When a “Me” Team becomes a “We” Team

This article originally appeared on the website of The Master Innholders in October 2020, as a follow-up to the webinar ‘Leading Well: Self-Care for Leaders’ that can be viewed via the button below.

Have you noticed how inward looking people become when they are under pressure, and how hard it is to motivate a team of anxious, upset or angry people?

The human stress response is phenomenally effective at switching us into fight, flight or freeze mode in order to save ourselves as individuals. Once we are stuck with a high baseline stress level it becomes increasingly difficult to free ourselves enough to trust, open up and work effectively with other people in a world that seems anything but safe.

Mindfulness is a simple, highly effective way to counter the effects of the stress response and free ourselves from habitual ways of reacting, gaining the space we need for our innate insight and creative thinking to arise and transform a situation. Being able to let go of the past in order to respond to the reality of the present moment is therefore a skill that opens up the future in previously unimagined ways.

I think of mindfulness in stages that I can return to time and again, each time I feel as though I am losing my way:

  • Stopping. Stress makes me feel as though I am running through life, fighting fires and reacting to whichever curve ball comes my way. So the first step is to stop running and focus on feeling stronger, more like a rock in the midst of a fast-flowing river rather than a leaf carried along on the surface of the torrent.
  • Calming. When I have stopped, the next step is to reduce my baseline stress levels by calming myself so that I can think more clearly. This is where self-care becomes invaluable, and nurturing those feelings of safety to enhance a sense of peaceful inner strength becomes my next focus.
  • Turning towards the Positive. Next I need to regain a sense of balance, so whereas my stress response focuses me on all the perceived threats to my safety (not all of which are real), I spend time building a more balanced picture of what is actually in my present experience.
  • Looking Deeply. From a calmer, more balanced place I can look deeply at what is really going on inside my body and my thoughts. This helps me to see where I might have false perceptions that are clouding my understanding. 
  • Gaining Insight. Once I have a clearer view of what is happening, I can learn to lay aside any false perceptions and build on my strengths, whilst responding with self-compassion to aspects of myself or my experience that I find challenging. 
  • Transformation. Through understanding myself, I can now take considered action that transforms my habitual ways of thinking and acting into something new. 

Once I can respond more effectively to my current situation I begin to feel more confident, and having liberated myself from the stress response I can lift my head up and interact with others to help, encourage and motivate them too.

So although mindfulness starts with “Me”, it helps each one of us to transform from an individual who is only concerned about personal safety and success into somebody who can function and contribute positively as part of a “We” mentality team. By understanding ourselves better and developing self-care and self-compassion that builds a sense of inner strength, it becomes easier to understand others and act more compassionately towards them too, bringing out the best in them as we do in ourselves.

Mindfulness for Teams

When mindfulness begins to permeate an organisation and more and more members of the team move from a “Me” to a “We” mentality, a sense of unity, of working together for something greater than any individual starts to emerge. When people are open and connected to each other, it becomes easier and easier to feel a sense of belonging, of value, of camaraderie, of wanting to do your best for the benefit of the whole. So if you’ve ever experienced that sense of flow when everyone is working together with a shared goal and shared values, well then you’ll know that this feeling is, at times, magical.

For more information about mindfulness and team based training opportunities, please contact Mindfulness teacher, speaker and facilitator Katie Sheen (PGCE, MA Education) 

Mindfulness for Leaders
Katie Sheen at The Master Innholders’ 25th Annual Conference 2018