Could You Be Making Your Team Fragile?

Are you feeling burnt out?
If so, you’re not alone.

According to research I’ve been involved with in Australian workplaces in the last six weeks, over 68% of workers are experiencing burnout. It’s no surprise. The uncertainty and disruption through COVID, followed by world events and weather events mean that chronic fatigue is setting in and the ability to bounce back has disappeared.

It’s also why resilience is no longer enough in the decade of disruption and becoming antifragile is the only way forward.

The thing I found particularly interesting about the research findings is the difference in workplace experiences between leaders and their team members. Across all indicators of wellbeing, performance and engagement, leaders are doing and feeling better than their teams. They’re also experiencing fewer psychosocial hazards.

Why might this be?

I’ve been involved with this research in Australia since 2019 and it has repeatedly shown the importance of autonomy in creating thriving individuals, teams and organisations. And as leaders, we have a critical role in creating autonomy for our people…and the possibility of removing it.

Because when we do things to people, we dominate.

And when we do things for people, we disempower.

And both of those dynamics create fragility because they reduce autonomy – they ‘power-over’.

But when we choose to work with people, we create interdependence and all the benefits that come with it.

Power Over versus Power With…

I’m sure you’ve experienced power over – when you don’t have voice, you don’t feel you’ve got choice or any influence in decision making. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m in that kind of power dynamic my ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) kicks in… “Yeah, I can do what you’re telling me to, but you’re not going to get a lot more.” 

You can see the fragility in this – there’s just so much energy, capacity, skill and possibility left on the table.

And having studied systems thinking, I’ve come to realise that these are the unintended consequences of us following what we’ve been told good leadership looks like.

Except it doesn’t.

Power over is oppressive. Whether that’s because something is being done to you or for you, it undermines your sense of agency and your liberty. Your freedom to choose and self-express goes. Choice and voice disappear.

So power over sucks, and it’s very different to power with…

In power with you feel supported, you feel seen, you feel known. You’re willing to take risks, try new things, stretch the boundaries, because you know there’s someone who’s going to be with you, even if (when) things don’t go well.

Just imagine having someone alongside you while you lead and make decisions… because if we’re going to truly collaborate, and if we’re going to engage and make the most of the multi-generational diversity in our teams and deliver on the inclusiveness agendas in our organisations, we’ve absolutely got to nail the with… we’ve got to create interdependence and hold space for all of the potential in our people.

And when we do, we create autonomy, we generate energy and engagement, and we support ourselves, our teams and our organisations to thrive.

And who wouldn’t like a bit more of that in their week?

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