Withstanding the storm: how a management team empowers in the midst of several storms

One of my clients, a management team, was entering a storm. Actually they were facing several storms. One of the heavy storms was this challenge: they had to face that they were about to loose one of their management partners. Peter van der Gun was a respected partner, an appreciated colleague, a beloved friend. The news that he was going to die struck everybody like a thunder strike. How will they endure this storm, that comes with all the raweness that nature has? As I finish this blog, the storm has entered. He passed away.

This blog is to honour this team, as I can only bow in deep respect for these brave men with courageous hearts. And to the woman who is the Chief Happines Officer, who has the power to bring in the feminine support in this circle of men.

How it started

My journey with this team started when one of the leaders in this organisation saw the urgency to build a fundamental cohesion with his management team. He asked me to facilitate team sessions. Looking back it was just in time that I started this journey with them. The original question was: how will we manage to respond to our quick changing market and adapt as an organisation? Soon it turned out that their deeper wish was that energize the whole organisation of 40 co-workers with a synergy that would support the whole organisation to act as one team, as a community. A fundament to prosper and flourish.

Building a fundament

It was the start of several journeys. The first journey was a serie of team sessions in which they started to get to know each other on a deeper level. They learned perspectives to understand each other on a level that they did not know before – even after 20 years. Because the deeper understanding of  their personal talents and pitfalls became more clear to one another, they started to support each other, using each others unique strengths. They experienced the art of the Authentic Dialogue, that supported them to dive in a deeper layer: the one that allows to show and share emotions and authenticity. Several team members started to open up and they learned what professor Brené Brown would call the power of vulnerability. One of the leaders found new areas in himself to explore. He awakened to a new path for his personal growth.

This management team went through several group dynamic phases. At the last team building session, we ended with an Authentic Dialogue. At the end of this december afternoon of this first journey, this team was ready for the next level. The doorway was open for teamflow.

Commitment for happiness at work and the power of vulnerability

In the second journey the management team members focused on happiness tools in their organisation. Their commitment for happiness at work started by attending my Happiness at Work Training, While learning the best practices from managers to facilitate happiness in organisations.they started to make plans, shape ideas and make happiness at work one of their pillars in the organisation. And then the thunder stroke. The news came that the management partner would only live for maximum two months.

This team could harvest what they learned. Using the time that the partner was still alive, this team was able to empower themselves, suppported by the Authentic Dialogue to act authentic, vulnerable and fierce at the same time. As they started to experience teamflow they were able to give feedforward instead of feedback. A deeper bonding was woven so they could allow the power of vulnerability to empower themselves. A new vision for the organisation aligned them. The teamflow supported them to face the crisis of the void that would unfold after this management partner would leave and to face the challenges of leadership in the organisation. Facing all the storms called their leadership and supported them to act.

How can happiness at work and grief go hand in hand? Scientist call it Post Traumatic Happiness as opposite of Post Traumatic Stress.

Researchers like professor Sonja Lyobomirski, professor Martin Seligman and professor Brené Brown found what people do to regain happiness or even experience happiness in the midst of a valley of tears and deep sadness. What I share in the following is based on their inspiration and on my experience as a (team)coach:

Skills for happiness while dealing with negative emotions

In Happiness at Work? Train skills for happiness! I included several skill that deal with negative emotions:

  • Communicating in a way that invites connection – (also known as non-violent communication, developed by dr. Marshall Rosenberg); this skill trains the art of exploring feelings and needs of oneself and others, and acting in such a way that needs can be fullfilled in a nourishing way while not avoiding conflict.
  • Presencing – a verb that has its roots in Theory U, by dr. Otto Sharmer. This skills trains the art of taking a neutral position while being a compassionate witness to oneself and others. Training oneself to be fully present in the midst of positive and negative emotions, surrendering to the silence and listening to what wants to be unfolded and holding a loving space to invite reflection.
  • Co-creation: the art of taking conflict as an opportunity to create synergy but also the art to take painful decisions when necessary for the higher good of all.
  • Personal Leadership: if you are caught in shame or can’t reach a part of you that feels like destructive pain, acknowledge this pain or shame outloud for yourself. This gives the so-called “higher brain” the opportunity to open up again and deal with it in a meaningful way.

We do not have a choice about the uncertanties of life, but we have a choice how to deal with them.

So what is supporting to them to withstand the storm?

  • With the principles of the Authentic Dialogue they create a “sacred space” – a centre that holds them together in the midst of a break down
  • Sessions of “mourning and celebration” were organized for co-workers to share their grief but also to share joy, gratitude and laughter as both grief and joy are part of life. One can find comfort and connection in the midst of this transformation.
  • They used the power of vulnerabilty as Brené Brown explained in Dare to Lead:

How do you know how to rise?

Scientist Sonja Lyubomirski showed in her talks what makes Post Traumatic Happiness possible how one can rise, which i will translate to skills for happiness:

  • Alignment: train yourself to know your purpose and stick to your meaning in life
  • Making meaning: Create meaningful relationships; this is not only supporting a sense of meaning in life, it uplifts to be in service of others
  • Personal leadership:
    • happiness is a choice – dare to choose happiness. Take every tiny step that takes you nearer to a joyful and grateful heart. Take the step without a feeling guilt or shame
    • Let the adversity support you to grow your inner maturity

I would like to close with a poem:

Maak jouw werkgeluk concreet

praktisch toepasbaar – vernieuwend én met praktijkcases

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