Teams

There’s a difference between rest and reflection. Spoiler alert: You need both.

“Being a leader is not about production; it’s about being there for the people I lead, support, and serve. And I need to prepare myself to be a decent human being so that
I can be there for others and be approachable.”
– Andrew, Clear Harbor member

I have to exist as a human to show up at work. And when I show up as a cog and a machine, I feel the least fulfilled in my life.”
– Shannon, Clear Harbor member

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had many conversations about rest and reflection. We talked about why it’s important and how to fit it into our busy lives. The two quotes I shared above were from those conversations and examples of why we must find time to rest and reflect individually and in groups if we want to show up as leaders in our lives. 

Rest can happen when you reflect, but rest is not always reflection time. Sometimes the reflection piece gets left behind. We hear a lot about self-care and well-being on the topic of rest. But often, reflection is missing.

Leaders, in particular, need both rest and reflection to:

  • keep going,
  • keep leading, 
  • stay in their role (and lane), 
  • not burn out,  
  • make decisions, and 
  • recognize that pauses are necessary. 

Leaders need built-in time to reflect on themselves. The results? You avoid bringing knee-jerk reactions and your own bias to your team. We must reflect internally first before we can show up and lead a reflection with others. Reflection can bring you back to your why and passion and help you feel human. Time for reflection for yourself and then in groups is a critical tool for building a more equitable and inclusive workplace.

“Your goal is not to stick to a given schedule at all costs; it’s instead to maintain, at all times,
a thoughtful say in what you’re doing with your time.”
– Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Most times, teams will retrospect at the end of a project by looking at how things went, what worked, what didn’t work, and what can be improved. But you can do this at any time as a team! Build those moments into groups in the arc of the process with reflection points to pause and observe. 

I build rest and reflection into meetings – we stop, take a breath, take a break, and look away from the screens and each other. We write on our own before we share in the group. These practices are critical when building your team and group processes. 

At times, I work with teams after they’ve missed opportunities to reflect – on the big picture or on cultural dynamics. They always had lots of work to complete but little time to reflect. The good news? It’s never too late to change this. We can find time to reflect. 

You CAN build in time to reflect starting now to avoid big crises and conflicts in the future. When you practice slowing down and reflecting now, you will remember how to do it in the middle of stressful moments and not leap into fast decision-making based on assumptions and stories. When we slow down and recognize our own biases, we change how we do things. That’s one step toward making our work more equitable and inclusive. 

This is one reason I created Clear Harbor for leaders – more here if you’re intrigued.
Clear Harbor is a built-in time for groups of people to reflect outside of the day-to-day pressures to respond.
It’s a commitment on your calendar to other people.
It’s a space to step back and reflect with a more significant viewpoint.

We not only show you it’s possible to build this into your workday, but we show you how.  

I promised you a list of ways to build in time for rest and reflection. You can grab the list here. Remember, this isn’t MY list. These thoughts and ideas are from friends, clients, colleagues, and maybe even from you. Browse the list and see if anything sparks your interest. Try a few of the ideas yourself.

How can you build reflection into your day?

Rheanna SmithThere’s a difference between rest and reflection. Spoiler alert: You need both.
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Staying Awake to Others While Navigating Change

As a leader, the people you work with are the key – to creating and building something beautiful and enjoying the work you’re doing. Without people, without a team, the vision does not move forward. Many leaders I work with are working with people who care deeply and work hard. And they are tired and navigating change after unsettling change.

And, the leaders I work with are navigating personal and professional challenges daily. 

P.S. Everyone I work with is a leader because I follow this definition of leadership.*

It is easy to lose sight of how everyone around you is doing when you have so much to do. 

However, there can be detrimental impacts when you are not staying connected to your team, peers, and humans in your life. When we are not paying attention to those around us – we lose the warmth of human connection, love, and care. We lose the insights and visions offered up by different people who see the world and its opportunities differently than we do. We lose out on the potential to build a strong team or a thoughtful family. When we are not attending to our teams and people, relationships may end. We miss the chance to offer support, and we miss the opportunity to grow and learn.

I’ve had moments in my life and my business where I was feeling so overwhelmed that I did not take the time needed to care about the core people in my life. The memories of those moments cause an ache in my heart and belly. 

I am aware that: 

  • I was not living out my values, and 
  • I need to ensure that I do not get to the point of overwhelm that causes me to cut off connections to others.

I continue to work on this in my life. 

How do I live out my value of being in intentional, meaningful relationships with my partners, clients, community, and family while juggling the work of being a human?

Here is a check-in to help you stay connected to your team, the people you work with, and the people you care about in your personal life.
There are four areas to pay attention to 1. tending, 2. tuning, 3. checking in, and 4. changing.

Download this check-in tool here!

Give yourself a mini-audit. 

In your relationships, how are you tending, tuning in, checking in, and changing?

What is ONE thing you can do in ONE of the areas with a teammate or loved one?

No one person can do it all!

Of course, we cannot be connected to everyone on our team or in our community at all times. We need to make choices about who we are investing in and who are the critical relationships for us. And we need to be aware of how much time and capacity we have. It helps to write down who you are committed to being in the right relationship with. 

Others may be acquaintances and colleagues you invest less energy in but treat with respect. If you are in a formal leadership position, you will need to foster skills across your company to help everyone stay connected and check in with staff. 

(You know I am going to say this – but here’s a reminder – to be tuned in and awake to what is happening with others… you need to be awake to yourself and take care of yourself. If there is no energy left in your engine, these practices will be hard to do! Be on the lookout for more in March about staying awake to yourself!)


P.S. Here are some additional resources for Step 3 – Checking In:
4 essential human connections we all need right now
Simple ways to connect with each other, even virtually
How to stay open when you are ready to shut the conversation down
Tips for staying open & non-defensive in difficult conversations
5 Steps for Grounding During Instability
5 steps for grounding during instability pdf
2 questions that cut back the stress

* Vessel Consulting uses Brene Brown’s definition of leadership, “A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential.”

Rheanna SmithStaying Awake to Others While Navigating Change
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Why I love meetings and how you can too

Meetings… there were already so many dreaded meetings. And now most of us are still doing meetings online with glitchy internet looking at little screens scrambling for a background that hides the messy dishes. (Just noticing do all my notes include dirty dishes… yes there are a lot of dirty dishes in my life!)

Guess what – I am one of those weird people who likes meetings!
I know, I know… it’s true. I built a whole business around being in meetings (small and even very large). And often it is with people I don’t know well. People who are trying to make a plan for the future of their work together.

And I love it!

Can I tell you why I love it?
(The secret can also help you enjoy a few more meetings.)

I love meetings because I get to learn more about other people and connect to their stories while moving forward critical, purpose-driven work.

These are my favorite things – being with people and moving a plan forward!

Good meetings do these two things almost always…

  1. Connect people – relationships are built, and people come away understanding other people’s stories and perspectives more than before.
  2. Move forward purpose-driven action – decisions are made, ideas are discussed, and people come away with meaningful tasks that move the whole group toward their purpose.

Double-check the meetings you are a part of. 
Do your meetings connect people and move forward action items?


Or do you have meetings that are:

  • just a download of someone’s agenda or priorities.
  • all about those next steps and action without any opportunity to build teamwork & relationship.
  • meandering and unclear.

Think through these two questions when planning the next meeting:

Is there 10-15 minutes for human connection?

Is there space to discuss, make decisions, and clearly set up next steps?

Want more on how to support your teams and move them toward action and connection? Let’s talk!

Rheanna SmithWhy I love meetings and how you can too
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The most essential processes for making teamwork WORK!

Sometimes we need an infusion of ideas and tools for the work we are already doing. 

I am going to get tactical right now and jump straight into it!

There are a few processes it is good to always use when you are working with a group.

Whether you are leading and supporting an Executive team in your business, organizing a school group to make changes in school policy to benefit all students, or co-facilitating a volunteer-led group for immigrant justice- these WILL make the work smoother (and more fun)!

Three essential processes ease the amount of work you are each doing, increase action, and even enjoyment, while you work together.

    A set of working agreements
    Have a set of agreements that guide your work together. 

    This can be as simple as two or three verbal agreements for how you want to act when you work together and how you will do your work. You can put these in writing and come back to them each year as a process of learning together and acknowledging what is working and what can be improved.

    An agreed-upon, known common purpose
    A clear outlined statement about why the group exists and the purpose of their work together. 

    I find most people in a group have different understandings of the purpose of the group and the larger mission or reason for the group’s existence. When the purpose is not clear, people will be less engaged, less collaborative, and more confused. 

    If you want a passionate group – create purpose together and come back to your purpose over and over.

    A clear decision-making process
    A process that outlines how major (and even minor) decisions are made and who is responsible for which decision. 

    Not everyone has to be a part of making every decision, but everyone should know who and how each decision is made. If you want to increase trust and create an inclusive team – discuss and document who makes what decisions and how. (Even better add clarity around how input can be given and what is done with input once it is given.)

These seem simple.

However, when the work is critical and there is much to be done – we can quickly lose sight of each of these processes. 

Check in real quick on a team project you are working on, and ask yourself:

  1. Do we have a set of agreements for how we want to work together? Do we all know what these agreements are?
  2. Do we know what the purpose of our team is? If asked, would we each of us give a different answer for why we exist as a team?
  3. Do we know how decisions are made and who makes what decisions? Have we discussed and documented who is responsible for each decision?

If you answered, yes – awesome you are set up to build a strong team. 

If you answered “sort of” – go back and find a way to answer and clarify as a group.
I promise you it will lead to more collaboration, more trust, and less stress!

Want more tips and tools for building a team you actually enjoy working with? Let’s talk!


Here is to all of us working together in collaborative, action-oriented teams!

Rheanna SmithThe most essential processes for making teamwork WORK!
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Show up for your team without depleting yourself

You are doing a lot. 

As the world continues to shift around us, our commitments require a lot of energy.
The pandemic and the continued fight for racial justice serves as a reminder of the need for action on so many fronts.

So maybe you find yourself run down and tired at the end of the day. Maybe you find yourself on autopilot. Or perhaps you are cranking up the speed to stay ahead of the next change.

Wherever you find yourself, I know how much people depend on you.

When we are committed to creating positive community change, connection, inclusion and love in our work lives and at home, we are tasked with offering up our time and attention to others.

Your team needs you. Your coworkers need you. Your friends and family need you. People depend on you to show up every day and make space to plan and strategize with them. 

Everyone needs to be seen and supported. 

I know that when I am already at my max for energy and capacity figuring out just how to offer myself up can be a real struggle.

I promise you – you can have the energy you need and stay connected with people on your team (and in your life) at the same time.

Here is a simple checklist that can help you stay connected and be supportive of your team WHILE feeling less stress and more energy.

Before you dive in – take a grounding breath. (Inhale, exhale.) The key is simple, small, consistent check-ins with yourself and others. It just requires you to slow down a tiny bit.

  1. How is your own energy and capacity? What are you doing to boost your own capacity? Once you’ve given yourself a boost – you will experience more energy to do the work of supporting others.  
  2. Where can you carve out specific time out in your day for your own breathing room, and space for the people on your team?
  3. What everyday practices can you build into your workflow and conversations that allow you and others to understand each other better and communicate more readily?
  4. What open-ended and curious questions can you add to your repertoire that force you to slow down and listen deeply? (For example – “Can you tell me more about that?”, “Do you have ideas for what you want to try next?”) 
    (For example – “Can you tell me more about that?”, “Do you have ideas for what you want to try next?”)
  5. What simple actions can you (and others) take that actively demonstrate your support for your team and what structures can you build to allow your team members to support each other?
  6. What consistent gestures can you offer that weave in appreciation, acknowledgment and celebration with your team?

    (P.S. If you don’t work with a team sub out the word “team” for any person or small group of humans you are in a relationship with.)

Want a more detailed guide? I made one just for you here.

You’ll find that teamwork is more effective when people feel actively seen, acknowledged, and supported. As a leader, both you and your team will experience increased creativity, vision, and willingness to take risks once you take the time to tend to your team. You’ll encounter less harmful, unaddressed conflicts because trust, relationships and communication allow issues to surface. 

Over time, well-tended teams become more efficient and build capacity to problem solve, generate new ideas, and take on more responsibility… which eventually frees up your own energy.

When we are tired or pushed to the limit, we can miss the opportunities to nurture our relationships.

Take good care of yourself and find one easy way to check in with your people.

Rheanna SmithShow up for your team without depleting yourself
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How to stay open when you are ready to shut the conversation down

My throat tightens and my neck and shoulders pull in toward my back.
She says to me again, “I am wondering if we can talk more about what just happened?”

Everything quickens, my mind jumps, and I think, “What did I do? What is wrong?”

I begin to feel nervous and a bit ashamed.
I do not like feeling ashamed.
And I know for me nervous often leads to anxious.
I do not like anxious… I want this feeling to end quickly, now.
 
I blurt out “oh I know, I know… I didn’t mean to” before she has even finished her second sentence.
Whew that took care of that – now we can move on!
 
Or another time… my heartbeat quickens, my face flushes hot.
This person is telling me their opinion and whoa are they so wrong!
“Oh no you don’t,” I think… “you have no idea… you do not understand the reality of the situation in the least.”
 
I jump in and interject my opinion, explaining the correct way, of course!
 
And they fly back with an even hotter remark about the way we see it. Game on!
Or they clench their jaw and stop talking. And I have won.
 
These could be hypothetical examples of moments when we lose our cool, are about to receive tough feedback, or hear a viewpoint that is completely different than ours.
 
However, they are not hypothetical for me – both instances happened in the last four weeks.

You may relate.
 
My quick response to protect myself from feeling anything does not help anything change nor does it lead to better relationships.
I am working at not going into these states of behavior immediately.
I try to slow down and stay open.
 
When I can stay open, non-defensive and listen, I can: 

  • deepen my connection with colleagues,
  • develop the muscles to stay in moments that are uncomfortable,
  • learn that I can become a more aware & empathetic version of myself.

Here are the steps I take in the middle of a challenging conversation to stay open.


(Oh, did you miss part 1? Check out this video about why we shut conversations down.

I made a downloadable guide just for you (and me) – with the steps I use to stay non-defensive when the conversation gets sticky.
 
A few of my favorite resources are in the guide too!

May we all deepen our ability to engage in rich, fruitful, world changing conversations with each other.

Rheanna SmithHow to stay open when you are ready to shut the conversation down
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Why we shut down when the conversation gets difficult & what to do about it

There is one skill I am using more than any other in this time of Covid, US elections, & racial justice movement building, and no it is not bread baking (although Elino and I are making a scrumptious focaccia these days). 

The skill I continue to need is “how to stay open & non-defensive during a difficult conversation.” I need this skill to maintain relationships with those I love, and to work toward change through long Zoom calls.

Staying open and non-defensive is not always easy for me. 

I continue to learn, practice, fail, & try again. 

I keep trying to change how I show up because I believe if I can be open and non-defensive, I will hear more, learn more, and be a part of bridging the divides in understanding that exist in our world & nation (instead of creating more of them).

I believe this is one of the most important skills for being in loving relationships, building a high-functioning, honest team, and moving toward racial, climate, & economic justice.

I am excited to share what I do and the resources I use to deepen this skill!

Start here with a video about why we usually shut down when the conversation starts to feel hard. And what you can do before you are in a tricky conversation so you have the ability to stay open when it gets heated.


Next week be on the lookout for part 2 with tips for how to stay non-defensive while you are in the middle of an important conversation, plus amazing resources I love, and a cheat sheet!

Rheanna SmithWhy we shut down when the conversation gets difficult & what to do about it
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