Archives For Team Dynamics

Liminal (definition): of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition.

A friend of mine who works with people systems in the corporate world made a keen observation about the United States the other day. We were talking about how divisive and angry public discourse has become among U.S. citizens in the last few years, and she said, “It’s understandable. The whole country is demonstrating the qualities of what we call a ‘chronically anxious system.’ Everybody’s nerves are on end. We’re all exhausted from being on ‘high alert’ for dangers and threats for a long time now. But we don’t yet feel safe enough to stop and take a collective breath. So we just keep spinning ourselves up over every new threat that pops up on the newsfeed.”

That pretty much nails it, doesn’t it? When I hear this, I immediately notice feeling a surge of compassion for all of us, even those I struggle to understand. I know what’s it’s like to feel anxious and not know how to stop feeling that way. It’s exhausting. No matter where you fall on the political or religious spectrum, we’re all feeling chronically anxious about things right now. It’s a point of common human connection we can all relate to.

So how did we get here? Where has all this nationwide anxiety come from?

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“Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” ~ Rick Warren

Not too many days from now, billions of people around the world will gather with their families to celebrate the holidays. Even in the most ordinary of years, these gatherings can be stressful. In most families, not every member sees the world in the same way. Not everyone agrees on what’s to be done about the common challenges we face. Not everyone likes the leaders we’ve had or have now, or the decisions they’ve made, or plan to make.

In a year like the one we’ve just experienced, these tensions of difference are running particularly high for just about all of us. You’ve probably already wondered just how volatile things might get around the holiday table this year. Even in the calmest of families, the likelihood that somebody will say something that sets somebody else off are considerably higher than they may have been in previous years.

If this past election cycle has shown us anything, it’s that we need a better way of talking with each other. Attacking, judging, shaming, yelling, condescending, hating, breaking off relationship…these approaches may feel justified in the moment, but they’re very unlikely to produce any sort of lasting solution that honors us all.

Thankfully, there is an alternative approach. It’s called “Civil Conversation,” and it’s a skilled way of talking and listening that every one of us needs to learn for the sake of the common challenges we share and must find a way to resolve together.

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“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” ~ Mother Teresa

I want to talk with you for a minute about the United States as a Relationship System.

When I say “Relationship System,” I mean something that’s in some ways quite similar to the nervous system in your body. For example, imagine you’re running a marathon. You’re determined to beat a certain time you’ve set in your head, and you’ve been training your body for months to achieve that goal. But on the day of the race, at about mile 14, your right heel begins to scream in pain. Now nothing else in your body is hurting, at least not yet. The vast majority of your body is signaling All Systems Go, except for this annoying heel, which is screaming at you that something isn’t right. So what do you do? How do you respond to that signal in your heel?

This is similar to how a Relationship System works. A Relationship System is a web of people who are linked together via a network of relationships. Such a system can be as small as two individuals (such a married couple) or as large as the entire population of the world. At whatever level you parse it out, however, every relationship system tends to function a bit like a living organism, like the body of the athlete running the marathon. No one part of the system has a complete picture of the Current Reality. Rather, each part of the system provides vital (but partial) information back to the whole, and the “whole” must collectively decide how to proceed based on that information.

Right now in our nation, we’ve all begun to recognize that there’s been a significant breakdown in this information loop within our National Relationship System. A large segment of the nation perceives the current reality in our country in a radically different way from another large segment of the nation. We’re all looking at the same picture, but perceiving very different realities. It’s like we’re the marathon runner, but the signal pathways between the major parts of our body have been cut off. Part of us is feeling one way, another part is feeling very differently. But the connection between the two has been severed, so neither part understands what the other part is experiencing. Thus the whole body suffers.

Now, I have some very good news about all this. In Relationship Systems Theory, which is a big part of the work I do every day, there is a simple solution to this system-wide breakdown. It’s so simple, in fact, it almost sounds too simplistic to be true. But my experience, and more importantly loads of research, have demonstrated that it works, time and again.

What is the solution?

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“Do what you do so well, that when people see what it is you do, they want to see you do what you do again, and will bring others to show them what it is you do.” ~ Walt Disney

When it comes to actually producing results, no team is perfect. Every team is a mix of weaknesses and strengths. One team excels at getting lots of stuff done quickly, another produces less but with greater excellence. Even teams that seem good at both have room to grow.

If you’re looking to raise the level of performance on your team, try implementing one or more of these 7 tips:

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I’m really excited to welcome my friend and coaching colleague Deb Siverson to the blog this week. Deb is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. She’s also the author of The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach. Welcome, Deb!

It’s easy to know intuitively if you trust someone or not, but what behaviors lead to that decision? If trust is so commonly described as a quality that must be earned what happens between the time of introduction and the mystical moment when a person proves their mettle?

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I just got back from spending a week in St. Paul doing some coach training with a terrific group of PhD candidates at Bethel Seminary. My co-leader Eric Bryant and I had an amazing time helping each of these world changers dig deep into their own unique God-given design ~ giftings, passions, skills, values, strengths, and more ~ with a view to uncovering how each could best leverage himself to advance the Kingdom. Amazing, right?! I love this work.

Through our many discussions over the course of the week, I was reminded again how indispensable it is for leaders to develop proficiency in both the HEAD and HEART skills of leadership. Being competent in just one of these is not enough.

What’s the difference between Head and Heart skills? In broad strokes, I mean…

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“He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.” ~ Lao Tzu

If you’re a leader, I don’t have to tell you that when it comes to leading a team, trust matters…a lot. As Samuel Chand, author of Cracking Your Church’s Culture, has said, “The most powerful features of an organizational culture are trust and respect. With them, almost any problem can be resolved, or at least people learn valuable lessons from difficult experiences, and in the process even learn to trust each other more. But without trust and respect, even the smallest molehill morphs into an Everest.”

So as a leader, how do you build trust on your team? Here are 10 ways I recommend:

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