Move your teams from Reactivity to Creativity

Does your team navigate from one crisis to the next?

Or does it navigate situations that come up with ease, as though surfing a nice long wave?

Do your group conversations flow with winning ideas and excitement?

Science from the HeartMath Institute teaches us to connect with our hearts through the ups and downs of work life. We can all learn to bring inner ease, appreciation and care into every moment, no matter how challenging the situations may be.

When we have the resources to respond to stress, we feel more alive, more energized and creative. On the other hand, when we become emotionally overwhelmed, we cannot connect to our inner wisdom or generate the best ideas.

Leaders can develop the emotional skills to move their teams from reactivity to creativity with simple practices. Are you ready to recharge your team’s emotional battery, so that you can ride the waves of change as they come?

These are my 3 keys to connecting to our creativity and energize positive change: 

1. Learn and practice heart-centered breathing to open up your creativity

The HeartMath Institute has conducted scientific research for over 25 years and developed scientifically-validated techniques to bring inner harmony in every situation. It all starts with focusing our breath on our heart or chest area, and bringing in appreciation, care, or simply some inner ease, as we breathe gently. No need to close your eyes, just a few breaths can shift the way your heart beats. If you were to map out the beats per minutes in a graph, you would notice that gentle waves begin to form. Once your heart is harmonized, so is your mind, and the rest of your system synchs up as well. And when we reach a state of inner balance, we can connect to our highest thinking, wisdom and creativity. When teams take a moment to pause, breathe and experience a renewing emotion together, research shows that the hearts synchronize, sparking a new way to collaborate, a heart-centered way.

“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

Think about this, when you are feeling confident, energized, how would you describe your thoughts and actions? Let me guess…they’re 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. Perhaps you can inspire a warm moment of reflection with a quote or poem, or maybe the group can take a few heart-centered breaths together to harmonize with each other.

Before ending the meeting, take a moment to share with each other an aha moment, or simply something you appreciated about the meeting. This way, after the meeting is over, your team leaves “positively charged” and continues to spiral into additional creativity and results. 

3. Focus on the positively-framed opportunities

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 a way that flips it, sharing the desired outcome rather than narrowing on the difficulty.

So for instance, if a collaborator states that “there is a communications issue” 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 our vision”. This simple switch towards 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 Stavros’ 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.

In the Appreciative Inquiry model of strategic planning, instead of starting a planning process with a typical SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and threats), groups discover the core strengths. From a place of strengths gathered from the stories of moments of greatness, teams build images of a future that are uplifting and inspiring.

When running team meetings and problems keep bubbling up, guide the participants through the Name it-Flip it-Frame it. Then notice the shift in the conversation. Most likely, you’ll notice that new ideas begin to emerge that inspire meaningful and positive change.

I encourage you to be intentional in your next meeting to help shift your team from reactivity to creativity. You can take incremental steps and apply one of these at a time, or you can try them all and notice what changes. Just remember to stay in your own harmony, as your own emotional state will also influence how others feels!

Ana Karina Smith Cain, MSPOD

Positive Organizational Change Facilitator

I provide the following services:

  • One-on-one leadership coaching
  • Peer-to-peer coaching and mentoring programs
  • Appreciative Inquiry change facilitation, for teams and system-wide
  • Emotional wellbeing and leadership training
  • Group visioning, group planning processes
  • For a 30-minute consultation: