Conscious leadership: building connection before strategy

If you consider having strategy days with your team, and you wonder it it’s the time worth investing in building connection first, the answer is YES. I’ll give you some good reasons why , illustrated by the case of Board of Innovation.

The dinner and the booze aren’t enough

You are a management team of a small business, or a leadership team of a corporate department and you are going on an offsite workshop to build your strategic plans together. You plan to have some fun activities in between the content sessions and you will of course have the dinners and the booze. Great , that’s certainly a first step to create the necessary relaxed atmosphere. What I learned in guiding management teams in the last 15 years is that the dinner and the booze are just not enough. They bring you to the point where you feel : OK we can have fun together , we can be great colleagues and talk about the ‘safe’ stuff while having drinks. The things that were a bit tense aren’t in the foreground anymore and we can move along. It works like with many couples. Let’s go have dinner, but don’t talk about the difficult stuff. Do this for some years and the difficult stuff stands in between you as a massive pile you can’t oversee anymore…

Good strategy discussions fail because of ‘small’ personal issues

What doesn’t get on the table while drinking the beers is the -at first glance- ‘small’ personal issues where mutual trust was harmed. This happens when promises were not held, where we felt judged by each other , where we missed recognition for our efforts, or emotional support during a hard time we went through. These things stay under the surface when not talked about. Good discussions on strategy will fail because of relational issues, because people withhold their true ideas and their true feelings when they don’t feel the psychological safety . And as a consequence they won’t give their full energy, passion and commitment. They rather think: let’s see first how it goes here. Will my message be heard ? Will I be valued? Wil I be good enough ? While all these concerns play, how can anyone give the best of him/herself ?

No creativity without vulnerability

Let’s take it even a step further. Even if there were no noteworthy issues or conflicts in the team why would we invest time in the connection?

‘Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity and innovation’ (Brené Brown)

Teams that are thriving are masters in creating vulnerable moments together. When people share their most valuable life experiences, their internal struggle , their highest aspirations, what keeps them awake at night , the connection is built on a deeper personal level. Then people are fully present in the team, in the room , as a person . The are there with an open mind , an open heart, feeling accepted with all there is. Even if anyone announces he considers leaving the company, it is a release for this person, to have it in the open. Only when people can be fully themselves, seen in what drives them and who they really are , deep connection and commitment can be felt. Only then real creativity happens and people contribute with the best of themselves, in the reality they and the team are in.

Case: Board of Innovation builds connection at the Lighthouse

At Board of Innovation, a fast growing Agency in Innovation consultancy, the Leadership team recently kicked off their 3-days strategic Lighthouse with a Trust Session. Through various intuitive exercises, and a facilitated dialogue , we appealed to the layer of the heart rather than to the mind. By doing this, the team got easily connected at the strategic challenges for the company and to each team members personal purpose and contribution in these. This created the necessary openness and trust to start the strategic session and made it more productive.

Advise : kick off your strategic off site with a Trust Session

Building trust and connection within your team takes time. Strong leadership teams dedicate at least a full two days per year on this. When this foundation is laid, it can be enough to start your strategic off-site workshop with a Trust Session of half a day. It will make your discussions much more productive and committed because everyone will be fully on board. A neutral external team coach is an important element to facilitate the difficult conversations if and when they come up.

As an Organisation Whisperer I coach leaders to lead in a conscious and vulnerable way. I facilitate teams to connect with open mind and heart. By bringing my spark of warmth and inspiration I aim to foster soulfulness in your business.

Contact : els.demesmaeker@amazo.be 0032 475 70 45 25