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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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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Responsive, transformative, contagious – Alan Alda’s three elements of listening

I’m currently taking part in an online science communication book club that’s discussing Alan Alda’s latest book “If I understood you, would I have this look on my face?” As well as being a well-known TV personality, Alda is the founder of the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. The Center draws upon improv techniques for some of the trainings that it provides to scientists to help them improve their communications skills. In this book Alda outlines three elements of listening that are vital in being able to relate to one another.

Lessons from a M*A*S*H*ter communicator…
Image credit: author’s own

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URLs of wisdom – silencing, story and speaking up edition – March 2018

Having diverse voices able to safely express their input and for it be received respectfully is vital to the functioning of teams, groups and communities – including those online and in science. This is a special instalment of the URLs of wisdom in which I round up some new and some not-so-new links that explore silencing, story and speaking up. If you have additional reading material on these topics to recommend, please add it as a comment.

“I’m a unique bird and I will not be deterred from making my song heard.”
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnfish/3932308358/

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Reading for Leading #20: Writing your own instructions manual

Writing your own instructions manual

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.

“He’s really pushing my buttons” is a strange phrase that implies both that someone else is dictating our behaviour and that we have a clear set of visible controls that determine that behaviour. 

“Surprise! You’re in charge – but there are no labels and no instructions…” Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/oceann/5513395919/

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Reading for Leading #17: Making and keeping good agreements

Making and keeping good agreements

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.

It’s that time of year when many of us are reflecting on the months that have passed and thinking ahead to resolutions for the year to come. But as leaders, we make promises or agreements throughout the year – and ensuring that we act with integrity and stay true to our word is vital for smooth-flowing team work. In today’s post we look at the practice of making and keeping good agreements.

How are you hand-ling your agreements?
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sklathill/1405010166/

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Reading for Leading #16: The 6 listening filters that prevent us from hearing the full message

The 6 listening filters that prevent us from hearing the full message

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.

In a healthy, well-functioning team each member should be able to speak candidly about their thoughts and feelings about a given situation. Making that possible depends up building trust that their input will be listened to. Really listening requires creating space for the person speaking to express what they need to say and hearing not just the verbal content but also how they are feeling. There are 6 listening filters that can get in the way of this kind of sensitive listening.

“I keep asking if Polly wants a cracker but she never replies…”
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/142252831@N04/27559909621/

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