2021 is informed by the dramatic changes and resets of 2020. The pandemic and the progress made by justice movements have posed new questions about how we work.

Within the backdrop of the virus, leaders and teams face an array of challenges with complex and multifaceted themes: intersectionality, feminism, anti-racism and climate change, to name a few. What do they imply about how we organize and collaborate?  As leaders, how do we keep our teams engaged, moving forward, evolving and thriving?  How can we support more creativity, collaboration, innovation and impact?

We’ll tackle this challenge - Thriving or Surviving: How to Create Thriving Teams - in our first Leap of Leadership session of 2021. Amis Agung Boersma will facilitate a discussion on February 24th with fellow integral coachesTM Márcia Kodama and Alex Streubel. They’ll be sharing their experiences of working with individuals and teams in 2020. In this interview, Amis tells us what questions they will explore:

Why is this topic important now? Why did you choose it for the first Leap of Leadership session of 2021?

We recognize the pressure on the leadership of organizations and movements. What we experience as coaches and hear from team leaders and clients is that everyone has a lot to do, especially as roles between home life and work have collapsed. As some suffer with fatigue and stress, people can become more easily triggered, and discussions more easily inflamed: teams are able to handle less. But not everyone is responding in the same way. For some this is a time of discovery and creativity. As teams and as individuals we may be going through different phases, yet what everyone seems to have in common is a strong sense of purpose and urgency to make change.

Is Covid-19 the greatest challenge for teams?

No. Many organizations are also inspired to change and develop new routines and practices. We’re working with organizations that have ambitions to evolve: they want to apply their values to their organizational structure. They have many questions: for example, a feminist organisation wants to actively dismantle systems of oppression – what does that look like?  Or what does it take to apply anti-racist strategies in a team? How do these ambitions affect existing hierarchical structures? What power shifts are needed both inside our organizations and in the larger world?

As leaders, what behaviours do we need to cultivate?

We really need to figure out how we can deepen our impact. How we lead now deeply matters. Let’s ask ourselves: what can I do to bring out the best in my team and organization? How can I grow my own capacity to help others thrive? As challenging as it is when the demands of today are so pressing, we need to think around the corner of today’s crisis and consider what lies ahead for the future. What will our organizations require?

How can teams be helped to thrive?

There are some practical things that organizations can do. We all need access to technology and the internet, and competencies around tools and technologies. We need to rethink how we engage with each other, how we facilitate and create collaboration in virtual spaces and meetings. Groups who are intentional about making these shifts are in better shape.

What are characteristics of healthy teams?

There are some key characteristics of healthy teams: a real sense of shared purpose, shared language and rigour around processes. However, one of the things we’re beginning to understand is that teams thrive best when they are balancing certain polarities, or creative tensions. Let’s take the polarities of sameness and difference. Groups need both sameness and difference but in a way that brings out the strength of both.  Sameness is needed to calm nervous systems, create a feeling of belonging, and way to work towards common goals. Some of us find sameness from ritual, others from openness. But too much sameness in a group leads to stagnation and loss of energy. Difference is needed to create something new: to bring fresh perspectives, creativity and innovation. And yet too much emphasis on differences in teams creates fragmentation and separation.

Teams that thrive are able to combine the strengths of each of the poles. They are able to challenge each other while also feeling supported. As such they are building emotional resilience and are growing as a team. In the session, we’re going to do some practices in small groups to explore this further.

Why is ‘sameness’ needed for growth?

We can only challenge each other and explore something new if there is the safety of a certain amount of sameness. A sense of belonging is essential in order to believe that our differences make us stronger. Without it, differences are often seen as scary, or even obstacles to collaboration, and there is a competition between ideas and a lack of openness. As well, as a group, teams need to consider their own biases. They need to ask themselves how they can take the perspective of others, be more curious and cultivate trust.

Join us for our upcoming Leap of Leadership virtual session on February 24 at from 9 AM to 10:30 AM EST to learn more and experience concrete tools and practices that help us grow and thrive as individuals and as teams.