I was at a clients company last week and heard a brief hallway conversation as i was waiting for my lunch appointment

I was at a clients company last week and heard a brief hallway conversation as I was waiting for my lunch appointment. The gist of what was said sounded like two people in a war torn country.

I bought lots of canned goods that were on sale just in case I lose my job said person one. The response was Yeah, I know what you mean; I just went to the thrift store to get my kids spring clothes because I am afraid to spend too much money. This went back and forth until they were out of earshot.

When my client and I went to the cafeteria for lunch I was curious, albeit cautious in how I wanted to start the conversation. I was wondering if this organization was in deep trouble, something I may have misjudged. No, we are actually doing quite well. We weathered the economic downturn and now things are bright and sunny. Why do you ask?

I told him about the conversation I had witnesses. There was a sigh and a shrug. There are so many people still in a hoarding mindset. There is still so much fear found at every level of the organization that I really dont know how we should handle it.

The rest of our meeting was both energizing and productive. It focused on employee engagement, collaboration, and cooperation.

Here is the essence of what we discussed:

1. When stress hits the hot button we all revert to patterns we learned in childhood for security and survival.

2. Once these patterns kick in there is an emotional base of fear that keeps us from being our most productive selves.

3. All companies are in a better position to move collaboration forward when they understand this hidden source of anxiety.

4. Collaboration is an emotional connection and will not happen until the team/organization feels safe.

5. Teams/organizations will stall and stay unmotivated if leadership remains in a command and control mode.

6. Helping individuals observe, understand and ultimately transform the patterns of behavior that come from stress will open the blocks to creative collaboration.

7. Before the valves of cooperation and creativity can be opened it is vital for teams to talk together and find ways to talk openly, the only way that trust is developed.

The conversation was very fruitful and hearing the two employees talk about their need to hoard, the fear the economy might just tank again, gave valuable insight into how to help in these days when we all want to get back to business as usual, limit team conflict and activate the best employee engagement, fill companies with high level collaboration, stop office politics, mistrust, and fear of the proverbial wolf at the door.

We are in that half way place, things are better than they were one year ago, yet I believe we are all still regaining our sea legs to move forward with confidence to stay on the creative edge at work.

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