As a manager you oversee a myriad of things – client relations, deliverables, budgets, strategy, and more. It’s also up to you to keep an eye on the dynamics in your team.
Colleagues may be friendly to one another. Their behavior can run from sibling-like at best to bitter rivals at worst. The notion of teamwork can be deeply challenged by misbehavior in any member of the group. Gossip and infighting can emerge in the pressure of a project, and they quickly affect efficiency and effectiveness. In some instances, the friction can become so intense that an explosion is inevitable. That can send the whole team off balance, and, as the manager, you might spend more time smoothing feathers than doing any work.
When I was 32 I worked at a global PR agency and experienced one of the lowest moments of my career: I made a junior staffer cry.
I had grown increasingly frustrated with what I perceived as his lackadaisical attitude about our client’s demands, and I confronted him in the middle of the office – within earshot and eyesight of most of our colleagues.
I exploded. I berated him and chastised him. I demanded answers and actions.
He burst into tears.
To say I regret that day is a major understatement. Despite a general sense of camaraderie and teamwork in our office, not to mention my own years of yoga and spiritual practice, I acted out in a very inappropriate way.
I lost my inner wisdom and self-awareness. I acted out of fear, not Love. I jeopardized my role as a leader and compromised my team’s efficiency. I put at risk the relationship with our client as a looming deadline came second to attempting to re-establish the trust that my actions had shattered.
Even if respect is central to your work culture, everyone is susceptible to the tinderbox effect created by the pressures of our jobs, our lives, the world. The most balanced person can have a day so volcanic it sends everyone in the office running for cover.
Staying true to the path of Authentic Communication requires ongoing practices that keep us from straying into the dark and fiery realms of behaving badly.
It’s not about you.
If you’ve begun to do the work of self-awareness and are cultivating the kind of presence that would make Yoda proud, if you’ve embraced new possibilities that help to make your work and life a little less insa-a-a-a-ane, you may conclude that Authentic Communication is a program for personal development.
That, though, is only part of the story.
As we know, communication is radically relational. And being in relationship means other human beings, people with desires, cares, fears and feelings, are engaged with you. You are walking toward – or away from – each other on the bridge forged by your communication.
Before you find your team in turmoil, lean in and listen deeply to the people with whom you work. Social time together is valuable, but an evening at a local bar cannot compare with compassionate listening. Attentiveness borne from Love forges deeper, more meaningful connections, and those are the connections that really make your team hum.
Listen, not to solve any problems, offer a witty retort, or even agree with what’s said. Listen in order to see the world through the eyes of this person who is toiling by your side day after day, to create a safe place in a competitive, challenging, fast-moving environment, or to nurture more productive, creative, thriving collaboration.
There’s a good chance that you do hear what others say – like me, you might even take notes – but are you actually listening? The good news is that listening is a learnable skill that, with practice, can become a healthy habit. Listening this way, with intention, empathy and curiosity, lands at the heart of all Authentic Communication.
When you start to shift so that everything becomes an opportunity for communicating Love, it’s easier to drop “bad behavior” and choose connection, even vulnerability and courage. When you listen with empathy, you learn who your colleagues really are, how to communicate with them, how they listen, and how to support them through the work that you’re doing together so everyone experiences more meaning and fulfillment.
I have found that when people feel like someone has deeply listened to them, they deliver higher quality work and are more committed to their jobs. With deeper connections that come from listening, there’s also a chance you’ll feel the Love that’s been in your team all along.
#LovingWork #AuthenticCommunication #ItsNotAboutYou #Listening #CommunicationIsAnActOfLove #MakingWorkWorkBetter #21stCenturySkills