May 8, 2020
Introduction: Covid-19 struck like a
thunderbolt and has thrown the world upside down. Many are still
reeling as we grapple to right side for a new order. All of us have
been forced to wake to a new reality, to pause and immediately
assume a virtual reality for most of the population. Teams have
been beset too. Episode Two is an invitation to look at how we
allow for emotional expression and how we use emotions
intentionally in our conversations. The worldwide experiment in
distributed work has put into question many of our old rituals and
practices as work. How can we use the pause to reassess?
Podcast episode summary: To answer these and
several more questions I interviewed Sue McDonnell, Paul Lawrence
and Dan Newby for their perspectives. This conversation proved to
be a very rich and varied conversation covering emotions,
behaviours, perspectives, the opportunities to rethink and
reimagine the future as well as the very real and positive
opportunity for sustained interest in Climate Change, values based
Leadership and the practice of reflection. The general consensus
over the course of this conversation was the need to practice
emotional agility, to allow space to think and connect and to give
agency to every person's version of empowerment.
Points made through the episode:
- The mood is variable on teams. Some are thriving others are
languishing in anxiety and uncertainty
- The structure afforded in the physical domains of work is
absent and contributing to anxiety and overwhelm
- We live in various stories about this crisis. It has been
described as apocalyptic and like a roller coaster, a tsunami of
emotions. The question we can ask is how we want our stories to
influence our actions? If you change the narrative, you can
intentionally shift your emotion.
- What will support you right now?
- As a leader you can check-in with yourself and observe your
somatic reactions. We are great at prepping for task related
conversations and less good at the emotional conversation. As a
leader ask how do you want to impact your team? How do we wish to
leave the team feeling? And during the meeting check-in to see what
- Huge tendency right now to max zoom meetings. Need to recognise
that over stimulus is exhausting. Important to vary and shift
orientation of meetings between Zoom, chat, email phone and use
them purposefully for emotional conversation as well as task
- Teams need space-create the space for teams to think together
and work out or figure out how best to progress.
- Irreverence as an emotion allows us to laugh. There is a
difference between employing irreverence productively and mocking
or denigrating others.
- In the physical world of work, we moved around. In our homes we
need to manage our boundaries and our energy. Energy can be
accessed by having conversations for laughs. In Australia there is
a practice called “Hanging shit on each other” a humorous and light
way to connect with team members.
- Remember as leaders that looking after your mental state is not
an act in selfishness. Our moods are contagious so be careful with
- Ask what is giving you energy and what is draining you of
- For Leaders the pressure of believing you have to have the
answers is being thrown into question In a distributed workplace.
Those who hold on to that Leadership standard will find themselves
exhausted and will frustrate the work of teams in this space.
- Silos for example have collapsed. Our environment has changed
such that silos cannot exist. Its usefulness is in allowing for
Trust, Transparency and Empowerment to grow.
- Some assumptions about Leadership have been disabused in this
environment. The idea that any one leader can know in this
environment is absurd. Instead allow for vulnerability and
- Encourage different perspectives and allow people to author
their own version of what empowerment means.
- Leaders need to be less directive and more enquiring. Curiosity
as an emotion is undervalued or used in team dialogue. Two roles
Leaders and team members can adopt. One of detective and scientist.
The first allows for self -discovery and the second allows freedom
to experiment and get things wrong.
- Strong correlation between Psychological safety and innovation
and performance. See real room for kindness, forgiveness,
vulnerability and acceptance to pervade teams.
- We often only get as far as naming emotions, but we miss a next
step. The next step is to ask if the emotion is in fact of service.
Humility for example is probably needed right now and it then
allows a person to ask for help.
- People are using the space and time to think to be creative.
One leader has introduced videos, mindfulness, somatic practices
and dancing as invited parts of his team meetings.
- The space has been a great leveller and an opportunity to
- The panel ended the conversation by hoping that this time for
reflection and self -reflection will stay, that the introduction of
distributed work practices may stay and new rituals will be
harnessed and that the permission to employ more heart thinking
into conversations will also progress.
Resources: the following include the resources
I alluded to in this episode.
- Sue McDonnell: suemcdonnell.com.au
- Dan Newby: schoolofemotions.world and
The field guide to emotions: A practical orientation to 150
emotions by Curtis Watkins and Dan Newby
- Paul Lawrence: The Tao of Dialogue: Lawrence, P. Hill, S.
Priestland, A. Forrestal, C. Rommerts, F. Hyslop,L. & Manning,M.
(2019), The Tao of Dialogue, Routeledge. UK