Five lessons for teams after Corona
and other disruptive movements.
You cannot return to the same team.
From a systemic point of view, a team or organization, even if you are self-employed, is like an entity on its own. Like a person, with its own dynamics, its own movements and, if you like, its own character and will. When something radical has happened in a team, the dynamics in the team change, regardless of the people who form the team. And that has consequences.
For example, if someone has had to work at home, was temporarily out of the game, or had to work far more then usual, or the way of working under the influence of Corona has changed drastically, then it is an illusion for the members of the team that you are still on the same team. Or can get back in the same team.
Running hard to keep up with your team “hey, where has my trusted team gone?”, is exhausting. It is much better to get back in, apply again, as it were, and make a commitment to how the team is now, after all the turbulence. And of course leaders need to understand this and give employees the opportunity to make this new commitment.
Protect the one with the smallest container.
A container is like a membrane around a team. Stretchy, elastic. If the team’s container is sufficiently flexible and strong, the most disruptive movement or event can still be digested. And more importantly: the members of the team can continue to form a whole together, talk to each other, cry, be creative and develop.
Each member of the team is also having her or his own container, which determines to what extent shocks or plot twists can be processed. A misunderstanding is to think that the strongest person or leader has the strongest container. For example, we see that someone who was very good at creating a makeable future for a team is suddenly getting into trouble in the face of the upcoming future. In times of stability, if he or she was someone with a large container, he or she may have a small container in times of corona.
If you still want to stay whole together, protect the one with the smallest container. Not by taking his or her pace. That would slow down the whole team. However, by acknowledging that he or she now, perhaps, temporarily has the smallest container. Acknowledging is one of the strongest Systemic interventions that prevent someone from being left out or excluded.
De-what? Identification is being one with something. Magnificent! Someone who is very involved in her or his work has often been identified with the work, “You touch my work, you touch on me!”. Well, for a lot of people, Corona touched your work. And if you are very identified with your work, the result is: “Work away = I away”. Where identification was once one of the main sources of team involvement, identification is suddenly becoming the Achilles heel.
The annoying thing about identification is that it is often an unconscious pattern.
So help each other to become aware of where you are identified in a now blocking way. Identified with the way of working, with the customers you love so much, with the name of the organization, with the way of co-creating decisions and you name it.
Help each other to distinguish between the “I” (including my self-esteem) and “my work” (or team or, or, or …). I háve my job, but I ám not my job. You will see how much new energy and new creativity is unleashed after such a lovingly necessary de-identification process.
Review patterns, in other words:
The illusion that everything will change automatically afterwards.
After the crisis period, something like reconstruction follows naturally. By the way, pay attention to this word: “reconstruction”*. What time does this word date from? From the period after the second world war. That was 75 years ago. It is now 2020 and not 1945 anymore. If we don’t pay attention, we unconsciously do the same pattern as after a previous overwhelming period. The world and your team only need something different than the old trusting patterns in the face of what is coming our way. And patterns are also often unconscious.
So know that if you want to change something after Corona, you will unconsciously do that in the same pattern as what made your team or organization what it is or was. It is not about whether or not that pattern is the pattern that is needed now. The point is that this pattern is best known and trusted.
The best thing to do is to look carefully and critically at the patterns before Corona and how you or your team are now picking up after Corona. Reflect on which patterns are needed now and don’t forget to say goodbye to your precious old patterns with a ritual.
Give space to ‘Nasty Selves’.
Excuse me? How so? ‘Nasty Selves’ are the nasty traits that come up when you are really in a tight spot. It is stronger than the civilized you and takes over from you. Get mad, become trashy, manipulative, withdraw inside yourself, ignore a colleague and so on. What is your favorite ‘nasty self’?
Know that ‘nasty self’ is a form of strong life energy. And life energy wants to flow. Perhaps that life energy was more blocked in Corona’s time than you were aware.
If you and your team are not just going to pick up the thread after Corona, but are going to spin a new thread, then the creativity and critical eye of every team member is needed. Give room for that. And know that nasty selves will emerge. And do you want to do a hugely liberating exercise? Then everyone in the team tells what his or her ‘nasty self’ is, how it will express itself, what it will do in the team and who will especially suffer from your nasty self!
‘Nasty selves’ help to go beyond the comfort zone and enter the space of ‘three seconds of shameless courage’.
Lots of fun!
Raná, Czech Republic
July 28, 2020
Jan Jacob Stam
*note: the Dutch word for reconstruction, ‘wederopbouw’, is an old fashioned word, suddenly used again in Dutch society after Corona