Notice Your Resilience to Expand Well-Being

February 26, 2018

The good life is a process, not a state of being.
It is a direction, not a destination.
Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person

Give yourself one of the best gifts available – expand your resilience. Your well-being will benefit from the upgrade. Sustainable behavior change is a lifestyle change, not a whim. As you expand your resilience, your overall well-being will improve remarkably.

Noticing and managing our resilience calls for us to develop and regularly use the skill of mindfulness. Some might say that mindfulness and well-being are synonymous. Mindfulness contains the intention of the definition in the very word. While there are many more elaborate definitions, the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California captures it well:

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Scientist and leading scholar in the field of positive psychology, Barbara Fredrickson reports that in their entire research program in resilience they found that the key active ingredient supporting those with higher resilience is positivity, which includes openness and a better ability to keep things in perspective and see the bigger picture. The concepts of resilience and mindfulness intertwine and support one another. When we apply the two our well-being improves.

A frequent challenge raised by our coaching clients relates to managing their resilience. They may talk about putting up with one challenge after another as a new program is being unveiled until they finally lose their composure. Or the challenge may be significant personal issues that are taking so much of their energy and drawing upon their flexibility dramatically that when one more thing happens – at work, at home or anywhere they become unusually inflexible, angry or just walk away leaving things unresolved.

Stephan (not his real name) is a good example. Most of the time, things are fine; he can manage work and personal demands. He has a good education, a reliable job with mid-management responsibilities, and a loving family. Just like happens to most of us, each of these good parts have challenges. His parents are in their 80’s and require a lot of attention. Recently his dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his mom has arthritis to the point she can’t take care of him. His teenage children need a great deal of time. It’s hard, yet he keeps telling himself that in a few years it’ll be easier. For now, Stephan is committed to giving his all to helping his parents, his kids, serving at his church and then there’s his job. His position has a lot of stress with it and most weeks require 45 to 50 hours of work plus his commute. Usually he juggles everything well enough. Then his boss informed him that the big report he and his team have worked on for two months is needed in two days instead of the two weeks they were supposed to have to complete it well. Stephan hit the roof. He yelled at his boss, refused to meet the deadline. Told his staff to just quit and take the rest of the day off. It wasn’t a pretty picture. That was a few weeks ago. Coaching is helping Stephan work through the aftermath of his outburst, as well as what brought him to it. Our focus includes understanding his challenges and building ways to stay in touch with his resilience to guide his behavior.

Strategies for Expanding Resilience

You, just like Stephan, can choose from several strategies to expand and maintain your resilience. Six of the sixteen EQi skills particularly support resilience strength. Act now to support your health and well-being by following a resilience enhancing strategy such as:

  • Meditation.
  • Recognizing that you are a part of something purposeful that’s bigger than you.
  • Expanding your happiness through gratitude or embracing and valuing your connections with others.
  • Building your optimism by expecting what works to keep on happening and get even larger.
  • Embracing your Bigger Yes – by living priorities that call for time with loved ones, time to exercise, time for you – all which expand your stress tolerance capacity.
  • Perceiving yourself with healthy self-regard by being able to view your strengths. challenges, and neutral zones and feel good about who you are.
  • Exercising your emotional self-awareness by noticing your emotions, recognizing how you feel and why and managing your responses. Throughout the day seek to call forth positive emotions.

Resilience is the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, or adversity; it’s a form of buoyancy. Fortunately, your resilience can be expanded – it’s a personal skill that may have some components of genetic predisposition but can be influenced and grown as one of your most reliable assets. However, it does require continuous upkeep. Growing the skill requires awareness and practice. Your journey is one of developing new habits that may not only change your social and psychological take on life but may well improve your health as well.

Six Emotional Intelligence Skills

There is a strong connection between the strength of your resilience and 6 of the 16 skills measured by the EQi 2.0: stress tolerance, emotional self-awareness, self-regard, optimism, happiness and flexibility.

These EI skills are ones that are more self-oriented rather than other-oriented because resilience is an internal state. You’ve probably heard that you need to take care of yourself before you have the strength and resilience to take care of others well. The metaphor most call to mind readily is when oxygen is needed on an airplane you need to put your own oxygen mask on before you start helping others. You know why – you’ll black out quickly and be a problem rather than a help if you don’t start with your mask. Life is that way as well. Though it may be easier for some to focus on the tasks, including attending to everyone else’s needs, you will be better in all ways if you start with you first – and then remember to keep prioritizing your needs!

Barbara Fredrickson’s Research

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Love 2.0 and Positivity, which we highly recommend, provides copious research on the beneficial effect of resilience and the field of positivity. Fredrickson speaks about changing people’s daily diets of positivity with the goal being to change what we notice and to influence the practice of our habitual positive and negative emotions. One effective strategy she emphasizes is loving kindness meditation. What’s different about Barbara’s work is that it primarily occurs in the laboratory – her laboratory and her joint work with many other leading scientists. The blessing of her research is she is documenting what so many coaches, trainers and others have believed to be true.

Research results by Barbara and her colleagues are documenting that there are improvements on cognitive, social, psychological and physical resources for people who use positivity and resilience enhancing practices. Whether you practice meditation or other resilience enhancing strategies, we encourage you to choose a practice or two from the list provided above or another resource you have and take good care of yourself.

 

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Untangling Team Talent

September 12, 2017

Participate in our webinar Sep. 27, 2-3 pm ET. Register NOW!!

The biggest challenge to effective teamwork is the failure to listen and understand how to ACT together!

In our highly competitive culture teamwork is often impacted negatively by the individual members’ efforts to ensure they receive recognition and compensation for their personal creativity. While this is certainly valid and important, leaders are often baffled on how to integrate this individual goal into the team culture and communications and still improve the quality of teamwork. There are many commonalities that support leaders in successfully diagnosing where the individual needs of the members (talent) get tangled up with the collective productivity of the team.

Gaining the benefit of top level individual and team performance is possible when the organization, departments and team leaders work together to maximize talent at all levels.

Organizations, need to acknowledge the challenge and opportunity, provide support to leaders and teams to gain the skills to perform in all their capacities and express gratitude regularly!

At the Department and Team Leader levels, best practices call for gathering and using data, holding team based candid discussions in a safe and collaborative manner. Use a team model that gathers data based on “we” questions to access team performance. Most analysis of teams is misleading as it’s based on individual factors, not team strengths and opportunities. Thus, a compilation of individual results from personality assessments such as MBTI, Emergenetics, Change Style Indicator or the many others will further the challenge of focusing on individuals and not teams. This is good an valuable data, it just should NOT be the only data considered. It is vital to look at the team as a distinct entity! When the team is recognized, intentionally responded to and lead, the team is given much more opportunity to flourish and productivity is enhanced!

The TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) identifies the 7 core competencies teams need to function well. Action steps to untangle team talent begins with each team taking the TESI and receiving their own report. Then pull the data together to view trends across the organization. With this information action plans can be created for each team and at the organizational level.

Talent can be untangled by working with each of the team competencies as well as the team and individual performance.

Team Identity is based on how well the team demonstrates belongingness, a desire to work together, and a sense of clarity around the role of each member. Teams tangle when roles and responsibilities aren’t sufficiently clarified. Take a look – is there a good balance in roles that is designed to bring out all team members talents? Does everyone understand the division of responsibilities?

Emotional Awareness considers the amount of attention the team pays to noticing, understanding, and respecting feelings of team members. Teams tangle when team cohesion is undervalued and there isn’t time for enhancing interpersonal relationships. A central theme in building successful teams is that sufficient time and resources are spent so the team feels recognized, valued and that the organization is aware of them. This is followed by an organizational expectation, that is welcomed by team members, that they are expected to pay attention to one another and be responsive.

Communication provides feedback on how well team members listen, encourage participation, and discuss sensitive matters. Teams tangle when communication is focused between individuals and there is competition for the data. When the focus is just on individuals, team potential is diminished – collaborative intelligence has trouble showing up!

Stress Tolerance gives the team a reflection of how well it’s doing in managing the pressures of workload, time constraints, and the real needs for work-life balance. Teams tangle when skills are developed without equality and balance. Are some people on the team seen as hot shots who get the plum assignments? The cost will come out in many ways – discord from those left out, maybe too much pressure on the high performers and missed opportunities of developing more skills in those who are getting less attention.

Conflict Resolution addresses how constructively the team conducts the process of disagreement and whether the team is able to deal with adversity to enhance its functioning, rather than being deflated by the conflict. Teams tangle when competition is encouraged and collaboration isn’t. Teams tangle when conflict resolutions skills aren’t practiced with intention and courage!

Positive Mood highlights the level of encouragement, sense of humor, and how successful the team expects to be; is a major support for a team’s flexibility and resilience. Teams tangle when fearful attitudes prevail instead of “can-do” attitudes.

Lead your teams to success by using your resources and skills to maximize individual and team contribution!


Team Leaders Motivate Your Teams!

July 25, 2017

Leading emotionally intelligent teams is a tough job. Developing your skill is worth it as teams strong in EI are productive, creative and loyal to their organization. Building team motivation is a key strategy for success so team leaders maximize their own success by implementing the 7 motivation actions.

Before you implement any of these steps, think about someone who did a great job leading a team you were on. How did he/she motivate you? How did he/she engage and follow through? Now with a good example in mind ask:

  1. What are the characteristics of the team members on the team I’m leading? Know your team members individually.

Get to know your team members individually and help them know each other through a personality assessment such as Change Style Indicator or the Influence Style Indicator. You’ll be amazed at how much good data supports understanding team members’ preferences. With this information, you can strategically target your requests to gain the best buy in.

  1. What’s my team good at? What are their challenges?

Understand your team strengths and weaknesses with the TESI®. The Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®, is a team 360 reporting on how team members access their functioning in seven core areas of team engagement. These measurable results help teams focus on how to tap into their skills and improve areas of weakness. You and your team can measure success through the pre-post assessment.

  1. What rings their bells – what dampens their spirits?

Pay attention to the feedback you receive on a regular basis and repeat what works. Utilize your data on individual and team strengths in order to further positive engagement.

  1. How will the team break out of old patterns to awaken creativity and boost spirits?

Creativity is an energizer. Even though some team members may moan about change, when you lead them in purposeful change and have a defined approach and outcomes it will help build new energy and clear out old ways of doing things that aren’t necessary anymore.

  1. What’s your team attitude?

Discuss the power of attitude with your team. Ask team members to explore current attitudes and then set intentions for the attitude they will express in the future. Be specific about who does what so you can notice and affirm positive actions as engagement improves.

  1. What inspires your team members and the team as a whole?

What about giving some time to a worthwhile community project? You and the team could spend an hour at a soup kitchen or a day helping build a house. There are many ways to contribute. Challenge the team to consider options and find a suitable project. After contributing your time get together and debrief. Talk about how it felt, what you learned about your community and what it means to volunteer as a team.

  1. Determine how well your team that functions with emotional and social well-being

The Collaborative Growth team model measures the seven specific skills seen in the outer ring. Your team can take the TESI, consider their skills and opportunities, and engage in intentional growth. The model shows that as teams are deliberately enhancing their skills they develop the benefits shown in the middle circle, such as trust, and then progress to being a team that enjoys emotional and social well-being. This is a highly productive and engaged state which leads to sustainable good results. However, be sure to pay attention to maintaining those skills. High performance requires constant attention.


Unpacking Team Identity

February 15, 2016

box-unpack

As part of the launch of the Expanded TESI 2.0, every month we will look at a new team competency and where the challenges lie in developing it. We begin this month with Team Identity!

In some ways Team Identity is the most fundamental competency of teamwork because this skill set incorporates the desire of the members to include each other and work together as a team. Many of the teams in existence today were assembled by others and told to work as a team but by itself that will never accomplish the goal – especially in national and organizational cultures where competition is so highly rewarded. If members are not compensated as a team in some fashion (bonuses, etc.) the disincentives for collaboration will be hard to overcome, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be. This is a good thing, because in the U.S. it is the exception rather than the rule to see employees compensated for the productivity of their teamwork.

Being assigned to a team does create a real degree of interdependency, and this is the glue that holds it all together. If your boss or your bosses boss expects you and several others to get something done together, that expectation can hardly be dismissed or discounted. Unfortunately it’s not enough incentive to cause people to make the kinds of adjustment in their behavior that genuine teamwork requires. There is a constant tension between my need to be recognized as an individual and my need to belong and be recognized as a productive contributor. Let’s consider some of the targets we need to be moving toward.

Effective Communication (another of the seven TESI competencies) is the critical, bare minimum requirement for any team to be productive. This means all information needs to be shared freely and equally among all members and this is not so likely to happen on its own. Everyone enjoys some degree of special recognition when they figure out how to solve a tricky problem. One reason that it’s still a problem is because no one else has figured it out so far. The shift that needs to occur here is in the recognition that the team can provide sufficient praise and recognition to fully reinforce the members’ achievements – if it knows how, and makes the effort every time. (In other words everyone’s achievements must be recognized not just the most assertive or the most drama prone members.)

The way to recognize individual’s contributions includes making sure that all team members are present at that meeting when the recognition happens, then ask the problem solver to tell their story– when did they first recognize the problem, what alerted them, what steps had to occur in what order to move from the problem to the solution. Teaching the team to tell these kinds of stories can provide some of the best instruction through experiential learning that the team is likely to receive, so get the full value by taking your time. Ask questions. Teach team members to recognize and describe the significant details. This helps to explicate their internal problem solving process and makes it a much more conscious, obvious one that everyone (even the problem solver) can observe more objectively and reflect upon. The trust that is demonstrated when someone openly shares their strategy for problem solving with everyone empowers the team as a whole, and builds each person’s identity with the whole group through sharing and appreciating even a small success.

Trust is such a huge part of effective teamwork that every team can benefit from regular practice in developing it! Trust grows as a result of people keeping their word to each other, but you don’t want to wait to develop this team skill until there is a pressing need for it – that doesn’t work! Applying the emotional intelligence skill of empathy is one of the fastest ways to build trust. Use a lot of reflective language in your team meetings like, “I think you’re feeling pretty frustrated because you can’t get a quorum together to approve this change to the project you’re running.”

The meta-message behind this kind of communication behavior is – “I notice you and I’m paying attention to the challenges you face and how you feel about them.” Just paying this kind of attention to each other on a regular basis helps people feel included and lets them know it’s safe to share what’s important to them at a more personal level. Without this, Team Identity cannot grow strong enough to support the team in dealing with the even trickier issues that come into play when serious disagreement and conflict occur. We’ll look at it all as we cover the seven competencies and the cool new features of the Expanded TESI 2.0

Next month we will be discussing Motivation and how the presence or absence of that energy is influencing all the team’s members all the time.


Why Teamwork Gets So Tricky

May 28, 2015

people_puzzle

After more than 20 years of investigation and practical application at Collaborative Growth, the results are in:

Developing leaders is comparatively easy. Developing teams…well that’s a different story – and here’s why. Any individual who is interested in becoming a more effective communicator (and this is the most fundamental and far-reaching skill of leadership) can practice the known skills that will make him or her easier to understand. Leaders can become more persuasive, and if they sincerely want to work on increasing their authenticity, they can genuinely become more trustworthy. It is simply a matter of exercising their own initiative. Their only real obstacles are internal –their occasional lack of willpower, the strength of their bad habits, their inability to focus their attention or muster sufficient energy. And if they don’t develop quite as rapidly as they wanted to their sincerity is not called into question and there is no embarrassment if their plans were private goals.

Developing teams also requires the development of effective communication skills, however this time for a group of individuals all at the same time. This is definitely a much more difficult and public undertaking. At the very least everybody on the team knows that change is afoot, some kind of progress is expected, and this progress is going to disrupt the way power is currently balanced and what – engaged, coordinated, distributed, practiced, implemented, effectuated? All of these words come close but none exactly capture the idea, so perhaps we could say developing team effectiveness disrupts the way in which members communicate their power within the team. This usage is a little unusual but perhaps it captures the situation a bit more crisply.

In these days of “do more with less” there are very few teams that are overstaffed. For everyone who has a spot on the team there usually is some specific expectation that they need to meet in order for the team to reach its goals. If someone isn’t happy with the way things are going (or if they don’t really know how to or want to do the role which they have been assigned) they can innocently make it look like someone else is to blame. We call this disassembling.

Primates learn to deceive at a very early age. Attentive parents can tell when their child’s crying is a sincere expression of pain or a more general bid for attention. Attentive team leaders may not be quite so skillful at detecting what is going on between team members, and even when they do detect some potential disassembling they may not feel all that capable or inclined to tackle the conflict that will result when they attempt to let the responsible parties know that their behavior has been noticed. Most likely accountability has not been defined specifically enough to provide for effective evaluation.

But like the developing leader, each team member can also suffer from a lack of willpower, bad habits, a lack of energy and/or the inability to focus their attention as well as they want. Even though some amount of this is normal and to be expected, for it to be noticed publicly is embarrassing, and embarrassment is just the surface expression of our deep instinct to avoid rejection. Primates do not like to feel excluded! Can you begin to see why developing emotionally effective teamwork is such a challenge compared to developing leaders?

At Collaborative Growth we use a scientifically validated assessment called The Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey, or TESI to help teams be able to pinpoint where the real problems are. Then using our team communication training skills, developed over more than 20 years with all kinds of teams from the private and public sectors, we help the teams and their members and their leader get real! Once people understand the general ways in which people are wired to communicate and cooperate and compete this is not a particularly confrontational process. People enjoy discovering the effectiveness of the communication patterns that we teach, in part because these skills are every bit as effective at home as at the office.

Utilizing a basic understanding of this information we can help team members deconstruct the triggers that activate those self-protective reactions which so often turn disingenuous, or manipulative, or outright intimidating. We coach all the team members on how to use specific communication language to acknowledge and transform the many kinds of conflict that have often been swept under the rug for a very long time, and because everyone is learning and practicing it at the same time the team itself begins to grow and self-organize holistically.

As the team members learn how to use these language patterns to communicate their authentic hopes and fears they begin to express their displeasure about what isn’t working more openly, however now in nonjudgmental language. They know how and why to constructively reinforce the things they feel optimistic about. This begins to transform the tension into motivation. With continued practice teams find optimal ways to co-create and co-operate on their projects together, and they begin to evolve a collaborative intelligence that is intuitive in place of what was previously a closed and self-protective group think.

The team you are on could do its important work even more effectively if there was less conflict and politics and more communication! The TESI provides guidance on how to get there.


Avoid Emotional Intelligence Pitfalls at Work

October 31, 2014

pitfall_guyFrequently encountered emotional intelligence (EI) pitfalls that limit relationships and productivity at work are numerous. Ordering people to just “get it done” could well be the top pitfall of all. Do you agree? Several pitfalls and better EI Options are listed below. Listen to our recent webinar on these pitfalls and then let us know your thoughts and additional pitfalls you see on our blog

Pitfall: Just tell your direct reports or others to do something.

Better EI Option: Use your EI skills in empathy and assertiveness to influence others to want to engage in your project.

Pitfalls sabotage your success. When you just tell people to do something and you don’t take a few minutes to acknowledge them, build buy-in and guide understanding, you often invite opposition and resistance. Ironically you might have been so directive because you felt you didn’t have time for more engagement, yet the resistance will cost you more time in the long run.
Pitfall: Order your direct reports or others to be happy and engaged.

Better EI Option: Create a culture that builds skills in optimism, self-regard and emotional expression and thus supports staff agility and buy in. These and other EI skills are central to building an engaged culture with a “can-do” attitude. Your leadership has a lot to do with the responses you get. If you want happy and engaged direct reports, use positive language that supports optimism. For example, express the belief that together all of you will meet the big challenge, you just don’t know how yet. That wonderful word “yet” establishes the presupposition of success, and that helps create the outcome you’re looking for.
Pitfall: Ignore the impact of reassigning employees who have become friends and are working effectively as team members.

Better EI Option: Respond to and acknowledge relationships, notice how they support or weaken team work. When you need to make new assignments, help people process and accept the change.

Pitfall: Insist that emotions be left at the door when it’s time to solve problems.

Better EI Option: Use all your smarts in solving problems; that is both your IQ and your EQ. As we described in an earlier article, people can’t think without using their emotions. So the question becomes whether you and your team want to be aware of your emotional responses, including your intuitive awareness, and factor in all your data when resolving the problem. We suspect people seek to avoid their emotions when they are afraid they don’t have the skills to manage the emotions successfully. However, this strategy frequently backfires as the emotions will leak out in some poorly managed format. It’s better to get training and coaching and be fully in charge of your responses.

Pitfall: Blast your stress on all in your path.

Better EI Option: Learn strategies to regain your equilibrium when your buttons are pushed, then talk to others. You can breathe, use stair therapy, count to 10, any number of strategies work. Just give yourself time to avoid the adverse consequences of getting all tied up in knots! The key point is get more oxygen to your brain and give yourself a few minutes before you respond. Stair therapy is one of our favorites. When you feel triggered, tired or cranky go climb a set of stairs then come back to your office or to the situation and respond. Your renewed resilience will invite more welcome responses.


Communicating Around the Team Table

January 6, 2014

team_hugAsk any team what they need to improve most and they are like to say “Communications!”  And they are right.  Any team that communicates well has the foundational tools to respond well to stress, conflict, changes and to have a positive mood.  So there’s a lot in it for you as a team leader or team member to improve team communications.  Fortunately, this can be done. Remember all those phrases like an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or a stitch in time saves nine.  Apply this tested savvy to teams and you know it’s time to improve how you speak and listen to one another.  This is one of the seven competencies in the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey® (TESI®), described in our book The Emotionally Intelligent Team. But if communication is so important why is it often such a failure?  Frankly, it’s not a complex answer.  The skills needed have not been taught, fostered and insisted upon; mediocrity is too often accepted.  Let’s start with noting the key parts to good communication.

Communication is what team members do to connect with others so that they can understand the collection of goals that are being pursued and how well each team member is proceeding in the attempt to satisfy his/her needs.  Communication consists of the following ingredients as identified in The Emotionally Intelligent Team:
•    Sender:  the person who transmits the information
•    Receiver:  the person to whom the information is transmitted
•    Message:  the information transmitted
•    Meaning:  the intent of the message
•    Feeling:  adds depth to the message
•    Technique:  how the message is communicated

Communication is how people interact with each other so they can satisfy their needs and desires to make life better.  To communicate, one person (the sender) must transmit information to someone else (the receiver).  This message can go to the whole team or to one person, but there has to be an effective exchange of a message or there is no communication.  For example, if a team member speaks about an issue, and another team member later believes he or she never heard of the topic, communication did not occur.

For effective communication to occur, the sender’s meaning must also be clearly understood by the receiver.  Meaning is conveyed by both verbal and nonverbal communication.  If the sender’s words are encouraging but he or she is looking down when speaking, the message and meaning are mixed.  Nonverbal communication is likely to convey more of the truth, so it is important that the sender’s verbal and nonverbal messages are congruent in order for the meaning to be accurately understood.

All communication has meaning, from the trivial – “Please post a notice of our meeting” – to that of huge consequence – “The building is on fire!”  The feeling component adds even more depth to the meaning.

Finally, technique is critical for effective communication.  Without the awareness and implementation of effective techniques, the message, meaning, and feeling in the communication is lost.  The following exercises will help build team communication.  We have provided many tips and exercises for working with team communications in our Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Facilitator’s Guide – TESI® Short.  Strengthening communication requires paying attention to the learning styles and preferences of the intended recipients and presenting the information accordingly.  It requires patience which leads to slowing down enough to check in and see if you are understood.  Most of all effective communication is highly rewarding, even if you slow down you get things done faster because when the sender and receiver are communicating the results are sustainable.