5 books that have influenced how I think about healthy team work

In a series of 3 earlier posts, I shared some books that I’ve found useful on the topics of community management, online interactions, and leadership and team culture. In this new instalment of the series I add five books that I’ve found useful when thinking about how we create healthy teams where trust and learning together are at the centre of our interactions.

1. “Dare to Lead” – Brené Brown

If you’re already familiar with Brené Brown’s work you’ll know how much she’s done already to bring discussions about shame, resilience and belonging to the fore. It’s no surprises then that the next step on her research (and book) journey is to apply those themes to the topic of leadership. She focuses here on how we can create workplaces that are emotionally safe and welcoming while allowing us to work through and learn from challenging situations.

I particular appreciated the table of armoured versus daring leadership. It compares our sometimes habitual behaviours such as cynicism or numbing (where we fiddle constantly with our phones, go to nightly happy hours or some other tactic to avoid uncomfortable feelings) to the daring versions – being hopeful or sitting with discomfort to see what it might show us.

I did not find this an easy read – it definitely challenges the reader to work on themselves. Yet it provides very vivid perspectives about how taking responsibility for our emotions can lead to more fulfilling, collaborative relationships at work.

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Exploring forms and norms – “Terminal” installation at the Sackler Gallery, DC

One of the things I sometimes consider on this blog is how design and interactive art can help us to explore our relationships to technology and how we see the world. “Exploring forms and norms” is an occasional series of posts on this topic.

By now the phrase “we’re all connected” has become almost synonymous with network maps showing the links between different people or nodes. Whether the maps show who interacts with whom within an organisation or which scientists around the world collaborate together, network diagrams start to add a systems perspective to our own interactions.

However, one thing these network maps don’t really describe is the consequence of all this connection – the sometimes subtle cause and effects of our inter-relatedness. If that department over there is closed down or these two friends of friends meet, then so what for me – or anyone else in the system?

The ultimate link fest! Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chanceprojects/4388266976/

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Social learning spaces – and how community managers help make room for uncertainty

In the fellowship program that I run for scientific community managers we often refer to how a community manager needs to “create the space” for productive interactions to occur between community members. Other variants of the phrase that I’ve heard or used are “creating the container”, “tilling the soil” or “holding the crucible” in which the alchemy of new knowledge generation happens. But what does this somewhat cryptic phrase “creating the space” actually mean? We’re not literally talking about moving chairs out of the way or building a box big enough to hold people in, are we?

Diving lessons – how do we hold uncertainty together in a learning space? Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/seattlemunicipalarchives/2650415742/in/photostream/

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Brené Brown on civility – and how it relates to creating diverse, equitable and inclusive communities

A few months ago I listened to an interview with Brené Brown on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast. In her book, Braving the Wilderness, Brown examines how it is that we can find a sense of belonging with others while also staying true to our own beliefs. In many ways, it’s a reflection on what’s needed for healthy communities – online and off.

A very civilised way to explore civility and community.
Image credit: author’s own

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Exploring forms and norms – Lanterns in the Noguchi museum, NYC

One of the things I sometimes consider on this blog is how design and interactive art can help us to explore our relationships to technology and how we see the world. “Exploring forms and norms” is an occasional series of posts on this topic.

A few months ago I visited the Noguchi museum in NYC where a wonderful exhibition using paper lanterns prompted me to consider the sensory expectations that different forms can create and how playing with form and the absence of form can help us to think through what we notice and what we take for granted in our interactions.

Lanterns and spaces – Noguchi museum, NYC.
Image credit: author’s own

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Navigating knowledge landscapes – the role of community managers as guides

In July, I participated in an inspiring 4-day retreat led by Bev Trayner and Etienne Wenger – social learning theorists and consultants who have written extensively about communities of practice and how cultivation of knowledge is a group-mediated activity. Each morning at the retreat we explored their current thinking about social learning, enjoying much time for discussion of the ideas as a group. One model that particularly resonated with me was that of the knowledge landscape.

In this metaphor, communities of practice can be imagined as hills or mountains of expertise within a landscape. The mountains can vary in height, depending on the amount of knowledge contained, and the slope of the mountain indicates the gradient of learning or the curriculum that a new member of the community would need to follow in order to progress up the mountain to expert level. A steep slope indicates that it’s harder to master the knowledge in that community, whereas a more gentle gradient allows for working more leisurely within the learner’s comfort zone.

How steep is the learning curve in your community of practice?
Image credit: author’s own

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Reading for Leading #27: Just five minutes…Creating wide open ways in

Just five minutes…Creating wide open ways in

Reading for Leading is a weekly leadership tip shared every Monday morning as a pithy suggestion, question or reflection. You can find the whole series here.

There’s a joke I heard recently about meditation where one practitioner turns and asks another how her practice is going. To which she replies,  “Oh, you know how it is: I spent 45 minutes not meditating today.”

And yet it’s always a day away…
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/seaternity/14975654022/

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