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[Teamwork Musings] Teams can reduce fear of failure by recalling once anxiety-inducing memories

Edited

Context

I read "Unwinding Anxiety" by Judson Brewer. 

Screen Shot 2022-03-21 at 5.46.53 PM.png


One of the takeaways was about how we train our brain to remember, not just what's happened in our past, but also how we feel about experiences. In other words, our brains update our definition of (work) actions as we change the way tie new feelings to those experiences.

  • So let's say that you gave a presentation and felt great about the amount of energy you gave to the audience. And let's say this was the first time you felt good about presenting. The next time you think about presenting, you may have a little less anxiety about it.
  • Or, let's say you made a mistake and received difficult feedback from a team member on something you worked hard on, something you have consistently received high praise for in the past. If you dwell on the disappointment you feel in the moment, you're creating a new association with that activity.

My hot take

This got me thinking...maybe we can apply this to shaping team culture. If leaders repeatedly reference past experiences as good, we can train team brains to associate certain experiences with feelings best used to motivate the team.

  • For example, if a website is launched with an obvious bug, celebrate the process by which it was discovered and fixed. This could minimize anxiety the next time a site launches.
  • Or, if a new team member cannot remember another person's name while asking a question about that person, perhaps reference this new team member's question in front of the larger team and acknowledge something about the question itself. That way, the new teammate's association with the memory will focus more on the quality of their question as opposed to the name they will eventually remember.

It's not a new idea: to recall the good during a time when recalling the bad might be easier. But I'm not sure we're intentional about doing this. I'm even more sure that we're not intentional about doing this for our teammates.

So here's an idea: just like some teams share their workstyle preferences with each other, let's also share when we're having a hard time with certain work tasks, actions, or even people.

Maybe do it alongside retros. Maybe do it once/month. Once teammates hear the examples provided, teammates can think about the positive actions that they want to see more of in the future. That way, it promotes a culture of vulnerability, and at the same time, minimizes fear of future experiences.

What do you think? Do you buy into this idea? What can be improved or how can you build upon this idea?

9 comments

Taranjeet Singh Community Leader Mar 22, 2022

@Christine P_ Dela Rosa I think this is such a great idea or thought that if all teams in an organization start implementing it, it will greatly help in reducing the conflicts among teammates or teams, reduce the fear of teammates of not trying something new or unorthodox to resolve problems, as well as increase the overall productivity & efficiency of the teams.

Like # people like this

If your team makes a proactive decision to do this more, let us know how it goes!

Like Belto likes this

I'm not sure how can I contribute here but I really like your Teamwork musings @Christine P_ Dela Rosa  so I'll try. 

I have been thinking about this article for a long time and all I could think of was bugs! Lol! The more I looked, the more I learnt and understood about bugs. I can safely say I am no longer afraid. Whether it's in nature or technology, I embrace them and, like you pointed out, I try to see them in positive light. For me it's about evolving, learning, improving.

When it comes to leadership, I think it helps when we look up to leaders and see that they are confident even in admitting the mistakes, errors or failures, however you want to call it. Everyone trips and falls sometimes. I agree with Taranjeet (apologies, I couldn't tag your name) here. "Just like some teams share their workstyle preferences with each other, let's also share when we're having a hard time with certain work tasks, actions, or even people." Should it improves the overall performance, it's worth trying out. 

YES! Tell me if the mentality changes anything for you, @Evangeline Black !

Thank you. I feel honoured you asked. If you read my previous replies @Christine P_ Dela Rosa  you will see the answers but only if you implement your musing to yourself, putting a positive spin on seemingly negative outcome. 

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this
Srinatha T Atlassian Team Mar 23, 2022

Nice article

Like # people like this
meghna_singh Community Leader Mar 24, 2022

Thanks for sharing this! <3

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Love this! I try and reframe my thinking about work anxiety by asking myself what actually happened, rather than how I felt about it. It's super easy to get lost in our own perceptions, that a little gut check now and then makes a world of difference. 

Like # people like this
Andy Gladstone Community Leader Mar 24, 2022

@Christine P_ Dela Rosa great hot take. In my experience the ability to emphasize the emotional aspect of an action, interaction, work moment, etc. all boils down to the EQ of the team that you are working with. In teams with high EQ, there is generally a higher level of comfort with expressing vulnerability, which leads to amazingly intentional retrospectives that can help shape the future based on past mistakes, bugs or issues. But the converse is true and is much more prevalent - teams with low EQ (even though they may have high IQ) are blockers to allowing the team members to express themselves in a healthy and open way that can help reframe and readdress 'imperfect' moments that they may experience.

As leaders, it is our job to set the scene to allow for this intentional interaction. Whether that is by leading by example or over-communicating a positive spin on perceptibly negative things, it requires the foundation to be able to execute this concept in.

Like # people like this

You experience definitely tracks with my past teams' traits as well! Curious: were your teams ever trained or perhaps modeled how to help level up the overall team's EQ? Or was it simply luck of the draw where the teams with high EQ were lucky?

Like Andy Gladstone likes this
Andy Gladstone Community Leader Mar 25, 2022

I hate to say it, but luck of the draw. EQ training is so much harder than IQ training - most people are born with both, but only ever taught in school how to properly use one of them!

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

@Evangeline Black you are this week's March Musings winner. I'll reach out to you directly for logistical information. Congrats!

Andy Gladstone Community Leader Mar 31, 2022

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Nice article! Thanks @Christine P_ Dela Rosa 

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Thanks for sharing this! 

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

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