The Rubber Band Effect
I recently had coffee with a leader who was feeling uncertain about her voice and out of place with her unique perspective of her team’s course of action and decision-making. As the team shifted in one direction, she felt her heart awaken towards another philosophy of accomplishing their mission.
She was left feeling outnumbered and out of place.
Have you been there before?
I want to share about a surprising, and possibly even counter-intuitive leadership philosophy I stumbled upon a few years back.
In a post-college internship, the director of my team described something we’d need to keep in mind as we navigated diverse staff perspectives: the rubber band effect.
You know, the tension that builds when part of your team drives an idea forward, while another portion or the team interjects with a different perspective, a caution, or resistance?
Does your current team experience this push back and pull forward, some uncomfortable stretching before momentum comes?
This kind of tension within our teams can bring uncertainty and the need for careful listening, exploration, and a good dose of patience when we feel personally ready to move on but called to slow down to connect with the slower pacing of a teammate.
Yet, my leader said, this dynamic is healthy. It’s what moves us forward.
Wait, what? That is not where I thought he was going with this object lesson. I thought he would say, “Bear with those who always seem to disagree, give them the polite nod, and then move on.”
But no, true to the maturity and wisdom I’ve gained from this leader since I was a little girl, he cast light on a new area of value and respect for others. In this case, he elevated the worth of the dissimilar perspectives that make up our teams, painting a vision for celebration of what our differences can offer, if we will be patient, careful recipients of the gift.
So, I have to ask, on which side of the tension do you most often find yourself?
Do you have a distinct perspective you’ve feared to share, or do you feel that others are slowing things down by frequently raising considerations you don’t share?
For those who feel they have an outlier perspective:
Maybe some of us need to ask, how can I get the space to develop my voice and vision around a team decision or discussion that hasn’t settled quite right with me?
As I’ve prepared my heart in prayer and with the outside processing I need, how can I courageously and graciously speak up?
For those who feel ready to act, impeded by those slower to warm to our ideas:
For those who identify with this experience, we can ask a different set of questions, like how do I slow down to listen and remain open to incorporating new ideas or converse perspectives when I’ve already made up my mind?
What questions can I ask that will invite others to share, so we can together explore the alternative perspectives within the team?
For all of us:
How can I prayerfully understand and align myself with those on my team who think differently or need an alternate processing speed than I prefer?
What does it look like to honor each member of my team?
Here are some coaching questions that could help you consider your teammates’ personalities, preferences, and potential with fresh eyes:
How does your team currently function?
What do you know about each member of your core team so far?
Have you ever explored a leadership or personality inventory as a team? If so, what did it show? What new areas of discovery could a tool or conversation facilitated by a coach add to your team’s understanding and honor of each member?
Is there a team member that’s already been a bit alienated because of their unique lens? If so, how can they be brought back into the team, restored to a place on the team where they’re invited and honored when they share?
The fruit of connecting with and honoring our teammates is so worthwhile. The spillover has been great for my family, marriage, ministry, and work. Especially in those moments when I’m ready to push forward or dig in my heels. I’m learning to pause and consider what’s at stake if I defend my way rather than fully engage with a teammate who holds another view.
Over time, honoring the rubber band effect can establish a culture of vulnerability and creativity where it is safe to succeed and fail together, to try and process and refine, to listen and be heard.
It turns out our resulting ideas are better for the healthy tension that comes through dialogue, vulnerability, and co-creation. May those possibilities stay with your heart as you go forward today, taking new risks to embrace the rubber band effect in your team.