Everyone has a breaking point

Everyone has a breaking point

Team coaching

Internationally-certified (team) coach Angela van Dorssen talks about her daily practice. She has been a certified neuro-transformational coach since March 2020.

I was recently asked to work with a small MT in the SME sector. They were all lovely people, but they were no longer able to work together. Things were getting pretty heated. The conflict between them was already apparent in the initial meeting. Believe it or not, that was a good sign for me as a team coach. It told me the team wanted to be a better version of itself, but wasn’t able to take that step yet. The team was stuck in repetitive patterns of behaviour that keep triggering conflict.

An intake with all MT members individually enabled us to get to the heart of the problem. It became apparent that past business decisions were the seeds of conflict between the team members.

The pain of powerlessness

What emerged so painfully from the intake session was a shared sense of powerlessness and frustration. They didn’t know this about each other. Up until now, they had only seen that decision-making was slow or not taking place at all, communication was strained, MT members were at odds with each other and trying to convince each other of their own point of view and that explosive situations were occurring on a regular basis, which led to even more tension. And there was work to be done when it came to behaviour.

One thing leads to another

A destructive pattern had arisen due to the sense of powerlessness. That’s normal human behaviour. Anyone will start behaving in an annoying way if they are provoked enough.And that’s where collaboration goes wrong. If someone pushes your red button of powerlessness, the Wi-Fi connection in your brain is lost and you want to protect yourself. One person will hit out blindly, while another will implode. Yet another will prefer to run away and pretend that nothing’s wrong for fear of confrontation.

And that’s precisely what was holding this team back. The violent explosions and the necessary judgements of some team members were causing other people in the team to implode. And that reactivates the red button of powerlessness. Others were quietly watching the game being played out from the sidelines, even though they are actually involved in it themselves. And then suddenly the glass of confidence breaks. The pressure is too much.

Back on track

Once this team saw the dynamic that had been created and the impact it was having on their results and future, they chose to do something about it. To sweep up the broken glass and to put the problems on the agenda. We are now working with each other to put together a coaching plan that will help them tackle their problems in a logical order.

I’m making each team member responsible for his/her own impact. I’m training them to work with ‘the antidote’, a tool that will ensure each individual recognises his/her own red button and continues to communicate in a constructive manner. Slowly but surely, the mood

in the team is changing and everyone is laughing with relief. Everyone’s on the same side again and playing their role in the game.

If you think I might be able to help you, or if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch.

Toxic positivity in teams

Toxic positivity in teams

Team coaching

Angela van Dorssen is an internationally certified coach who has been qualified in neuro-transformational therapy since 2020. She tells us about her work.

End of the week. Friday morning. I’m facilitating a team in the financial industry. We’re dealing with psychological safety, at their request. It’s not an easy subject. A lot of teams avoid talking about it, but, if you follow the news, you know it’s extremely relevant. In order to create a sense of security and to reduce any awkwardness, everyone had filled in an online questionnaire about how psychologically safe he or she feels in the team. The results give an anonymous impression of the current situation. An open dialogue ensues.

Don’t be so negative

And then the question that has been hanging in the air since the team saw the broad spread of the results: “Who only gave it a three?” Every score, high or low, is worthy of examination from my point of view, but we are programmed to just look at the low numbers. After a short silence, someone has the courage to speak out. They are emotional. The unease in the room reaches its climax.

We still believe that feelings do not belong in the workplace, apparently. Emotion is ‘unprofessional’ and should be kept to yourself, if you have it at all. And once the emotion’s out there, we want to get everything back to being harmonious and positive again as quickly as possible. We don’t like it, we don’t know what to do with it and it causes a great deal of unease and awkwardness. Focussing on the positive is a lot easier.

And the reaction came: “You mustn’t look at it like that. You can also look at what’s going well, can’t you?” The person concerned dried their eyes, nodded in accord and said nothing more…

Toxic positivity

The psychotherapist Whitney Goodman (2022) describes the impact of toxic positivity: “Positivity can be extremely toxic and bad for your mental health if it leads to you repressing negative feelings.”

She does not say that you always have to give your emotions free rein and that you have to express them everywhere, but she does bring a refreshing perspective to the long-term effects on our health of repressing them. When listening to someone, we might think that we are supporting and helping them by playing down what they are feeling, but what we are implicitly saying is: “Don’t talk about what you are experiencing”. They then feel entirely unsupported and unacknowledged.

Holding safe space

It’s actually simple to break the pattern if you are just courageous enough to feel that awkwardness. This what you can do:

· Focus your attention on the other. Don’t start talking about what you have experienced.

· Recognise the emotions and the impact on the other.

· Ask open questions and listen to the answers.

· Ask about needs rather than just wanting to resolve the issue: “What do you need?