Surviving & Thriving through the Pandemic as a Work Team: Social-Awareness

In the last post, we talked about ways to self-manage in preparation for your team meetings by planning ahead, creating strategies to coach yourself in the moment, and telling a “noble story.” Today, we will focus on preparing your team to show up in the meeting with strong social awareness, and facilitating the meeting effectively in order to strengthen relationships and deepen connections. 

Once we’ve done our “self-work,” we are ready to do our “other work.”  By “other work,” we mean the work of becoming more socially aware of what others on our team need as well as our impact on others. Vanessa Druskat, a leading researcher on group emotional intelligence, has found in her research that teams that demonstrate high social awareness and empathy perform better than those that do not. 

As mentioned in our last post, although connection looks different remotely, it remains a key ingredient for creating a high performing team. Essentially, the meeting is grounded in three key questions: 1. Where is my teammate emotionally right now? 2. Where do they want to be aspirationally? 3. What do they need from me to get there?

Cultivating Social Awareness: Create The Conditions For Thriving

Our goal during the meeting is to make everyone feel heard and seen. We do this by using our social awareness to demonstrate empathy by listening deeply and connecting through resonance. Listening deeply means listening to learn rather than to judge, listening for understanding rather than agreement, and  listening to their needs rather than our own. By showing up in the meeting this way, we are demonstrating empathy.

Daniel Goleman offers three definitions of empathy. Goleman defines empathy as our ability to “sense others’ feelings, consider their perspectives, and take an active interest in their welfare.” There are three types of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and empathic concern. 

  • Cognitive Empathy – we understand the perspectives of others.
  • Emotional Empathy – we understand how others feel.
  • Empathic Concern – we care about others and take action to help them if needed.

When we are able to show up for others with empathy, then we are able to connect with them on a human level through resonance. According to Stanford’s Center For Compassion and Altruism Research, emotional resonance simply means “I feel your pain.” The Center For Compassion and Altruism Research offers two types of resonance - identical and reactive resonance. 

  • Identical resonance – realizing that someone else is in pain and then actually feeling the pain yourself
  • Reactive resonance – when you sympathize with someone else's pain and feel inclined to help

One way to think of this is when others’ experiences resonate with us, it’s almost as if we are saying, “I see you” or/and “I see a part of me in you.” It’s important to ground the meeting in these two conditions needed to cultivate social awareness - resonance and empathy.

Seeing Others Clearly: Facilitate the Meeting

Seeing others clearly is hard, especially if there are things getting in our way of seeing and hearing them. This is why it’s critical to create the conditions for each team member to show up authentically during the meeting in order to get what they need from the team. Here’s an easy protocol that you can use to facilitate the meeting:

Pre-work: Team members reflect on their individual self-care using Four Core Drivers Self-Care Plan

Step 1: Name the purpose, create the conditions by setting the ground rules for the meeting, and share the protocol 

Step 2: Each member of the team shares their reflection from the pre-work while the rest of the team listens without interruption  

Step 3: Teammates respond with resonance 

Step 4: Facilitator asks the person who shared what they need from the team. Some choices include: 

  • Just listen 
  • Follow up with questions to help me build awareness and/or strategies 
  • Support with resources or experience 
  • Support with accountability on follow through 

Step 5: Teammates engage according to what the person who shared has requested. Conversation should last from 0 (if the request is “just listen”) to 5 minutes depending on the group size

Step 6: Facilitator thanks the person who shared for sharing and moves on to the next person 

Step 7: After all team members (or those who want to) have shared, the facilitator asks every team member to share a take-away and a next step

Step 8: The facilitator makes space for gratitude

One of the ways to distinguish a good team from a great team is how vulnerable team members are with each other. Being vulnerable can be risky, but the cost of a lack of vulnerability might be riskier. We’ll explore this topic in our next blog when we focus on relationship management.


Want to find out how empathetic you are? Here’s a free empathy quiz from the University of California Berkeley’s The Greater Good Science Center.