How To Transform From A Reactive to A Responsive Organization And Transcend Your Current Reality

Do you find yourself navigating from one crisis to the next in your organization? Or do you feel that you navigate the situations that come up with ease, as though you’re surfing a wave and feeling a sense of achievement at the other end, or are you feeling wiped out before you get on the next one?

What do your interactions sound like and feel like when situations arise? Does your heart begin to race with excitement or with dread?

How would you feel if I tell you that the science of the heart teaches us to regulate our emotional well-being, individually and at the team setting, so that we can bring inner ease into every challenge and rather than drain us, the situation at hand can give us that exciting sense of rallying together to get the job done!

When we have enough resources, physical as well as emotional, to respond to stress, we often feel more alive, more energized and positive. On the other hand, when we cannot rise to the occasion, due to emotional overwhelm or lack of support, we feel depleted. 

Are you ready to build up your team’s stress capacity, so that you can ride the waves as they come?

These are my 3 keys to responding rather than reacting: 

1. Learn and practice heart-centered techniques to build your team’s individual and group resilience capacity

The HeartMath Institute has conducted scientific research for over 25 years and developed techniques that are scientifically validated to create a state of internal balance. When we build a state of heart coherence, by focusing our breath on our heart or chest area and activating regenerative emotions like appreciation or ease, we can shift the way our hearts beat. With heart-based techniques, we experience a beat-to-beat heart rate mapped over time (called heart rate variability) that is harmonious. And when we reach a state of coherence individually and at the group level, we connect to our highest thinking, wisdom and creativity. 

“In a coherent team, there is freedom for the individual members to do their part and thrive while maintaining cohesion and resonance within the group’s intent and goals.”

(From Science of the Heart)

2. Start and end your meetings with heart and create an “upward spiral” of positivity

Think about this, when you are feeling confident, energized, how would you describe your thoughts and actions? Your thoughts are likely uplifting, positive, encouraging. And your actions are possibly constructive, building up to positive results. At the group level, when you and your teammates are feeling inspired and experience collaboration, I can imagine that you build better plans, come up with creative ideas and perhaps even begin to implement these, spiraling into positive results. 

If you have ever experienced this, you’re not alone. Barabara Frederickson and Erick Garland call these “spirals of positivity”. 

So try this: next meeting you run, make sure to begin with heartfelt moments of group appreciation or celebration, or even a heart-mind breathing technique to get everyone in the room in a “coherent” state. And after you all succeed in creating an upward spiral at your gathering, end with heart, with the biggest gift you all received in the meeting, or what you appreciated the most. This way, after the meeting is over, your team continues to spiral into additional creativity and results. 

3. Focus on the positively framed learnings and opportunities rather than the problems or the blame

Now, once your meeting is running smoothly and you encounter an “issue”, gently nudge your team to think of positive ways to frame the problem. This can be as simple as stating it in an opposite-affirmative format or stating the desired outcome rather than focus on the problem at hand. So for instance, if a collaborator states that “there is a communications problem” that needs to be addressed, this can be reframed and restated as “how might we build the best communications process so that we can achieve the desired outcome”. This simple “switch” in reframing will maintain the generative emotional state of the team rather than going on a “downward spiral” of finger pointing and defensiveness. 

I love Jackie Stavro’s and Cheri Torres’ suggestion to “Name it, Flip it, Frame it” from their book Conversations Worth Having. In this approach, problems are worded as their opposite, then framed as an affirmative opportunity. I first practiced this technique in my experience in the nonprofit sector, with my own variation of the Logical Framework Approach, developed by USAID in the 1960’s. In the original method, the problems are stated clearly and from those problems, the objectives are crafted. As I worked with local communities around a new protected area in Panama in the 1990’s, I found that the emotional experience was energizing when we shifted from a problem-solving approach to crafting clear and positive goals that represented what the community members dreamed of creating for their future. Affirmative objectives helped us to build strong plans that transformed imagination into reality, and today the area is now the San Lorenzo National Park and the communities around it have a birdwatching center, trails and opportunities to develop world-class eco tourism. In the Appreciative Inquiry model of strategic planning, instead of starting at the problem identification, we start with discovering the core strengths to then build a future that is uplifting and inspiring. In the words of the founder of the Appreciative Inquiry field (and my professor at Case Western Reserve University), Dr. David Cooperrider,  “the future is consciously constructed upon the positive core strengths of the organization. Linking the energy of this core directly to any change agenda suddenly and democratically creates and mobilizes topics never before thought possible.“ 

Once the issues at hand have been reframed, then you can help your team navigate the joy of imagining an ideal future and mapping out a plan to get there.