4 Tweaks For a Healthier Team

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Originally published at Transition Free Press Autumn ’13 – Page 15. What is Transition?
If you are interested in getting a paper copy for £1 contact your local Transition Towns group, or if you are interested in distributing it in your area or at work, then contact Transition Free Press

Do Great Things, Have Fun Doing It
Getting stuff done together can be a rocky road. The trouble is, the model we were taught in school is most akin to the way that the military gets things done. As children we are taught that someone else is in charge and knows best, and you have to do what they say or get into trouble, and top-down hierarchy is replicated in most workplaces. Control, believing we’re right, bullying, blaming, selfishness. Otherwise nice people transform at 9am. All of us could do with developing our humility, empathy, kindness, and ability to shut up and listen.

Boss vs LeaderBosses telling us what to do is pervasive, because to some extent it is effective. But it is also problematic. BlessingWhite’s 2011 Employee Engagement Report revealed 69% of people at work worldwide aren’t very engaged with 17% completely disengaged, while Towers Watson’s Health, Wellbeing and Productivity Survey 2012 found 98% of UK employees are impacted by stress. That is an enormous failure to harness more than a fragment of our capability, a colossal waste of potential.

The crisis at Stafford Hospital, in which many hundreds died as a result of a chronically dysfunctional organisation, happened despite staff knowing how to make improvements. As happens in the workplace everywhere, bottom-up suggestions were ignored. No wonder we’re all so disengaged, and managers are often exhausted from the pressure of trying to make decisions on behalf of everyone else.

To put it mildly, there are better ways of working. The good news is that they’re not difficult, even (un)common sense. The difficult part is shifting habits, but the starting point is a desire to enjoy work and a curiosity about learning.

Transitioners are human, and many have experienced the challenges that humans usually experience when they try to get together to get anything done. But at its best Transition takes group health seriously, because it takes the job in hand seriously, albeit lightheartedly. And that means being serious about enjoying the journey, because enjoying what we do is productive.

An aeroplane is on the wrong course 90% of the time. Planes, like bicycles, permaculturists and smart people in smart organisations, use dynamic steering. I don’t mean charming and engaging, but actively responding to a changing environment in order to reach their target, although charming and engaging never go amiss. I find it reassuring that planes get to their destination most of the time, although I’ve personally made a no* flying pact due to Climate Change, so probably less planes flying would be a good thing.

So here’s some simple top tips to transform your work without much effort:

1) Know your destination, celebrate arriving and often.

2) Evaluate briefly at the end of every meeting, and periodically in your team. Appreciate what’s working, ask what could be improved. Correct your course, like steering a bicycle.

3) Take it in turns to speak briefly on a subject, everyone having a chance to say something and be listened to without discussion.

4) Replace blame and complaint with finding ways of enjoying more.

Time is short. Aim high. Have fun.

[*no flying means try really hard not to, and have a very very good reason to do so. I haven’t flown for years].

Martin offers facilitation, organisational consultancy and training via There’s Better Ways Of Working 2bwow.org.uk / Twitter @ThrivingPlanet – Tools for a smarter planet.