Check in or die!Manley Hopkinson
I recently ran a workshop for one of the boards of a large organisation in the UK. The outcome was to create a stronger team dynamic, developing the themes of compassion, commitment and purpose. To help them engage at a deeper more emotional level through raising their self awareness and opening up with each other. This was to be the first of a series of workshops.
At the time the industry was in much flux. It was a tough place to be. The traditional players in the field were being attacked by the new, more dynamic and challenging brands as technology made it much easier for the new to enter the market. Having enjoyed steady state growth for over 20 years, indeed almost 100 in the case of this client, for the first time in living memory, cuts were being made, efficiencies and savings needed and people, real people, were being laid-off. In reality, I do not see a market sector that is not facing the same challenges, but, for this organisation particularly there was some considerable emotional pain with the situation as their culture was one of caring, really caring, for the individual within.
I had my “agenda” for the day, but not a detailed plan of slide after slide; I cannot work that way, my days are always “emergent”. The big themes I wanted to touch were in my mind and articulated to the group in my “picture agenda”.
I started the day with a “check in”. An opportunity to share “how you feel”?, “what is distracting you from being truly present”? and a third question I always like to ask of “what do you want from the day”? The theory behind a “check in” is that we cannot compartmentalise our emotions. We pretend, we try and we try to deny, but an emotion within created by one part of our life, sits with us throughout all of our life; a bad day at work is taken home and a tough time at home is taken to work, with the journeys in-between adding to that emotional “soup”. So, as our Grandmothers told us “A problem shared is a problem halved” – clever old Granny!
I will talk more in other blogs about the power of “check ins”, but for today I just want to share what happened with this group. No sooner had the first person started their “check in” and spoke of how they felt and what emotions they held within, when the first tear fell. Within minutes the whole group were crying, not sniffles, buy shoulder wrenching sobs of deep felt emotion welling to the surface. Wow, I was not expecting that! I pulled my “agenda” from the wall, screwed it up and threw it in the bin; this was no day for pre-planned discussions! We went for a walk; a metaphor for the journey together and our own. That day was a seminal moment for the team, and for me. We would never be the same again.
We move forward leaps and bounds as individuals and as team. A new honesty emerged. An honesty that has enabled the team to face up to the challenges ahead and tackle them full on.
“Check in or Die”
We all need to know what emotion is within ourselves. We cannot deny them, we cannot ignore them, we cannot compartmentalise them; any emotion is a whole emotion. At a human level not to be alive to how you feel, is not to be alive at all; we die! At a team level, not to understand and be compassionate with the emotions of our team mates is to deny their existence and so the team does not exist; the team dies! And at an organisational level, if our people our numb to themselves, our teams are dysfunctional through ignorance, and we lose our commitment, engagement, resilience and purpose; the organisation dies!