding and stressful, but it can also be inspiring and uplifting. Are you doing your part to make sure each member of your team feels involved and included in both the ups and the downs of organizational life? 

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

You might also be interested in:

Deal Makers Interview Series: Christine Jones

Deal Makers Interview Series: Christine Jones

We interview Christine Jones, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Blue Highway Capital, a US-based investment firm growing small middle-market companies nationally, focusing on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

read more
Well-Being Matters

Well-Being Matters

Organizations often have programs to support well-being, but what does this term really mean? Is there a connection between well-being and belonging?

read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

5 + 8 =

Getting the “Golden Eggs”

Getting the “Golden Eggs”

All leaders are charged to accomplish two things:

        1) Bring out the best in their people.

        2) Get results (accomplish the mission).

The truth is that most leaders naturally focus their attention on only one of these domains at the expense of the other. Highly effective leaders are able to strike a balance between their task orientation and their relationship orientation.

Think about The Golden Goose fairy tale. The reason you have the goose is to get the golden eggs to support your family and to pursue your dreams. But if you don’t take good care of the goose and keep it happy, it will stop laying the golden eggs. So, the real moral of the story when it comes to leadership, is that members of your team are golden geese, and it’s up to you to treat them in such a way that they want to lay golden eggs for you. 

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? 

When I was a young Army officer deployed to Bosnia in the early 90s, there was a period of time before my unit started going out on missions where we were comfortably settled in our operating base with all the creature comforts.  I figured morale should be high under these circumstances but instead, soldiers were anxious and getting into trouble.  

My commander coached me to realize that high morale does not come from being comfortable, but from accomplishing challenging missions.  

Years later, popular neuroscience revealed that our brain releases dopamine (the feel-good reward chemical) each time we accomplish something rewarding. In turn, we learn to crave that feeling and want to do more of the reward-producing behavior, reinforcing the lesson I learned in Bosnia.

Similarly, I worked as a Field Supervisor for the Census.  I had twelve canvassers who walked all over the land encountering barking dogs, irate property owners with guns, heat so intense that their handheld computers would malfunction, and general exhaustion.  But these folks LOVED what they were doing and couldn’t get enough of it.  The work was challenging, and it was anything but comfortable.  At the end of each day, we celebrated their victories and shared “war stories.”  They were singularly focused on accomplishing the mission. I did everything I could to support them, help them troubleshoot challenges, overcome barriers, encourage them, and recognize them for their ingenuity and dedication to the mission. 

So, how do you bring out the best in your team while also driving results? Consider the following three areas of focus: 

Be Genuine.

If you naturally focus on tasks, do your people know that you genuinely care about them as human beings and want what’s best for them?  Or deep down inside do they feel like you are just using them for your own needs?  If they know you want the very best for them by offering them real challenges to develop their abilities, while backing it up with genuine support, they will go the extra distance to lay the golden eggs.

Challenge Those Around You.

Maybe you make the mistake that I did as a young officer, thinking that if you just make everyone comfortable, they will perform well and be happy?  In this case, remember that people need to feel challenged to feel good.  If we are not helping our employees grow and develop by coaching them to step just outside their comfort zone, then work will feel boring and they may disengage.

Be Available, Attentive, and Responsive.

Finally, when interacting with your team (or friends and family for that matter), there is an acronym which can help you prepare yourself— AAR.  This stands for Attentive, Available, and Responsive.* If you can bring your full attention to the other person, really be available and curious about what is on their mind, and then respond with compassion and skilled leadership, your team and organization will be vastly more productive, engaged, and satisfied.

*Dr. Rick Hanson, psychologist

Elias Ursitti is a leadership development facilitator and credentialed leadership coach. His professional mission is to help leaders raise their level of consciousness in order to take skilled, wise, and compassionate action. Elias utilizes an adaptive coaching approach in order to best serve leaders and their teams in a range of challenging contexts.

You might also be interested in:

Deal Makers Interview Series: Christine Jones

Deal Makers Interview Series: Christine Jones

We interview Christine Jones, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Blue Highway Capital, a US-based investment firm growing small middle-market companies nationally, focusing on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

read more
Well-Being Matters

Well-Being Matters

Organizations often have programs to support well-being, but what does this term really mean? Is there a connection between well-being and belonging?

read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

1 + 9 =

The Dirty Little Secret of Change

The Dirty Little Secret of Change

Large organizations by definition require a certain level of bureaucracy with the intent of generating consistency and predictability for employees and outcomes alike. As an executive coach working with leaders in federal organizations, I have noticed that federal leaders often face challenges specific to the public sector. One of these challenges being how to implement positive change in traditional “command and control” style bureaucracies.

Federal bureaucracies have very prescribed systems for managing people. They also often have unusually burdensome regulatory structures, and heavy regulatory structures often result in a “zero-defect” mentality. What is the result? Leaders have little incentive to – and are afraid to – innovate and try new things. Worse than that, the fear leaders feel permeates down to their teams and stifles creativity. Also, leaders often end up micromanaging several levels down in order to avoid having to answer tough questions from their superiors up the chain.

For example, a leader that I work with in the federal sector tried to empower his team by adopting a coach approach. He asked more questions of his team members in an attempt to get them to take additional responsibility and develop their problem-solving skills. When he attempted to implement this new leadership style, he began to detect strong feelings of discomfort as his direct reports pushed back on this non-standard approach. Even his bosses began asking him questions indicating their skepticism of his leadership style. As a result of the discomfort and the pressure from above, he abandoned the new approach before it ever had a chance to succeed.

What can leaders do to effect positive cultural change in these types of organizations? First, they can start by facing their own vulnerability with open eyes. Researcher Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, defines vulnerability as showing up and taking action even when we can’t control or predict the outcome. Vulnerability is exactly what leaders in the federal sector need to learn. By definition, there is no innovation, creativity, or positive cultural  change possible without the willingness of leaders to be vulnerable.

In the example described above, the leader needed to make himself vulnerable long enough to see positive results. Like this leader, most of us are unwilling to try new things when the outcomes are uncertain and we face resistance. Yet, the dirty little secret of change means that any leader will have to lean into vulnerability, discomfort, and personal development to generate real change.

The next step in shifting cultures in hierarchical organizations is to recognize that we are going to have to tolerate the feeling of discomfort. If we know that the discomfort is coming, we can be ready for it.

We can also communicate, to our teams and to our bosses, our intention to try something new in order to get buy-in. We can set the expectation that there will be discomfort and normalize the discomfort ahead of time. In that way, we have a chance of generating curiosity and reducing resistance.  

A final key to creating change in a system is to realize change must happen on the personal level first. Growing innovation and achieving new outcomes cannot occur if leaders are not also doing their own personal development work. Leaders have to become aware of and attend to their own subconscious coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms, while developed keep us comfortable, tend to in fact keep us stuck in old mindsets and behaviors.

We encourage leaders to explore and uncover the beliefs behind their coping mechanisms. We also work hand in hand to begin the process of replacing these self limiting beliefs with a mindset that supports success through change. We work to move leaders, and thus their organizations, from seeing change as a threat to embracing the constancy of change and opportunities it brings. Once leaders evolve their mindset through greater self-awareness, they are in a position to withstand the discomfort of trying out new actions and behaviors and achieving more impactful organizational outcomes. 

Elias Ursitti is a leadership development facilitator and credentialed leadership coach.  His professional mission is to help leaders raise their level of consciousness in order to take skilled, wise, and compassionate action. Elias utilizes an adaptive coaching approach in order to best serve leaders and their teams in a range of challenging contexts.

You may also be interested in:

Well-Being Matters

Well-Being Matters

Organizations often have programs to support well-being, but what does this term really mean? Is there a connection between well-being and belonging?

read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

8 + 11 =

What is the “Essential” Contribution of Adaptive Leaders?

What is the “Essential” Contribution of Adaptive Leaders?

What has your journey been like over the past few months? Have you and your organization adapted to the current realities or are you still reeling and in shock? Collectively, we are facing an unprecedented adaptive challenge.

 

What’s an adaptive challenge?

In our current world, leaders must distinguish between technical problems and adaptive challenges (Heifetz, 2009).  Technical problems have technical solutions that can be applied using existing know-how and management best-practices (linear thinking). Adaptive challenges do not have known or obvious solutions. Instead, they require interdisciplinary dialogue to support the emergence of an adaptive approach (non-linear thinking). Most complex challenges have both a technical component and an adaptive one. But simply trying to apply a technical solution alone to an adaptive challenge will result in failure and frustration.

How does it affect your organization?

The current global crisis is reinforcing how difficult it is for organizations and people to pivot quickly and illuminating weaknesses that have been existing within organizations unresolved. Adaptive challenges feel very scary and threatening—they provoke deep fear and anxiety in us. When we feel deep fear and anxiety, we resort to dysfunctional behaviors (such as addictions, distractions, and busyness) to cope with these uncomfortable emotions or numb-out the pain. And in our work and personal relationships we can come across as aggressive, passive, or withdrawn.

Our ability to think creatively and act wisely is greatly diminished when we experience a prolonged threat response.  In such scenarios, we just do what it takes to survive from hour to hour, or even minute to minute. This approach works to a limited extent to help us feel safe in the near-term, but will ultimately keep us stuck in the long-term.

What is your responsibility as a leader?

In order to think clearly and act skillfully, we need to effectively manage our fear and anxiety. This is where true leadership is fundamental to overcoming these behaviors. The essential role of leadership is to support people to regulate their fear and anxiety. In order to do this, the leader must first have the capacity to self-regulate.

Adaptive leadership means dealing with the uncomfortable emotions of self and others in a productive way. Failing to address and respond effectively to fear and anxiety will undermine change efforts and sabotage attempts to successfully adapt to a chaotic business environment and world.

If a leader is not mature enough to regulate their own inner landscape, they will not be able to support others to do so. As a result, such a leader will not be capable of handling the complexity with which they are confronted. To develop the capacity to self-regulate fear and anxiety, leaders can use practices such as meditation and mindfulness at work. The most effective self-regulation practices involve an embodied experience of presence and awake-awareness.

However, due to blind spots, genetic programming, and powerful psychosomatic conditioning, it is nearly impossible to do this work alone. This work is often referred to as emotional intelligence development. Finding the trusted advisor or voice of reason with whom to bounce ideas will be critical to finding the correct path forward.  Whether it be a co-worker, business partner or outside advisor, finding someone to support the regulation of fear and anxiety will lead to creative thinking, skillful action, and adaptive approaches to tackle the extraordinary challenges at hand.

Reference:
Heifetz, Ronald A., Marty Linsky, and Alexander Grashow. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. Harvard Business Press, 2009.

Elias Ursitti is a leadership development facilitator and credentialed leadership coach.  His professional mission is to help leaders raise their level of consciousness in order to take skilled, wise, and compassionate action. Elias utilizes an adaptive coaching approach in order to best serve leaders and their teams in a range of challenging contexts.

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

 

You may also be interested in:

Well-Being Matters

Well-Being Matters

Organizations often have programs to support well-being, but what does this term really mean? Is there a connection between well-being and belonging?

read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

15 + 7 =