People often think of boundaries in a sort of negative way: putting up walls or fences. Of course, walls and fences are designed to keep somethings in and somethings out. And they often create a sense of separation. Let’s consider ways in which leaders can create positive boundaries that foster connection, integration, unification, cooperation, consensus, and collaboration. Creating team cohesion and connections is a positive form of boundary setting by setting a boundary against distraction, disconnection and fragmentation. This forms the foundation of team unity and a shared purpose or mission.
In a great book that I highly recommend, Henry Cloud, PhD (Boundaries For Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously In Charge), delineates 10 ingredients that build what he calls, “connected unity”.
Shared Purpose: Unity grows when people come together around a shared purpose or goal. This can be the overarching mission of a company or a specific goal of a team within the company. The purpose must be clearly defined for all team members.
Awareness: Mutual awareness means that team members understand the perspectives of one another and operate from the same set of facts, assumptions, and realities. When people feel like they are out of the loop, disconnection can grow. Mutual awareness brings the elephant into the room so it can be dealt with constructively.
Nonverbal Cues: Active listening is accompanied by a relaxed and focused attention. People can tell when you are disinterested and disengaged. Use nonverbals to show that you are present and open. Turn off your cell phone during important conversations and meetings. People can feel respect.
Collaboration: Create a climate where problems and issues get shared and solved through team members’ engagement with one another. Visions, ideas, and plans are birthed as people work together and breakthroughs are shared.
Coherent and Relative Narrative: Neuroscience tells us that the human brain likes to organize information and experiences into stories. Your company’s or team’s historical narrative is important as well as the current narrative about a new project or problem at hand. People want to see their place in the story, and what role they can play in moving the story forward.
Conflict Resolution: Conflict aversion, or conflict phobia… avoiding conflict and hard conversations, only makes things worse. We can’t create unity without talking about difficult topics and issues that people are really upset about. Having the courage to go through hard conversations sets in motion the results of transformation and resolution. Courage breeds courage.
Emotional Regulation: No leaders are perfect. There will be times at which we are not at our best. Connecting with others can provide a form of self-regulation. It can calm us down and help us to contain strong emotional reactions. Then we can transform those emotions into more productive emotional states. Decisions made in a state of emotional reactivity are seldom good.
Emotional Reflection: It’s all about stopping, relaxing, and examining our thoughts, observations, and feelings. This creates a group mindfulness that leads to further insight and openness, which in turn breeds greater connection. Self-reflection is a leader’s superpower.
Emotional Repair: There will always be bumps in the road, disagreements, conflicts, empathetic misses, and feelings of emotional exposure when working in teams. But they don’t have to be deal breakers and they don’t have to cause permanent damage. Seek repair when necessary and have your team members discuss what that repair would look like.
Listening: Active and intentional listening is essential. People want to be heard. It is often helpful to feed back to someone something that they have said. It helps clarify if you have misheard and makes the other person feel understood. In addition, a summary statement helps people to feel understood and valued. Listening is the glue that holds all of this together.
Weekly Challenge: Where do you stand on each of these 10 ingredients. Pick 2 to address in which you wish to improve.
Supporting Your Success,