“There is a great paradox that points to the hopeful path ahead,” writes thought leader Margaret Wheatley in her essay When Change is Out of Our Control. “It is possible to prepare for the future without knowing what it will be. The primary way to prepare for the unknown is to attend to the quality of our relationships, to how well we know and trust one another.”

Wheatley writes that the key to cultivating these relationships is by doing meaningful work together. In this new era of Zoom, it’s easy to divide the work in ways that allow us to conquer it individually instead of as a group but we must fight the urge to do so. She outlines several strategies for strengthening relationships and they remind me very much of the same principles that Daniel Coyle outlines in The Culture Code. It comes down to what he terms as (psychological) safety, vulnerability and purpose.

In Wheatley’s language, the list looks like this:

  • Focus people on the bigger picture – bringing people together so they can look beyond the urgent and prevent inward spiraling
  • Demand honest, forthright communication – information helps alleviate stress
  • Prepare for the unknown – practice with others through scenarios or simulations
  • Keep meaning at the forefront – articulate how the work contributes to meaningful outcomes
  • Use rituals and symbols – encourage shared expressions to celebrate or mourn
  • Pay attention to individuals – take the time to reach out to support and care for each other

Even Wheatley admits that none of her strategies provide new organizational advice. The key is actually implementing some of them – making the time to enhance your culture and the wellbeing of your team – even when chaos is swirling around all of you. Bottom lines may be brutal, hearts may be heavy and the virus may seem never-ending, but the bridge to the other side is built with trusting relationships. Don’t stay on your side of the chasm alone.

For Part 1 of this concept, see yesterday’s dot here.

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