top of page

Leadership insights

Relationships as a Strategic Advantage

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

Our recent meetup, on the 21st of May 2020, focused on Leading Healthy Team Relationships as a Strategic Advantage. This meetup was the latest in a series focussing on sensing the evolution of our working lives through COVID times and this time we gave more emphasis to leadership. Liz Wren and Steve Williams were our hosts for this meetup.

Writing on a wall by the participants as part of the check-in into the session
The Wall of Check-in Comments

The series of meetup is being run by a group of very experienced Leadership & Systemic Team Coaches. As well as featuring advanced and innovative remote facilitation techniques, the coaches bring their core team coaching skills to these workshops.

The premise behind this session was that under-pinning healthy teams are a series of healthy relationships between the members of the teams - both leaders and co-workers. What we wanted was to gain some insights into what qualities of leadership are needed - from all of us - to sustain and grow those healthy relationships in such a fundamentally changed environment.

After a soft-start using a graffiti wall as a ludic introduction (which also served as familiarisation with technology), we dived straight into the main topic with a ‘Swoosh’. The Swoosh offered a form of Constellation where people could self-identify where they were at during COVID times, between Surviving, Striving and Thriving. We were keen to point out that the ‘zones’ weren’t there to represent any form of progression, just to form a starting point and seed for the rich discussions to follow. It was interesting to note the wide range of identities we had in the room.

Positioning of where people marked themselves at on a visual swirl of Surviving / Striving / Thriving and where we had a surprising number of Striving and even Thriving
The landscape of where people were at during the pandemic

The subsequent exploration of these positions, using specific Systemic exercises, allowed the meetup to skilfully discuss people’s situations and build a spirit of mutual empathy across the group.

This process was intense and captured much content (please see below links for download) that helped to make sense of the situation and surface challenges and opportunities that would otherwise go unnoticed.

This situation remains difficult for many people and organisations, and it is worse when Leadership tries to keep ‘business as usual’, without acknowledging that something different needs to happen. In Surviving, Leadership could feel draining and teams pick up on that. Some leaders who are normally powerful/strong are having to admit they need help - they may themselves be 'Surviving' but still be expected to demonstrate effective, constant leadership. There's a need to focus on small things to move forward

In Striving, although the desire to work effectively together is there, it's harder than usual because there are more challenges. Leaders fear missing things - because they haven't spoken to someone, or fear dropping a ball because of the need for productivity.

For many, in contrast, the ‘new normal’ is starting to emerge with new cadences, practices and values. In this new world remote/distributed participants are on a level playing field. For leaders - it's ok to not know all the answers, although it was recognised they also need to practice some self care. Organisations that can explore the possibilities of this new landscape may also generate positive motivation for their people and find themselves in strong positions of engagement.

As a further point, it was also recognised that many people are able to experience all of these sensations - survival, striving and thriving - during the course of this journey. Holding ambiguity without needing to ‘fix’ was recognised as quite normal, and therefore helpful.

Post-it capture of what was making people strive
What makes you strive?

Building on these insights we concluded the session in groups, exploring what Leadership could influence to accommodate the difficulties across all the ‘zones’. It is evident that traditional Leadership is under pressure from this current situation, and many are finding it hard to provide what colleagues need in the new environment.

More than ever, people are asking leaders to show an empathic side to their challenges and be intentional about building and maintaining healthy relationships using techniques like check-ins. Most importantly, people do not expect Leaders to have solutions in such unprecedented times, but to be transparent and humble to the uncertainty. They long for leaders to provide stimulation and cultivate safe environments in which the teams themselves can experiment.

Being intentional about Healthy Team Relationships may indeed be what this COVID time is highlighting as an emerging characteristic of effective Leaders.

View of a workshop outcome to take intentional leadership in those times
Creating intentionality to keep the teams striving / thriving

Another board capture of another breakout that was accentuating the need for empathy
Another workshop outcome, more visual and focused on empathy


Commenting has been turned off.

Ready to take Change action?

bottom of page