Often, the management skills that will make you a great leader in virtual teams are the same life skills that will help you navigate life in general. Today, we’re going to talk about a concept that might help you navigate your personal development inside and outside of your virtual team.
We don’t always get along with our friends, family, and colleagues: it’s a fact of life but because of the importance of social interaction in virtual teams, virtual team leaders need a set of strategies for dealing with conflict and negative emotions before they get out of hand.
Think about the last time you found yourself annoyed by a member of your team: maybe a colleague has been giving you a hard time, maybe they have a quirk that irritates you, maybe they stress you out.
But consider this: the behavior that other people exhibit that you find annoying are also present in you. In fact, the reason that you find them so annoying is because you’ve spent so much time working to suppress those qualities in you.
What is the “Shadow Self”?
This concept, known as the “Shadow Self” was first articulated in the West by psychologist Carl Jung.
To simplify, Jung believed that there were two elements to human beings:
- the persona that we try to display to society; and
- the shadow that we repress in order to fit in.
When we get annoyed at other people’s behavior, we are in fact reacting to our own supressed behavior that we don’t like.
The problem here is that supressing our feelings is seldom helpful. In fact, it can lead to damaging effects on your mind and body, and our relationships with others.
How can the “Shadow Self” help improve our work performance?
Instead of dealing with anger and annoyance by repressing our feelings, or lashing out at others, we can use our feelings to make ourselves more whole, genuine, and present..
Let’s give an example for how this might work:
Let’s imagine that you have a colleague who interrupts other people during virtual meetings. It drives you up the wall. Instead of suppressing your feelings, or lashing out at them, you can ask yourself: is this behavior something that exists within me?
When we search our annoyances for things we dislike about ourselves, we engage our shadow selves. By engaging our shadow selves, we gain greater awareness of who we are, and greater awareness that other people are not so different from us. That awareness will allow us to react with compassion instead of frustration.
The solution isn’t to push or change aspects of our shadow selves away from our behavior, but to acknowledge and embrace their presence.
The next time you find yourself annoyed at a team member, search your memories, your feelings, and your own self-knowledge. Are you annoyed because of something that you have been suppressing? Acknowledge your feelings of annoyance, but then move past them to realize your similarity to your team, and your own true self.