5 tips to help your team grow

Do you know what it's like to be in the flow? Those times when you are at work and your full capacitites are engaged along with your instincts. I remember this as a mother of a newborn baby. Some days would be blissfully perfect and I really thought I knew what I was doing. On other days things didn't go so well and I would feel like a complete failure, on my own with no clue as to how I could make things better.

I am reminded of this when I think of being responsible for growing groups and teams. So many of us choose to be leaders because we are wanting to collectively create something worthwhile for the world. 

However things don't always go smoothly. When your role ceases to be fulfilling or the relational side of your work becomes difficult and draining, you may disconnect from your purpose and instead start to dream about making enough money to retire and stop working. Have you ever had this fantasy?

This may reflect how alienated you can become from the world of work, rather than a need to give it up.

Teams can disconnect in this way too

Whether a team is under-functioning or functioning well with plenty of potential, there are times when you will need to ask the question “what is going on here?” and explore this with the team.  

Of course it is often only when things start to go wrong that we feel the need to ask this question. If we go with the notion that whatever aids our growth may be broadly defined as “useful” even though it may be unpleasant then let's look at some of the learning edges that force leaders to stop and look at what is going on:

• Their team is trapped in a negative dynamic and is getting worse and worse

• People in the team have stopped seeing the value in each other

• Frustration is evident but not being processed

• Meetings are totally outcome focused with no real sense of connecting as a team

• You listen (because you know you should) but in most meetings you take control.

Here are five tips for working with growth edges in teams:

1. Give the team your feedback when the dynamic feels blocked by sharing your impressions of what is happening and describing to the group the behaviour or pattern. Then invite the team /individuals to give their own version of what they notice.

2. Set up an exercise to do in small groups in which members learn in their own way to value and affirm both themselves and each other

3.To help a team connect and be more present from the beginning of a meeting, find out what is on top for people and what they are distracted by.

4. Remember to ask open questions – questions that do not have one right answer, but give plenty of space for the team to come up with several possible answers eg: What do people think about that?

    5. The more anxious a person is in facilitation, the more controlling their facilitation becomes. Practice noticing how you are feeling before and during your meetings, then let go, so that you can be present to the energetic needs of the team.

      For more on how to tailor make communication processes specifically for your team you may want to check out Moving Mountains.

      Be Extraordinary


      How to go more gently...


      My resilience has been challenged over the past few months due to a tooth, of all things! My immune system has been slowly running itself down as I sort it out.

      But hey! I still need to make a living, I'm self employed and single parenting so this doesn't mean I can stop work. It does mean I have to work and heal at the same time.

      Allowing myself to be slow, simplifying my workload, saying no to things I would like to be saying yes to, and accepting my limits requires quite a dose of humility.

      Reflecting on my coaching practice amidst all this, I had an insight. It's about presence, professionally, when we are 'under the weather'.

      Something I have noticed over these past months when I have had to 'go more gently', is my expectation of what my clients need from me changes. Being present to how I really am energetically, helps me be more compassionate and present to where they are at. I don't expect so much of them, therefore they have more space to be themselves. The emotional quality in the room is more gentle and forgiving. 

      My clients have remarked at times too, on the positive feedback they have received from colleagues when they have allowed themselves to be both vulnerable and honest about their limitations. Their defences soften and therefore they connect and communicate more authentically with others. In some cases they become much nicer people!

      In my business I am lucky. We have some strategies for the times when the flow is interrupted because of personal issues. We believe healing is ongoing, pain surfaces and retreats in all of us all of the time in all sorts of different ways. So relaxing our defenses and expanding our capacity for dealing with the ebbs and flows of productivity ultimately builds our team wellbeing, it helps us make better decisions and leads to successful outcomes for the business and for us individually.

      But the story is different in large organisations.

      We know that companies realise they need to take responsibility for the resilience and wellness of their people and are trying to do so. Where I think things get skewed is to do with the definition of resilience which often seems to be only about supporting physical fitness, so that people can keep performing at their best under pressure. It worries me. Over exertion of our physical body, can cause depletion, and so does pushing ourselves emotionally or mentally when our bodies are saying "slow down". 

      If there is a lack of value of physical, mental and emotional lows while at work then isn't it going to be harder for individuals to take care of themselves and adjust things so that they remain resilient?  It's more likely that people will try to override these very human conditions in order to get their work done. The tendency is to keep quiet and carry on until one day they literally can't get themselves out of bed.

      By this time a great deal of energy will have been spent on managing feelings, emotions and discomfort about the state they don't want to be in at work. We go to fight, flight, freeze or adapt to remain safe which has a long term effect on immune systems and at the extreme, leads to collapse.

      From a neuroscience perspective if we are under stress and unrested, our nervous system will be in high arousal.

      The longer we are in the high arousal state the harder it will be to come down, calm down, heal and think straight. Hence the urge to keep busy and use drugs or substances to keep going. If we are depressed and anxious it's the same thing in a different direction. It becomes impossible to bring ourselves back up to an alert yet calm and present state.

      This is due, in part, to our training as leaders in a left brain dominant system. We 'think' we can control our bodies and we 'think' things can be managed intellectually. Connecting with body, mind and emotions requires relational right brain capacities and an openness to being irrational not rational about our experience.

      The good news, in talking with many individuals and groups over the past few months about their inner experience at work, is that most people do want to be authentic and real, even when they are struggling or physically limited. They admit they don't feel great at work all the time and they would really like to develop an ability to remain compassionate towards their own limitations, even when the pressure to get the work done can feel insurmountable.

        How do we shift a high achieving work culture towards a healing culture that embraces more of the human condition?

        You can start by talking about it.

        • Look together at attitudes towards sickness, pain and low energy at work
        • Find out what your default behaviour is when under stress, tired or unwell and share this with others.

        • How can you be supportive to each other during these times

        • What do you need or what don't you need from others when you are struggling physically, mentally or emotionally

        • Look at your attitude towards slowing down or saying 'no' at work – what are your fears about slowing down or not being seen to perform at your usual level

        • Is it ok to have rests or down time while at work. Do people respect need for space. How is this communicated.

        • Review resilience levels on a regular basis with your team and gauge where the team is at as a whole. Be real with what is and lower output expectations if necessary.

        • Question your busyness. Ask who/what it serves. Does it prove you are doing your job well, show you are good and important, make you indispensible and of worth? What are your inner messages about productivity and success.

        • When things have been full on for everyone over an extended period, question where the organisation/team is spending most of its resources – do a review and look at what you may need to change or let go of.

        • What would people like to stop doing if they could.

        • Talk together about tools for healthy self-care at work and how to take responsibility for preventing burn out.

        • Envision best practice in a situation where you, or another in your team falls under the shadow of chronic illness.

        Thank you for reading.

        Be extraordinary





        Are you missing the mark?

        This week I am reminding myself of a vulnerability that can arise in coaching and in leadership. It's that feeling of 'missing the mark' for the client or person you are wanting to help.

        Human communication, even on a good day, can be poor.

        I had a client recently share how superficial the communication was in her work place.  She wished conversations in general were more enquiring and real rather than disjointed and random.

        According to Mahrabian and Ferris (1967)

        -7% happens in spoken words

        -38% happens through the voice

        -55% happens via general body language

        What this information tells us, is that we are mostly misunderstanding each other most of the time. In coaching this can mean the person is not getting the developmental support they are needing from you. You are 'missing the mark' somehow and you will feel it.

        Here are some signs that this may be happening in your coaching practice:

        • The session ends and you feel you may have missed something or that the session may not have been that useful

        • In the session you became the investigator looking for answers to solve a problem that may not even be a problem 

        • Your one on one's feel shallow and superficial, a bit like an interview

        • The person you are working with isn't very forthcoming, even avoidant and it feels like you are doing all the work

        An unconscious pattern that you can can fall into is taking too much responsibility for the direction of the conversation too soon, by guiding, advising, digging and problem solving for the person and forgetting to take time to find out about the motivations and meanings behind their words.

        In giving a person space to talk about their work/life reality you give them the luxury of space to reflect.

        When you give time to reflect, insight will follow and it becomes clear for a person what they need to do. The result is that people feel listened to and supported instead of frustrated by being told what to do.

        If you can catch yourself in the act during the conversation and have the confidence to change your approach then something that was beginning to feel superficial can transform into something fluid and new.

        Here are some tips to help make the shift...

        Ask the person to say more, to tell the story, to unpack what they mean by any given statement

        Check for clarity and meaning - " I don't understand, can you say more, are you saying that..."

        Watch for own assumptions and notice when your agenda or your needs are influencing the direction of the conversation

        Notice body language and tone of language - mirror this back to the person

        If the person says they are 'fine', find out what 'fine' means

        Don't drive the person to an outcome that will suit you because the session is about to finish. Instead ask the person what is important for them as the session closes. It can be remarkable what you discover about their learnings and motivations when you ask this question and the answer is often not what you expected at all!

        Be extraordinary





        Lost opportunities in leadership

        We've been thinking about how much valuable collective wisdom there is in teams and how much gets lost because of the way meetings are held and led. 

        Increasing levels of collaboration and pooling of collective skills and wisdom are needed to move with change. Yet even in high performing teams the day-to-day operational focus tends to fill the agenda and the opportunity for growth and change is missed.

        For team leaders it can sometimes feel  like they have to move mountains to pull a meeting away from the urgent and ongoing operational issues to create space for a different team conversation - where the focus is to grow the team's awareness, holistic intelligence, connectedness and to enable shifts in perception.

        How do we grow the team's holistic intelligence, gather the wisdom and shift perceptions?

        1. Commitment and intention

        The vital first step is to make a commitment to creating an intentional and practical space for meetings with a growth focus, away from the operational agenda.

        2. Strengthen connections

        Work in pairs and in small groups, not just the large group. Be curious about each other and find out what challenges you each have. Practice listening!!!!

        3. Grow awareness

        Have conversations about how you potentially hinder your own growth and that of the team.

        What are your assumptions about the team, individuals, progress etc.

        How do you inspire your team?

        How do you engage your team?

        When do you become defensive, describe your behaviour.

        When do you act out of ego and when do you act from the heart.

        What do you offer the team and what would you like from the team.

        Creating space to harvest collective wisdom and grow together is infinitely valuable for the life and spirit of the team.

        Be Extraordinary

        Nicola and Anouk


        Shifting consciousness in organisations

        I've been doing a deep dive into my own development over the past few years and I am loving it. I was yearning for something new, some new input, feedback for me, something from outside my system. The investment has been worth it, my consciousness is shifting in all sorts of ways and strangely so is my organisation and my clients (I didn't ask them to!).

        I am in a parallel process. Inadvertently, the things that are happening in my individual system are being reflected in all of the other systems that I am directly part of.

        Do you recognise this?

        I worked with a client once who was a highly competent project manager headhunted for a role in a new organisation. He was in a parallel process too, but a more challenging one. A year into his new role, he began to worry about being an underperformer, he felt he was getting nowhere and wasn't sure he was the right person for the job.

        When we explored the organisational system, he started to name that at a higher level the organisation was struggling to progress, they were in a panic, and not clear about direction. There had been questions about whether the governing board were doing their job properly and he could see something similar happening in their clients. Something had been set in motion that influenced everyone. No one had looked at what it might have been.

        Stepping out of the field?

        Exploring his reality in this way helped him step out of being overly responsible for something that was actually in the dynamic of the system. He felt relieved to be looking at things differently, his critical self-talk backed off and he became more grounded. He came up with some next steps for himself and his team that felt authentic and realistic.

        How can you do this within your own profession as a leader?

        We talked about useful ways of offering what he had learned in a coherent framework to enable his people to develop a way of thinking 'outside the box' about what has happened and is happening. Here are some questions we came up with:

        • What are you sensing in yourself when you come to work each day?
        • Have you always felt like this or what is new?
        • How does the organisation feel at the moment?
        • What might have happened to affect me/us?
        • When did things change and how?
        • What are you not saying out loud? What are you not naming?
        • In what ways are your clients experiencing what you are experiencing?
        • What do we need to accept right now?
        • and finally...
        • What are you noticing as a result of reflecting on these questions?

        By raising awareness, consciousness can shift in unexpected ways.

        Be extraordinary,

        Self-awareness: the key to authentic leadership

        If you have a leading position within your organisation, you will be aware of biased opinions, flaws and doubts and that these are part of the human condition. The good news is that successful leaders don’t have to be perfect. However, it helps to be aware of your blindspots to be at your best in your leadership of others. 

        Do you recognise this?

        • You are really busy, with a lot on your plate and so you have stopped asking others for input, are not including others in decisions and prefer to go it alone.
        • You are judging people not on their intentions, but by their actions and your language unbeknownst to you is coming across as devaluing and mean.
        • You are treating commitments casually and as a result show up late for meetings, miss deadlines, avoid being pinned down and often have an excuse.
        • You don't take a stand in meetings when you know you should. Maybe you fear the impact of this but have never really looked at what this means for you.

        Your thoughts and behaviours greatly impact others

        Reflecting on how our leadership style effects others takes time and a willingness to step back and look at things from different perspectives. 

        Here are some reflection questions: Are you aware of your default settings? Do they help or sabotage you in achieving your personal and professional goals?  How do you unlearn the ineffective habits then grow positive thoughts and behaviours? And finally...

        How can you do this within your own profession as a leader?

        Something we notice is the more senior you are in leadership, the more potential there is to become isolated and the less likely you are to get feedback. Being willing to look at blind spots requires you to ask for input from others you trust and whom you respect. With the help of a skilled coach and mentor you can be supported in all of this and to find new insights and new ways of working. 

        All these are actions of a spirited leader.

        Be extraordinary,
        Nicola and Anouk

        Become a spirited leader by creating purpose


        Growing your leadership into the next stage of consciousness - part 3

        A new organisational paradigm is slowly but steadily developing as leaders today are tired of power games, infighting and experiencing an overall sense of emptiness. In this article of a 3-part-series we’ll explore the third principle of the Teal organisation: evolutionary purpose.

        The new Teal organisation identified by Frédéric Laloux, an independent advisor and author of Reinventing Organisations: a guide to creating organisations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness, is built on three pillars:

        • Self-management
        • Wholeness
        • Evolutionary purpose

        Evolutionary purpose

        While most organisations camouflage the lack of purpose with a hollow sounding mission statement, Teal leaders view their organisation as a living entity with its own energy, its own sense of direction and its own calling to manifest something in this world. They don’t define a winning strategy and then marshall their subordinates to execute it, but they listen to the natural requirements of the organisation and aim to sense and respond.

        The leaders at FAVI, a French automotive supplier, think like farmers: they look 20 years ahead but plan only for the next day. Farmers need to look ahead to decide which trees or crops to grow, but they will not plan a date for the harvest as they understand that nature has its own pace. Like farmers, Teal leaders will move along with the natural phases of the organisation and harvest when the time is right, instead of sticking rigidly to plan and ending up with a ruined harvest.

        Purpose leads to high levels of innovation

        In a self-managing and purpose-driven organisation, change can come from any person who senses that change is needed. Innovation doesn’t happen centrally and according to plan, but at the edges of the ecosystem when adaptation to changing circumstances is called for.

        At Buurtzorg, a Dutch nursing care provider, nurses found that elderly people often break their hips when they fall. They came up with a plan to advise patients on small changes in their home interiors to minimise the risk of falling. Rather than analysing the idea, then assigning a team to develop an implementation plan, their CEO suggested to share the idea with the 9,000 employees through the internal social network. It quickly caught on and within a year nearly all teams had incorporated the new prevention model into their work.

        How can you practise this in your workplace?

        As a middle or senior leader you can start moving towards a Teal-inspired organisation today by inviting your people to talk to you about their challenges and to share with you their solutions to bottlenecks. Listen with an open mind. Then, rather than judging their suggestions and give a go or a no-go, simply let them present it to their peers to examine and test its strengths. If successful, let the teams incorporate the improvements.

        Be extraordinary,
        Anouk and Nicola

        Become a spirited leader by embracing wholeness


        Growing your leadership into the next stage of consciousness - part 2

        A new organisational paradigm is slowly but steadily developing as leaders today are tired of power games, infighting and experiencing an overall sense of emptiness. In this article of a 3-part-series we’ll explore the second principle of the Teal organisation: wholeness.

        The new Teal organisation identified by Frédéric Laloux, an independent advisor and author of Reinventing Organisations: a guide to creating organisations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness, is built on three pillars:

        • Self-management
        • Wholeness
        • Evolutionary purpose


        In the previous three distinct organisational paradigms, which Frederic Laloux calls Amber, Orange and Green, people typically wear a mask at work. They function with an air of resolution and determination while they favour their masculine, rational selves.

        Teal organisations however start from the premise, resonant with many wisdom traditions, that a person’s deepest calling is to achieve wholeness. Teal employees are encouraged to reveal the caring, inquiring, intuitive and spiritual aspects of their personalities. Workers feel at ease because they can truly be themselves. Teal organisations create vibrant workspaces while simple management practices foster a sense of personal connection, so that trust can grow and flourish.

        Wholeness practices

        In Teal organisations employees are invited to bring their children and animals to their workplace. The presence of children and pets reconnects people with deeper parts of themselves, enabling employees to see one another not only as colleagues, but as part of a common humanity.

        At Heiligenfeld, a mental health hospital chain with 600 employees in Germany, every week the teams come together for an intensive, reflective dialogue about a theme such as dealing with risks or learning from mistakes. The chain of 5 hospitals also devotes four days per year to silence, during which the staff only quietly speaks when necessary and patients engage in forms of therapy that require no words, like taking long walks and painting.

        FAVI, a French automotive supplier, train all their administrative workers to operate at least one assembly-line machine. When orders must be rushed out, white-collar workers come in to help their colleagues to run the machines: a truly community-built practice. After an in-depth onboarding process new machine operators are asked to write an open letter to their colleagues, which often describe how, maybe for the first time in their career, their voice counts at work and they are considered worthy of trust and appreciation.

        How can you practise this in your workplace?

        As a middle or senior leader you could start moving towards a Teal-inspired organisation today by creating a safe environment where people feel they can show more of their true selves. Ask them to bring personal items to the workplace and encourage them to feel free to be present, involved and personal rather than detached, distant and ‘professional’.

        Be extraordinary,
        Anouk and Nicola