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Tips on recognizing and stopping negative energy from sabotaging your virtual team

In a previous post, we discussed being mindful of the energy (also known as emotional energy) in group environments and how to identify when a meeting is being sabotaged by an individual’s negative energy.

Blog pic2 - Tips on recognizing and stopping negative energy from sabotaging your virtual team

What is negative energy then, and why is it important for teams and their leaders be aware of it?


In addition to our verbal and non-verbal communication, we all transmit signals to the outside world about how we’re responding to it – that’s the emotional energy that we put out. If we feel deflated or unengaged, it’s often something that others will feel and may impact how they feel, but have a hard time articulating how they can sense it. Psychologists refer to this as emotional contagion. When we talk about energy, we’re not talking about it in the physical energy capacity. Although, we are often able to feel when something isn’t working between people in a group environment, there’s no clear mathematical equation to measure the emotional energy that someone is putting out.

This emotional energy is strongly connected to a person’s internal state. It’s largely dependent on if their needs, both physical and emotional, are being met and if they feel like they are in a safe environment. When we are in a good or neutral state, negative things can happen and people are able to brush them off as minor nuisances. If, however someone is in a negative or emotional state, their perceptions and interpretations of the world will be impacted and as such, their interpersonal interactions will too. When this happens, the emotional energy coming from the person can quickly sabotage working groups – even from a distance.

Today, we’re going to explore some tips for how to recognize your contribution to the energy of the workplace, how to minimize negative energy in the workplace and how to foster positive energy to create behaviour that is congruent with team and company goals.

First things first, what energy are you bringing to your team?

Being mindful of the energy you bring in to each meeting is a good first place to start. As the team leader, bringing a positive vibe to meetings can help knock out any negative energy before it gets a chance to fester. Tony Swartz, President & CEO of The Energy Project and blog writer for the Harvard Business Review writes that: “The most fundamental job of a leader is to recruit, mobilize, inspire, focus, direct and regularly refuel the energy of those they lead.” Being aware of the energy you bring in to the room will better allow you to lead your team to focus on the energy they are putting out to their colleagues.

Is there an energy bandit at play?

In one of Swartz’s blog posts for The Energy Project, he shares a story about a new senior executive who, in a relatively short period of time, was able to detract from the highly positive year the company had been experiencing and create a destructive energy that was transmitted around the office. Swartz held himself responsible for allowing the executive to influence him, which then influenced his team. Instead of beating himself up, he used it as a learning opportunity. In addition to recognizing that it’s often difficult to leave our emotions at home and people need to be mindful of this when engaging in interpersonal situations, he identified that the emotions people bring to the team are as important as someone’s cognitive skills. When hiring, this can be an important consideration to take in to account.

That said, if you’re dealing with an already established team and you’re noticing that negative conversations are taking place more frequently, or problems are being identified without solutions being brought to the table, it’s possible that you’re dealing with an energy bandit. Take a step back and try to be objective in your reflection of the situation.

By stopping and assessing where the negative energy is coming from, you can determine if it’s one person that’s poisoning the workplace atmosphere, or a group of people who are potentially congruent in the negative vibes that are being transmitted. Because negative emotions can move quickly in a virtual environment and influence easily, it can zap motivation and momentum before you even know it’s an issue. This is why it’s best to be highly attuned to the team’s morale – if someone is not contributing to a positive morale, it may be time to have a conversation with them to find out what’s happening with them and why.

Listen

It’s important to note that there’s a difference between negative energy and constructive feedback. Sometimes a negative outlook is appropriate to the situation. Sitting back and listening, as well as asking open ended questions and repeating what you think you’ve heard are all good ways to determine clarity around if someone is being negative, or if their points are a legitimate point of conversation.

In virtual environments, we frequently don’t have cues such as facial expression and body language. We frequently make our own interpretations based on our assumptions about who is saying it and the situation being dealt with. Listening intently and asking for clarification are good ways to determine if negative energy is seeping in, or not. If you determine that the person is being negative, acknowledge their concerns and change the group focus to developing solutions to the issues. Guide the team towards thinking of what will work, versus what won’t work and why.

Being mindful of what you are bringing to the team, as well as the energy you feel circulating in the virtual atmosphere isn’t easy. The more you practice, the better you will get but seeing progress may take some time. Also, distractions can easily derail even your best intentions, so it’s important to stay focused on what you want to achieve with your team in respect to the energy going in and coming out of the work.

Persevere

Often, when we experience set-backs, we allow negative talk to invade our thoughts and we get derailed. When there’s a hitch in the plan, instead of derailing, try focusing on what is working to bring that positive energy back in. Publilius Syrus, a 1st century BC Latin writer is said to have written, “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” By bringing your positive energy to your work, you can hold the helm regardless of what the sea is serving up.

Visit us in two weeks when we look at techniques to manage negative energy on your team. We’d love to hear from you on what you struggle with, or if you have ideas on how to respond to negative energy – drop us a line!

By : Anil Kumar /April 23, 2014 /blog /0 Comment Read More

How to be Authentic in the Virtual Workplace by Building Self Awareness

The most common advice you’ve received from your childhood onward is probably to “be yourself”. This enduring instruction portrays authenticity as the key to successful social interactions, meaningful relationships, and a generally happy life. It may sound like the most natural thing in the world to do; however, it can actually be fairly difficult to become attuned to who we really are as unique individuals. Our personal and professional commitments, plus, the countless voices, images, and opinions that we see and hear every day through by mass media can prevent us from taking a moment to discover our authentic selves. However, authenticity is especially important in the workplace. Acting as our authentic selves enables our team members to perceive us as trustworthy and will ultimately lead to an increase in a team’s productivity as a whole.

Authenticity is defined is being aware of one’s core values and acting in alignment to those values. Now that we understand the meaning and importance of authenticity, especially in the workplace, the question remains: how do we discover our authentic selves? First off, the foundation of authenticity is self awareness. We become self aware when we accept every part of ourselves; our strengths, skills, and positive attributes, along with the areas of our lives we feel could use improvement. Self-awareness can be most effectively achieved when we take a moment, or a few, for ourselves.

It can be difficult to find the appropriate time to self reflect when we are the midst of contributing to business on a daily basis. It can be easy to become caught in the motions at work; you might be unconsciously performing a particular task in the same way, possibly due to the force of habit or because the pace of your business compels you to be efficient. However, it is worthwhile to create an opportunity for yourself to pause and objectively observe your work in pursuit of self awareness or the knowledge of how you can do more than just “be” in our business but strategize to take it to the next level. How does one create this opportunity?

Firstly, unplug yourself, literally, from your surroundings. Turn off your phone, remove yourself from distractions so that you are fully able to concentrate on yourself. If you are having difficulty disengaging from the outside world: try this: close your eyes and listen to the sound of your breathing. Pay close attention to each breath. This should help you become fully present in the moment so that you are able to begin the process of self reflection. We have a series of questions that will guide you through your self reflection, which can also be considered a self evaluation.

Once you are removed from all distractions and your mind is clear, take a mental inventory of your strengths, skills, and attributes, or write them down, if this is more your style. For example, you may say “I am an attentive listener “I am well organized and always meet my deadlines; or “I am trustworthy”. If you have trouble listing your positive traits, imagine yourself as your best friend or a respected colleague, and compose the list from their point of view.

Next, reflect on the areas of your life that could stand to be improved. For example, in a virtual environment, it is very important to be a good listener, due to the fact the visual cues are often unavailable in the virtual workplace. If, as a virtual worker, you feel your listening skills could be improved, create an action plan for how you will improve them. Your action plan might go something like this: “The next time I am in a virtual meeting, I will not judge the words of my colleagues. I will pay close attention to their tone, choice of words, rhythm of speech, and the pauses in their speech. If I am unclear about what is being said, I will ask questions. Listening goes beyond hearing what someone is saying; I must discover what is underneath what they are saying in order to become an empathetic listener. I must ask myself: what is the core of their message? Lastly, if I have an issue with something someone has said or have sensed something in their speech, I will take it up with them privately after the meeting”.

In addition to being empathetic listeners, effective virtual workers need to have a certain comfort level with technology. If you feel you could stand to be more technologically savvy, create an action plan for this area of your life as well. Say to yourself “I have a coworker who knows a lot about technology; I will ask them to coach me. Remember to be honest when evaluating yourself.

Lastly, self evaluations should also include a consideration of your values, principles, and beliefs, to give yourself a better idea of who you are at your core. Ask yourself: What do I value and why? (Examples include: honesty, integrity, reliability, compassion, and empathy, etc.) Then, ask yourself: how do I manifest my values, principles, and beliefs in my everyday life? Is there a way my behaviour can be more closely aligned with what I value? If my core values are honesty and reliability, how to I demonstrate to others that I am honest and reliable on a regular basis?

As mentioned above, authenticity is especially important in the workplace. If a virtual team member is not being their genuine or authentic self, other team members will pick up on this. As a result, the inauthentic team member will not be perceived as trustworthy. Team members may become reluctant to share pertinent information with an individual they don’t believe they can trust, will be less likely to be open about what’s going on and will probably communicate more frequently with a trustworthy team member instead. An inauthentic team member will potentially be kept out of the loop, and this situation will negatively affect the productivity of the entire team. For these reasons, it is important for each and every member of a virtual team to show up as their most authentic self.

By : Anil Kumar /April 23, 2014 /blog /0 Comment Read More
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