Tuesday, March 10, 2009 by Dave Blum

In a recent article from ASTD’s Training & Development Magazine titled “Coaching Teams for Emotional Intelligence in Your Diverse Workplace”, the authors discuss the team impact of negative “self stories”.

Tell me you haven’t heard at least one of the following statements from your teammates or coworkers (especially in recent months):

“Remember the good old days? Those were the best!”

“The economy is so depressing. There’s just no way we can get ahead.”

“Everything would be okay if it weren’t for all these new people, mucking things up.”

Nobody likes change, and in times of stress we all cast around for something or someone to blame. The authors of the T&D article assert that the problem is not the outside situation but our “internal dialogues”. In short, we spin negative stories which are often unrealistic or inaccurate, and then we enlist our coworkers in these stories. When you have a whole team “enrolled”, you’ve got yourself a problem.
The article suggests the following four actions to “interrupt” the self-talk stories:

1) Create a vision and mission statement that is inclusive and empowering.

2) Develop a group tagline that fosters optimism.

3) Craft team norms that allow people to express gratitude for each other (ie. make a symbolic toast to at least one person at the end of each meeting, thanking them for a recent success).

4) Reframe self-talk messages in a positive way (ie. identify your team’s 3 most negative self-talk messages and flip it to the positive).

In my own corporate team building activities, I always have team members express appreciation for each other’s contributions at the end of their scavenger hunts. One of my favorite team building ideas is to have people perform a team cheer — although I must say that I like that team slogan concept. (“We’re the team that walks on coals!”) And I’ve seen a great exercise where you work as a team to create five negative statements about your day and then flip them to the positive.