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leaders and Teams are feeling frayed

Three Simple Lifts To Bring Back "that Loving Feeling"

The old Righteous Brothers tune “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” played in my head as we facilitated a team with nearly a decade of shared history together. As passionate as they were about the priority they named as critical, they were exhausted. Every next step, no matter how important, just felt too hard.

We are seeing an interesting sheen of “just holding it together”-ness for many leaders and teams these days. They’re all ready to be in a place of really winning. But as we push through yet another wave of quarantines, climate events and staffing challenges we see people just above water, but not gaining much momentum on the swim.

This team doesn’t have obvious drama (there isn’t time for that!) but cracks in the foundation are starting to show. Conversations are collegial but a bit stilted, like there’s something lurking under the surface. Little things (an unreturned email, a terse request) have come to be seen as “my work isn’t valued” or “she doesn’t respect me.” There’s no one big thing that’s wearing people down. It’s a thousand little ones, and eventually the dam breaks. Another resignation is announced, and more are falling closely behind.

When the team needs more than you can give them alone, can anything be done to reverse the tide?

We See a DifferenT (Do-able) Possibility

Team leaders, you may not be able to change what’s happening in the outside world. But with a few simple moves, you can begin to build a team that feels like a refuge from the chaos. It’s a place where appreciation, belonging, courage and authenticity are abundant. No matter what your mission asks of you, you know you are working toward it together with intentionality, grace and connection.

We know that many of you crave a chance to hit “pause” on the world and get things working perfectly. But let’s be honest. You don’t have the luxury of perfect leadership right now. We believe making some core moves now is better than holding out for the perfect moment.

Three Do-able Actions to Bring Back
the Loving Feeling

In the coming weeks, we will share more, but here is a headline view of what it takes to start your own journey back to a thriving team.

Leading Elephants has structured supports to help you achieve this. Learn more about Thriving Teams if you are ready to take the first steps, and could use someone to carry the lift.

  • Share Stories to Build Connection and Belonging - With teams moving from crisis to crisis, relating over Zoom and pushing their natural connection times to the wayside, the fabric of relationships has begun to fray. Growth and turnover means some team members have never spent time together. Without that solid foundation, it is harder than ever to see the pressures that caused someone to make a last minute request or the pain lurking behind a zinger comment on Zoom. The presumption of goodwill is breaking down.

Use purposeful storytelling to connect team members. Opportunities to illuminate one another’s strengths, values and identities enables people to feel seen and valued for who they truly are. Discuss how you can better support one another in challenging times. This might feel counterproductive because your to-do list may not include “deepen our links to each other,” but it is the first step to repairing cracks in your shared foundation.

  • Take a Quick Pulse to Build a Common Picture of What the Team Needs - There is a widespread myth that “if we talk about it, people will feel worse.” In fact, research on mental health shows the opposite. Sharing your experiences and feeling you’re not in it alone brings both relief and a newfound sense of unity. And that is the first step to building optimism for a sunnier future together.

Look for a simple but fresh approach to understand where the team is (it may not be the same old org health survey). Then create a new kind of conversation that is both candid and optimistic. Articulate the warm, intentional and creative culture you aspire to together, and identify first steps to get there. And don’t think that it all sits on your shoulders. Your team can help to put the solutions into place. Soon, you will see hope and momentum on the rise.

  • Root in Simple Practices for Trusting Relationships - Habits of healthy dialogue, loving accountability and curiosity - while not rocket science - are surprisingly elusive (especially in challenging times). Rapid changes and lack of time have chipped away at the skills and structures that enabled past team interactions to be both productive and rewarding. Teams need a tune-up so they can better show up for each other.

Unwind funky interaction patterns by practicing skills for listening, exploring and problem-solving on low-stakes topics. The practice builds new neural pathways and enables reflectiveness so each person can take responsibility for a culture of both intentionality and grace. Embed your newfound collaboration skills into your team structures and norms, and your team can conquer almost anything that 2022 brings its way!

Like you, we aspire to a future where teams have more spaciousness. While we can’t control extreme weather, COVID rates or the supply of childcare, we can create teams where people feel held, cared for and “in it together” even amidst the chaos. Those are the workplaces people want to join, and those are the places where they choose to stay.

We know that stamina and creativity as a leader may feel tapped at times. But achieving the do-able is powerful in its own way. Step by step, you’ll get there.


If you could use a “lift” for your team this season, Leading Elephants can help. Learn about our signature three-part facilitated Thriving Teams series is designed to boost your culture, increase your team’s effectiveness and supercharge your retention.



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