Did you know that relative to weight, the strength of a spider’s web rivals steel?
And some webs are so large, they can stretch across rivers and lakes?
These seemingly invisible silk threads are much more powerful than we give them credit for. Pause for a moment, and consider: how are the invisible strands of connection between you and your team right now? And how, as they stretch across physical distance, might you be able to increase their strength at this time?
When we run team coaching workshops at Aspire, I often use a ball of wool to make these strands visible. Teams are surprised by the visceral impact of seeing the interconnectedness be brought to life by brightly coloured threads (in Aspire pastel shades naturally).
At work, we so often have a sharp focus on each of us as individuals, and rightly so; it’s the individual’s competence and ability to deliver that we rely on. But teams are formed not only of individuals, but of the connections between them.
The ability to focus in on the connections is known as ‘relational intelligence’.
This is a crucial facet of leadership and great team-working if we want to build and be part of teams that are highly functioning, and strong as steel!
Teams are formed not only of individuals, but of the connections between them
You may be thinking; ‘I can’t change the way my team is, it is what it is! And certainly not in the current circumstances. If anything I am worried it will get worse:
What if people start to work in more siloed ways; what if they feel emotionally isolated and insular; what if team objectives and morale suffer and productivity drops off?’
External circumstances certainly affect teams, of course. But our team connections are not arbitrary, not unchangeable. We co-create them, usually unconsciously. With the right guidance, we can become architects of these relationships to counter external pressures and strains with greater intelligence, resilience and wisdom.
This is how we work with teams as Aspire; we help teams increase their relational intelligence – how they work together now – so that they can consciously choose how they want to work together in the future to face whatever circumstance.
Remember the WEB
The first thing is to remember the web. Be aware that it’s always there.
However isolated we may feel in homeworking conditions, the strands of connection are what bind the team together.
When you pull one strand of the web, the whole web moves; what you do (or don’t do) impacts the team, and in turn, you are always affected by the team. Even now, when we are physically apart. This interconnectedness might be reassuring in the current circumstances. And it also demands of us a certain accountability as members of the team.
What are we each doing to strengthen the strands of our web during this time?
Want some ideas? Here are our three top WEB tips:
Watch (my response)
Watch. Stop and watch for a bit.
What’s the atmosphere like in your team?
What are the connections like between individuals?
Now that those 5 minute side conversations in-the-kitchen-whilst-the kettle-boils are no longer possible, how are people connecting emotionally to create trust and intimacy in the team?
Watch too for your reactions to other people’s behaviours.
Under stress and pressure, we can resort to all sorts of understandable but unhelpful behaviours. We may all find ourselves exhibiting those!
Defensiveness, blaming, sulking – all very normal but maybe not constructive, placing extra strain on our relationships. A snappy email, a passive aggressive text – it might be easy to react in turn. But how we choose to respond to these behaviours is key. It can prevent escalation and potential longer term damage.
Can you watch your own reaction and choose a different response, to lessen the strain and create more connection?
You may have team rituals already. A team I’m working with at the moment has put in place a daily 10 am check in. Another team is celebrating each team member’s success every Friday afternoon.
Rituals are age-old routines that add meaning, vitality and richness to our relationships day to day. They help develop a unique and strongly defined team culture that people can connect to and find belonging in – huge motivators for us humans. It might be big or maybe small; serious or silly (a team I know writes a ridiculous poem when each team member’s birthday comes around).
What ritual might you suggest for your team?
Research has shown that appreciation builds positivity and productivity in teams.
So if we are looking to strengthen the strands of connection, can you more regularly be appreciative?
How can you offer your appreciation and admiration of one another?
You may choose to do this one to one and watch the ripple effect… or as a whole team at the end of a weekly meeting perhaps. Explicit and specific acknowledgement of our strengths and qualities builds confidence and trust in a team. Even in a small way, who can you be appreciative of today?
Martin Luther King famously said:
All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
If this pandemic is teaching us anything, it certainly is revealing our very human interdependence and the power of whole communities coming together.
Remember your WEB at this time, to further build your team’s relational strands.
And may your team move forward stronger than steel.