February 14, 2022

How to inject more connection into transactional team dynamics

How to inject more connection into transactional team dynamics

In my last blog post, I was talking about the costs of the efficiency trap and that feeling like there’s always more to do, no matter how much we do. I made the point that COVID and lockdowns have deepened that trap as the lines between work and life blur.

I reckon a shift to a more transactional style of engagement is another downside. Endless Zoom calls and mounting to-do lists leave little time for connection. And most of the teams I work with don’t have the language and the tools to move from ‘self/threat’ and ‘self/task’ mode and into ‘other’. Our capacity for empathy, collaboration and creativity suffers as a result.

This isn’t just about touchy-feely stuff. When we’re in self and task mode, our system is run by our self-preservation chemistry (eg adrenaline, cortisol and dopamine). We feel so jacked up on the high that comes with ticking off the list, we lose our cognitive capacity to connect with other. Friction turns to tension, which bubbles into conflict. Resentment starts to fester. Resignations become inevitable.

In the hundreds of coaching conversations I’ve had with people about what upsets them at work, it almost always comes back to not feeling valued. You simply can’t value others if you’re in self and task mode. And if your people aren’t feeling valued, they will leave. And if they don’t, they will become unproductive at best and toxic at worst.

Here are some of my tips for building connected teams:

  • Understand the neuroscience of self/threat, self/task and other, and the power of self-compassion and compassion for others to manage our threat system. Talk about it across the team. Here’s a great academic article by the founder of emotional regulation systems – Professor Paul Gilbert.
  • Build deeper empathy by understanding each other’s differences – how they’re incredible strengths but also a source of tension and conflict. Personality tools are excellent for this purpose. This is the one I use in my programs.
  • Intentionally nurture trust and vulnerability by understanding and talking about threat responses ie how we get triggered and why.
  • Use disarming frameworks to have these tricky conversations, such as the line and drama triangles.
  • Pay attention to how conversations are had as much as the content of what’s shared.

Relationships are the hardest aspect of work. They need as much time, attention and care as the work itself.

Call me if you want to move your team from a reactive, transactional state, into a state of deep trust and connection.

Let’s stay connected.

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