I have been watching the teams I consult with to see if there is a better level of accountability than in the past. Here is what I notice: when stress is high, heads are down and everyone is pointing fingers outward, in the direction of others. There is still the old, “he did it, she did it, or they did it” mentality.
When there is less stress there is much more willingness to say “oops, WE made a mistake”.
Why the difference? I have sat with some of the team members to peel back the layers and get a look at what is really going on.
When stress is in the red zone memories of being “yelled at” as a youngster seem to bubble up and the need is to protect oneself is front and center.
This is when the lower parts of the brain, the amygdala in particular, sends out the warning signals that danger is right around the corner, so head down and be careful. Can you remember a time when as a kid you knew you were going to get in trouble, a time out in your room or even a hard swat on your rear? Did you fess up to the wrongdoing or give a sly “I have no idea how that happened” or “It must have been Jane” before you snuck into the safety of your corner of the room to wait for the storm to blow over?
Stress will make us be less accountable, less willing to risk telling the whole truth. That programming for survival tells us to be wary and make sure there is a backup plan for safety. So, when I hear the saying “teamwork is never having to take all the blame yourself” I know the stress being put on the team is in the red zone.
I love to teach teams to “practice safe stress”. This is where the rubber meets the road (As I was writing this I saw the double meaning, smiled, and decided to leave it just as is).Safe stress means knowing what your childhood coping patterns are and how to harness them rather than let them take hold of you.
If you are not sure what those patterns are go to www.sylvialafair.com and take the pattern aware quiz. Here is the good news. Once you can get a handle on the childhood patterns that were there for protection and survival you can transform them to more grown up ways of addressing stress and when you are on a team you can be accountable for your part in whatever is going on.
Get a whole team to be pattern aware and you have a winning combination that is the standard for the whole company.