The ability to show up in the present moment, with awareness of your experience as well as the experience of others, while maintaining authentic connection is either enhanced or diminished by your capacity and ability to sustain empathy. Empathy, simply put, is the ability to process complex data flow. Data flow: Relational data provides information about yourself and about others. How you feel and how others feel is data. What you are thinking and what your individual team members are thinking is data. What develops as a result of your dialogue in a meeting is data. Your decisions, collaborative processes, and achieved outcomes are all manifestations of your ability to process and make sense of data flow.
High Quality Relational Data High Capacity for Authentic Connection
Maintaining this flow is the key to authentic connection with your teams. You do not gather data on the basis of first this event and now that event. Data flow is based on a process of continuous, regenerative, self-renewing exchange. It is a mistake to assume that just because you make a connection, the relationship will be sustainable, or that the project will proceed, or that the team will develop. Relationships and the connections within them are living systems that need ongoing care and consideration. This can be achieved and sustained by continuously checking in, questioning, listening, and assessing. Do this even when things are going well.
High Quality Relational Data + Authentic Connection Operational Agreements
To manage all this information, data, while achieving desirable and high performing outcomes requires that you establish an infallible system to maintain and enhance high-quality data. This system is based on your ability and your team’s ability to form, communicate and keep agreements. Operational agreements are the material out of which you fashion your team. If something is not working the way you know it should or could, first ask yourself, “Do I, do my team members, keep their agreements?”
Agreements: Placing expectations on yourself or others requires that you tie every expectation directly to agreements. There is an upcoming meeting with the board and each manager is responsible for preparing a set of slides to make up their section of the board deck. All expectations need to be based on well-formed agreements. If you and someone you thought you had an agreement with fails to keep the agreement, ask yourself, “Did I establish a well-formed agreement?” Agreements have to be simple and clear, and they need to be articulated and agreed upon three times. The when, where, what, and how needs to be included with each iteration. If you form expectations of yourself, one another, or your customers without considering clear agreements, you are bound to be disappointed. Here is the time-tested, elegant infrastructure that ensures that your system works:
- If you form an expectation of yourself, a customer, or someone on your team — build clarity through dialogue: what is being agreed upon, where will it happen, when can results be expected and who will deliver on this agreement. Now find a way to repeat these parameters within the dialogue, three times.
- Keep every agreement you make.
- Try to make as few agreements as possible, they are difficult to keep.
- Finally, if you are unable to keep the agreement, renegotiate the agreement with the person with whom you made it.
Without the application of mindful awareness, presence, like most of us, you will form numerous agreements on a daily basis that you have no intention of keeping. This oversight becomes fertile ground for disappointment, resentment, and failed relational success. The valuable relational, social, and organizational data flow, when disrupted, increases the likelihood of poor performance and failed outcomes.
High Quality Relational Data + Authentic Connection + Operational Agreements Empathic Attunement
It is through well-formed agreements, that we structure successful cultural norms. Agreements form the architecture that support empathy. And Empathy is the actual container that holds and processes the relational information ensuring that the team is authentically connected. In this place of dynamic relational exchange everyone has the opportunity to step into an environment of authentic connection.
Empathy: When working with senior management, one quality of leadership emerges as an absolute necessity for successful communication and organizational well-being: empathy. We define empathy as a capacity to experience the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others, while simultaneously differentiating one’s own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The quality or capacity to attune empathically, is something many people naturally possess. However, under the stress of running an organization, over long periods of time, necessity often trumps propriety. In response to the bottom line, the successful development of the organization — cooperative effort — is moved to the background, and efficiency and control pushes mutual regard into the shadows.
As this occurs, there is a decrease in authentic human connection and communication resulting in diminished empathy. Eventually, a split will emerge, and the fractured parts silo and begin to function independently. Individuals, departments, and teams tend toward functioning in service of their independent objectives, often antithetical to the well-being of other departments and the organization. However, the devolution of an organization can be successfully corrected, once empathy is reestablished and cultivated as a conscious antidote to this dysfunctional process.
High Quality Relational Data + Authentic Connection + Operational Agreements + Empathic Attunement Regenerative Engagements
Regenerative engagements form the infrastructure for a sustainable and scalable leadership team. However, establishing, maintaining, and enhancing connection with your team can be fundamentally uncomfortable. It requires that you allow thoughts, feelings, and emotions that may not be familiar. Although, other people’s thinking can be informative, it can also be annoying. How someone feels and manages those feeling can be unsettling. The emotions that fuel their behavior can be confusing. This discomfort is the first indication that you are on the threshold of authenticity. You have become aware of this dynamic data flow and willing to be informed by it. At the same time, you are able to hold and facilitate a process where your team functions impeccably through building and keeping their agreements. You, the leader, do not consume data, you no longer function within your relationships in a way that you exploit the resources your team brings to the meeting. Every interaction becomes an opportunity to build the ecosystem in which you are willing to feel, whatever you have to feel, to continue to hold yourself and by extension others, accountable for this Regenerative Team Development.