In this episode, we’ll learn from Deborah Connors of Well-Advised Consulting how teams can intentionally disrupt themselves to innovate and reinvent how they work together to change the workplace conversation.

If you enjoyed this episode today, be sure to hit the follow button on the Spotify player (• • •) and share it with your friends and colleagues. ~ Big Love, April

00:13 – Introduction
01:09 – Deborah’s personal journey with Parkinson’s disease
02:49 – Importance of disrupting yourself many times in your life

04:09 – Complacency is not good for business
05:20 – Questions to help your team reinvent itself
06:10 – How to create social connections at work
09:14 – 3 things to help people flourish at work
10:21 – Increasing positivity for creativity and innovation
12:36 – Practising mindfulness in teams
14:07 – Hidden powers of personal and professional growth
15:34 – The growth of wellness in organizations
18:46 – Dr. Barbara Fredrickson and loving kindness research
19:56 – Guidelines for taking breaks and working from home
22:27 – Research on the 52-minute work hour

About Deborah Connors

Deborah Connors is a captivating speaker, storyteller and workplace coach. From starting Canada’s first annual conference (The Better Workplace Conference) to authoring “A Better Place to Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture”, she has distilled the knowledge of hundreds of thought-leaders to provide practical advice on organizational and team practices that allow for more creativity, innovation, engagement and fun.

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Links to additional resources

Deborah Connors’s website: https://deborahconnors.com

Read Deborah Connors’s book: A Better Place to Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture https://deborahconnors.com/books-news/

Deborah Connors’s blog: https://deborahconnors.com/blog/

Deborah Connors’s keynote: https://deborahconnors.com/speaking/

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Episode Transcription

April Qureshi (00:02):

Hello, and welcome to the Leader Lounge Community, where great leaders bridge the gap between people and performance. I’m your host, April Qureshi.

April Qureshi (00:13):

On today’s episode, I’m speaking with Deborah Connors of Well Advised Consulting. And Deborah’s gonna share with us how leaders in their teams can build resilience through disruption. And you’re gonna love her tips on how you can help your team reinvent themselves to be more effective. Welcome, Deborah.

Deborah Connors (00:34):

And you April.

April Qureshi (00:35):

Yeah. So you shared a story with me about how 29 years ago you took a a 1200 kilometer cycling trip from the west coast of British Columbia, Canada into Central Alberta. And you have some exciting you’re doing something exciting from that, like two years from now, you’re taking your whole family and you’re picking up from where you left off and cycling all the way across Canada to raise money for Parkinson’s disease. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Deborah Connors (01:09):

Sure. well, as you said, 29 years ago, I did the first leg of this trip and had no plan to go across Canada. At that time, it was just my cousin and I were riding to a family reunion. We just decided to do it. We loved it. We got so fit on the way. Once we got to Alberta, we wanted to keep going and we never did. And so I have a big birthday coming up in a couple of years, and I decided what would I like to do? Well, I would like to finish that trip. And and mentioned it to my husband who said, Yeah, I’m in. And, and our daughter said, I’m coming. And so the three of us, and there may be others for parts of the trip, but the three of us decided to do it. And my father has Parkinson’s disease, so I decided to try to raise money on the way for that. And there’s a little bit of connection there too, because with Parkinson’s cycling, when you’re in the early stages of Parkinson’s, is something that’s actually very helpful. So so that’s our plan.

April Qureshi (02:08):

That’s amazing. And so the, the whole trip across Canada, how long is that gonna take? Do you, do you foresee?

Deborah Connors (02:15):

We don’t know, but we, we have a couple of months, so we’ll see how far we get.

April Qureshi (02:21):

So this is gonna

Deborah Connors (02:22):

<Laugh>

April Qureshi (02:23):

Yeah. To the other side. Yeah, definitely. I’m cheering for you along the way. Thank you. Thank you. So this is going to disrupt your whole life for a couple of months. And I’m curious what that disruption does in a person’s way of being and the way that a person or, you know, in a company culture, how a disruption can cause change.

Deborah Connors (02:49):

Well, I think it’s important to disrupt yourself many times in your life, and I’ve done that many times, so lots of experience. But certainly, you know, it’s really important to disrupt and to reinvent as often as you can in good times. And then in the times that we’re in right now with this pandemic people are finding there very quickly, having to reinvent and having to you know, life has been disrupted for almost everyone around the globe. And so you know, what can we do to look at reinventing how we, how we work how we work together and making that a really, you know, a good situation for us. So it, because people often look at the negatives and sure, there’s lots of negatives right now but we can ask a lot of questions and, really come up with you know, new ways of maybe even better ways of working together.

April Qureshi (03:43):

Yeah, and I, it was, I liked what you said about intentionally disrupting yourself. And so why would, you know, you work with organizations and companies, and so why would an organization want to or a team want to disrupt themselves? You know, you mentioned, you mentioned reinvention. What else comes out of, out of these disruptions, intentional disruptions?

Deborah Connors (04:09):

Well, we get really complacent, you know, if we’re not, if we’re not saying what’s next, and and sometimes that’s not great for business. In fact, that’s almost never good for business. And it’s, it also we get complacent in how we are with one another on a team. And so it’s, it’s really a great practice to step back, get really curious, you know, ask where are we going from here? Ask the questions like, what is our purpose? And when we’re in a disruptive time, like right now with this pandemic, you know what could we do differently to achieve that same purpose? You know, if this is our purpose, then how can we maybe achieve that purpose in less time given that we’re, you know, working online. And so just asking those kinds of questions comes, you know, brings out a lot of different ideas.

April Qureshi (05:08):

And you have five great questions that you like to ask teams when they’re working together to help them reinvent themselves. What, what are some of those questions?

Deborah Connors (05:20):

Well you know, a good, a good simple question to start with is what do our customers need right now? So, you know, has this changed? And so, for example, I’m working with a few universities right now, and their cus you know, their customers, their community or students, the students need the courses that they offer, and yet a lot of them are not opening in the fall. And so what do our customers need? How can we provide those services to our customers in a different way? You know, when working in it with teams, we might wanna ask questions like, how do we best support each other? Right Now, I’ve talked to some clients, I talked to someone last week who said, you know, we used to go into our meetings and we would sort of chit chat as we’re coming into the meeting.

Deborah Connors (06:10):

And, you sort of, you know, have that social connection. And she said, We get online now and we go directly into the meeting. And so we don’t, you know, we’re missing that. And, at this point in time, it’s really crucial not to do that because people are going through so many different emotions and, you know, even just to stop and say, How are you doing? You know, is everybody healthy? How can we support you? So so how can we best support each other? Who are we when we’re at our best? You know, what are our strengths? What are each individual strengths? So maybe you have someone on your team who’s very strong technologically and you know, that person could, could look at some of the different technologies that are available. I’ve heard about and tried out some really cool new technologies lately that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Deborah Connors (07:02):

Right. what I, I said, what is our purpose? You know, given that, you know, this is our purpose, whatever that is, how might we achieve this in a different way? So, you know, there are these just some ideas of questions, but every team needs to find their own. But I think the important thing is to just really get curious and be open to reinventing what you do and how you do. And really also looking at, you know, how we work together because I think every team right now is reinventing how they do things because they’re online. But are we asking the questions about how are we taking care of each other? And that is, that’s, you know, social reflexivity and teams, which is really important. We’re very good at task reflexivity, which is the, you know, what are we gonna do by when the timelines, the deadlines, every team is good at that. But if we’re not good at the social piece, you know, how are we, how are we taking care of each other? How are we supporting each other? How positive are our meetings? Then task part falls down, the team actually falls apart if we don’t have that social piece. So that’s, those are, those are questions we need to be asking right now.

April Qureshi (08:20):

Yeah. And I like what you say about the social piece, that’s what’s coming out from these discussions is that, you know, having community, creating community, whatever that looks like nowadays, mostly online obviously is really important. And I liked what you said about, you know, having that check in because it’s important to understand where everybody is in the team or the organization, whatever, whatever situation you’re working in mm-hmm. <Affirmative> so that we can, you know, help people flourish, right? So if someone’s struggling you know, and they’re just feeling, you know, their family situation might not be you know, positive at the moment, and they’re feeling stress and tension and anxiety, what can a leader do to help people flourish in, in the work community?

Deborah Connors (09:14):

Well, I think you know, there’s three things. One is, is resilience and resilient practices. One is reflexivity, which I was just talking about that how do we support each other and looking at, at how we can do that. And the other one is reinventing, you know, changing the way we do things so that we can support each other. So maybe that, you know, maybe that’s setting up peer support so that you know, couple groups of people are talking to each other and helping support. You’ve got a buddy that you can call perhaps if you’re feeling like you’re all alone. We’ve, you’ve probably heard this a lot lately, like, we’re all in the same storm, but we’re all in different boats. And I think it’s really important to remember that because, you know, for me, I have a home office.

Deborah Connors (09:57):

This is not a big, a huge change for me. You know, there’s obviously some things I’m not traveling to speak, et cetera, but but it’s not a huge change. And I have a 15 year old who’s works on her homework, doesn’t need my help. And then there’s other people that have, you know, little kids at their feet who are, they need to look after or, or homeschool. And, and so everybody really is in a different place. So you know, one of the things that that’s really important with teams is in individuals of course, is, is increasing our positivity. So increasing positive emotion increasing our positive interactions as a team. So we know that as people, as our positive emotion increases, as we have at least three positive emotions for every negative one, we start to see more possibilities.

Deborah Connors (10:50):

We start to be more creative, be more innovative, be more engaged. So there’s very good reasons for, you know, looking at how we can increase that. And then when we look at teams, we know that the most effective teams are the ones that have at least five positive interactions for every negative one. And so there’s a lot of things we can do as leaders within our teams. You know, if we have a team where most teams are actually at a one to one, and that looks like, you know, someone says something positive, like, Hey, I’ve got this great idea. And then the next comment is a negative. Like, well, that’s not gonna work. Or, you know, we tried that before. It’s all, we’ve always done it this way. And so if we can work on, on trying to improve our communication and, increase the number of positive interactions to negative in our teams then we’re more effective.

Deborah Connors (11:43):

We’re more supportive of each other. Things work better, people are more engaged, more creative, et cetera. So positivity is one. And, how you increase your positivity. There are three practices that are really probable. There’s many ways to increase your positivity, but there’s three that have the most impact and are fairly simple to do. One of them is daily gratitude and just getting everyone to write down at least three things every day that they’re grateful for. And it sounds so simple. It really is simple, but it is so impactful if you do it regularly, because it starts to change your brain chemistry and you start to look at and see the positive more often just because your brain goes there. Another one is meditation and, taking the time to meditate can help to increase the positivity.

Deborah Connors (12:36):

And the third one is, is mindfulness learning how to be more mindful. And that’s something as leaders in teams we can practice and and lead. And, one of the ways of doing that is just learning to listen mindfully. And I have people on teams, you know, pair up and practice this. And, how you do it is you know, you ask a question and then you sit back and you listen, and you’re not thinking about what you’re gonna say next. And it, you know, you’re really trying to mindfully listen, and it’s a really different experience for the person who’s being listened to. So if you do that with your teams and, on Zoom, you can put people in breakout groups. So you know, they can, they can do that. They can go into groups and they can practice that. And sometimes it’s good to have a meeting where it’s always good to have a meeting where your focus just on, how are we doing as a team rather than having every meeting be, you know, what our work is, what are our objectives? And the teams that do the best, that are the most positive are the ones that do take a meeting every so often to just focus on how are we doing and, and our social reflexivity.

April Qureshi (13:50):

So there’s some hidden powers to disruption, even though, you know, in this situation, it’s being forced upon us globally mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. But there’s some hidden powers in there that offer us opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Deborah Connors (14:07):

There sure are. And, you know, as a leader, you can you could start your meetings with a round of gratitude, for example. People love this. Anytime I do this with a team, you know, people smile right away because they’re, they’re sharing something that’s, that’s happy, that’s positive. And in this situation, even though there may be a lot of negatives for people, there are a lot of gifts. And, and so just getting people to sort of look at that and to share that, you know, what what has resulted for you as an individual, what has resulted for us as a team because of this pandemic, you know, that wouldn’t have happened before. And just expanding our thoughts around that can be very helpful. And I also find that starting your meetings with with a win, you know, asking people to share something that went well for them work wise, what did you accomplish? Or starting with an inspiring story, you know, something that maybe has happened in the organization that’s really inspiring or just elsewhere. There’s, there’s, you know, thousands of inspiring stories out there right now of what people are, are going through and overcoming. And, those kinds of things really change the culture of your meeting right from the beginning.

April Qureshi (15:23):

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. And it doesn’t have to be a personal story. It can be just something that you’re gleaning from, from what you’re listening to, what you’re observing.

Deborah Connors (15:33):

Exactly. Yeah.

April Qureshi (15:34):

Yeah. And so how prevalent, like, you’ve been working in wellness, organizational wellness for quite a, a number of decades. And so what changes have you seen over that time? As far as, as company is bringing more attention into, you know, how people are actually doing beyond the nine to five, so to speak? Mm,

Deborah Connors (16:00):

I think there’s definitely way more awareness now than there used to be. You know, if you look at it over time, sometimes it seems painfully slow, but but there is definitely more awareness and more understanding, and I think this whole pandemic has really brought, you know, organizational health and wellness to the forefront because it’s absolutely essential right now. I think what I’m, I’m seeing different as well is that in the past, wellness was often a program. And, and so you have programs for people to participate in, and yet nothing changed in the culture mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so a person participates in a program, but then they go back into their dysfunctional team where they’re bullied or whatever is going on. And, and, you know, wellness results from what we do on a day to day basis, it’s about our practices, it’s about our culture. It’s really not about a program. And so I think there’s a more widespread understanding of that now. And so, you know, really that’s what we need to do is be looking at what do we practice on a day to day basis, and how can we shift those practices to create a place where people can be well, where they can flourish.

April Qureshi (17:16):

Yeah. I’m curious to see how things will change or remain the same, you know, over the next 12 to 18 months as we, as we transition back to offices and, you know, commuting and you know, disrupting the family dynamics from what they are now, back to what they were. And just, you know, so what, what can people, you know, what can people sort of anchor into that will help them, you know, move through all these changes that are still to come, you know, over the next long while, you know, they’re predicting?

Deborah Connors (17:55):

Well, I’ll tell you what I’m doing. And, that is really getting back into my meditation practice. So, you know, doing that every day and, and the, the meditation I used to gravitate to a different kind of meditation. And what I’ve started doing now for the first time is following a guided meditation called Loving and Kindness, which I’m sure you’re aware of. And and I, I find that whether it’s five minutes or 15 minutes of, of listening and, and moving through that guided meditation, I come out of it feeling extremely calm. I’m teaching a class right now, my online course, that eight weeks to a Better Place to Work. And we were talking about this in our last meeting, and a couple of other people have said, yes, that exactly the same thing is happening for them, you know, using that particular meditation.

Deborah Connors (18:46):

And, and just because I mentioned that there’s some really good research behind that particular meditation by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, who’s one of the lead researchers on positivity and and loving kindness meditation is one of those practices that does increase our positivity, helps us to get up to, you know, more than three positive emotions for every negative one. And, and it’s a really sustainable one. So so it’s a great practice to to carry out gratitude as I mentioned before getting people, you know, involved in gratitude. I’ve talked to lots of my clients who are starting their meetings with a round of gratitude with, you know, really focusing on what’s good, what’s what’s working, you know, what’s the next thing. And so you know, even though we don’t know what’s coming, we we can really focus on what is working right now and where we need to go in the future.

April Qureshi (19:47):

Yeah, I like that. It’s beautiful practicing gratitude and being thankful for what’s right in front of us. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah.

Deborah Connors (19:56):

And, you know, taking taking the appropriate breaks too. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about, Okay, now I’m working at home and I’m on the computer so much you know, people having eye issues because they’re staring at a screen. And but also our productivity just drops over time if we don’t take appropriate breaks. And so you know, being really cognizant of that as individuals, but also as leaders setting guidelines for what’s going on because it’s a different situation. So we probably don’t have or didn’t have those guidelines before. So setting some guidelines around you know, people getting up from their desk and, and their computer and taking breaks setting guidelines about email and what’s appropriate and, and texting and, and, you know disconnecting because maybe people are getting messages at all hours right now because there just is no guideline around you know, what we’re supposed to do.

Deborah Connors (20:55):

So setting, setting some guidelines and setting some guidelines around your meetings and, and, you know, starting in some of the ways that we talked about making sure that everybody has a chance to have some input. You know, often people are maybe nervous about different kinds of technology, maybe get on Zoom, might sit back and not say too much. And so what are the ways that we can pull people out and make sure that everyone has input? Recently I was introduced to a technology called Jam Board. Dunno if you’ve heard of it. Yeah. I, which I love. And everyone can, it’s like a cork board at which you can put sticky notes up on, so it’s online and everybody can have access and be putting their input in and you can rearrange the stickies. And so there’s lots of different ways that we can, you know, really get people engaged and involved and, and feel like they’re a part of the team.

April Qureshi (21:53):

Yeah. I like your advice on creating those guidelines for working at home, because if you’ve never worked at home before it can be challenging, right? And I know for myself, I continually, like consistently get up and go for a walk after I finish, you know, a good hour of work. I just, if I just walk around the house, go outside, go into the garden, and just take a five minute break and, and it just, it allows the mind to just reset. And it allows us to be more creative when we get back to our desks and think, think that’s good advice.

Deborah Connors (22:27):

There’s some really research on that too. I don’t know if you’ve heard about there was a study done, I think it’s the Graugiem Group that, that found that our brains really work most effectively in about 52 minute chunks. Hmm. And so you know, setting your timer for 52 minutes and then just focusing on a project when the timer goes off, get up and do, like you said, walk around the garden, get a drink, you know, file some papers, do something different, just give your brain rest and then go back for another 52 minute chunk. And it seems to work really effectively. And also keeps people away from, you know, working at it, their inbox. So turning off your email, turning off your social media, and just focusing on something for 52 minutes. And when you’ve got your timer going, it kind of helps you to do that.

April Qureshi (23:20):

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>.

Deborah Connors (23:21):

So so that’s one, you know, way of being a little bit more effective.

April Qureshi (23:24):

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah, that’s great. And then within that 52 minutes, you can just fully concentrate without the distractions, get into the flow of it and be, be more productive. So, Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And so Deborah so much value in what you shared with us today. I’m curious, where can people go if they want to find, find out more about you and your work and how to connect with you?

Deborah Connors (23:49):

You can go to my website, which is deborah connors.com, and also you can find my book there, which you may be able to see a better place to work daily practices that transform culture. And you can see that my copy that I have here. I’ve got lots of little stickies and I really recommend if people get this book to get a highlighter and get a pen and, you know, highlight things that you feel might work for you. It’s full of practices that you can incorporate as a, a leader of an organization or leader of teams to improve the culture.

April Qureshi (24:25):

Awesome.

April Qureshi (24:26):

And also, Deb has a free newsletter sign up on her phone page, so be sure and click through to those links for the workshop series as well as her book. And I know it’s in my bookshelf and I love to refer back to. So thank you for joining us today and sharing how teams can disrupt and reinvent culture during a crisis.

Deborah Connors (24:52):

Thank you April.

April Qureshi (24:54):

Thank you for tuning in to the Leader Lounge Community podcast. If you enjoyed this episode today, be sure to hit follow and share with your friends and community. Until next time, I’m April Qureshi. Bye for now.

Originally broadcast in May 2020 during the Lead From Within Global Leadership Summit at the onset of the global pandemic. My purpose for republishing is that the value of the conversations with leading experts from around the globe is still relevant and will continue to be a touchstone for empowering business and community leaders with innovation and compassion during challenging times.

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