Surviving & Thriving through the Pandemic as a Work Team: Growing Together

We have learned that teams can be uniquely supportive spaces for us to work on ourselves as human beings.  We are incredibly excited to have stumbled onto this new aspect of how we can come together at work to realize our full human potential. 

Since the pandemic started our Noble Story Group team has been developing this team self-care meeting practice grounded in Emotional Intelligence.  We have shared our approach with others through this blog and through leadership team trainings, but we have also engaged in these self-care check-ins on our own team (we practice what we preach).  What we have experienced has exceeded our expectations about the power of these team self-care conversations.   

A quick review 

For those who have not read the previous blogs in this serieslet us explain how we shared the team self-care meeting practice.  We began by orienting readers to the big ideas about self-care that serve as the team’s framework and common language for reflection, and then sent readers off with a checklist to reflect on their own self-care.  Next, we focused on the leader’s technical and emotional preparation to lead their team meetings.  Our third piece supported leaders to facilitate their first team meetings by focusing the team on social awareness in order to create the necessary social and emotional safety.  We then moved from social awareness to self-management, giving leaders the language and facilitation strategies to guide effective engagement between team members in response to each other’s personal reflection.  Together these four blogs set a leader up to initiate this new practice that can become a team culture ritual over time.   

Results - team impact 

We believed these meetings would be powerful for building teams and for building individual self-care, but we did not foresee what we actually experienced.  We have felt and observed an immediate, powerful impact on team connectedness from just one meeting.  We felt deeper connection within our own team as we welcomed each other into a new aspect of who we are as human beings. The teams we train reported similar experiences, including emails like this one: 

I wanted to thank you for the session on Thursday. It was powerful to feel heard and to hear others. Thank you for creating that space. I was able to have an awesome weekend full of small adventures instead of feeling burdened and paralyzed by feelings of isolation! 

Results - personal growth impact 

Beyond the team effect, we are seeing and feeling personal growth.  I personally have reflected with the checklist and shared my reflection half a dozen times now and I always walk away with some new piece of awareness about myself (I have a tendency to want to fix when I don’t have to, and I need to let go more) or some new wellness strategy (use a timer to get the teenagers to clean the first floor by 10 PM).  We have seen similar awareness and strategies grow in others as they return in subsequent meetings to share how they lived into their takeaways from prior meetings—from renewed yoga practices to reconciling with disconnected family members.     

Facilitation tips we have learned along the way 

For those who are committed to building these self-care meetings into your team practice, we leave you with these lessons learned: 

  1. Structure.  The structure is key for getting started, but it should fade into the background by the second or third meeting.  Having said that, the facilitator should keep it in the back of their mind to ensure the team achieves the collective and individual goals of the meeting.
  2. Time. Rushing will impact the safety of your social-emotional space and might make people reluctant to put themselves out there.  Make sure you have some buffer time on the back end of this meeting.  Having said that, make sure people are aware on the before the sharing starts that they should be aiming to relate the 3 to 5-minute version of their reflection, and not the 10 to 15-minute version. 
  3. Frequency.  We started this blog series proposing you take one hour, once a week for these meetings.  We now think that one meeting every 3-4 weeks is enough to maintain the thread of personal growth and team connection.  
  4. Creating the safe space is the key.  This is your #1 job as the leader.  You accomplish this with your own vulnerability, growth orientation, and ability to listen with empathy and compassion.   

Right now, we are experiencing extraordinary levels of stress, but even in “normal times” we go through periods of chronic stress. Teams will always need their leaders to create and hold this kind of group social-emotional space to work together on ourselves as human beings. I wish this practice and connection—this source of strength—for every team.  It is part of how we create the conditions for us all to reach our full potential.