3 ways to lift your team’s spirits in tough times

March Newsletter

3 ways to lift your team’s spirits in tough times

Hi friends

Every time we think we’re heading for calmer waters the universe pitches us another curveball – how are you doing?

And maybe the real question is ‘how are you being?’

It’s not as if things were ‘easy or predictable’ before we were hit with the global pandemic but when you factor in climate change and now a war on our European doorstep – the term VUCA needs to be upgraded to SupaVuca.

We’ve noticed in our work with teams that it is increasingly important to make time to address the ‘spirit’ of the team – that invisible yet tangible energy that fuels everything the team does – or doesn’t do.

In this edition of our newsletter you’ll hear our take on some simple actions that boost the spirit – we know they work because we practice them ourselves in our small team and in other teams we work with.

Pippa will tell you about “Happy Attacks”,  Andy will share a powerful whole person check in structure and I will share how energising it can be NOT to be too professional!

Let us know what works for you and your teams – we love hearing from you.

Tony, Andy and Pip

The “Living Teams” Team

Are you too professional

Are you too professional?

By Tony Barton

Take this quick test – don’t think too hard about your answers!

  1. Are you generally efficient with your time and resources?
  2. Would you say you have a ‘can do’ mindset?
  3. Do you like to come across well in meetings?
  4. Do you care about your image and reputation?
  5. Do you mostly try to convey an impression of high competence?
  6. Do you deliver on your promises whenever possible?
  7. Do you expect high standards of others?
  8. Do you take pride in ‘being up to speed’ with stuff?
  9. Do you care about the work you do?
  10. Do you usually work hard?

How many yesses did you get?

Great…well done – you are definitely professional.

The thing is…are you too professional?

Is that a thing?

We think so.


Because we often see well intended ‘professionalism’ getting in the way of creativity and freedom.

‘Looking good’ can get in our own way and restrict our potential – we end up filtering our potential through a lens of professionalism.

We use a lot of ‘improvisation’ skills when we work with teams – it takes people way out of their comfort zones – because being good at improv is definitely not about looking good or ‘being professional’.

Improv releases energy, ideas and creativity.

In other words it enables agility.

Being more agile is an essential for everyone these days.

And being more agile can be a lot of fun – once you let go of looking good!

Improvising well is a skill we all need to get better at – every day our worlds become more and more unpredictable and uncertain – we have to learn to ‘dance in the moment’ and create from the emerging future…as it emerges!

And that might mean we have to have to rethink what it means to be ‘professional’.

Here’s are some of the principles of improvisation that we use to engender more collaboration and agility in the teams we work with.

  • Accept everything as an offer – that means “yes and” not “yes but”
  • Make your partner look good – that means getting over yourself and your ego
  • Let go of control – if nothing else world events have surely taught us we were never really in control anyway!
  • Be willing to be changed – an addiction to being ‘right’ is a dangerous one
  • Leap before you look – yes really – just jump in and see what happens
  • Be obvious – this is particularly hard if you hang on to wanting to look good

And playing with these principles is always a lot of fun – play and fun lifts your spirits – try it.

If you want to learn more about introducing improv skills to your teams – give us a call.


Mind Body Spirit

Do you really understand the power of the team “check in”?

By Andy Denne

Well….the world moves on.  Night becomes day, winter becomes spring.  It is a natural truth everything is impermanent, things naturally change.  And that applies to you and your team mates too.  Your Inner condition is always changing. Always.

Which is why its intelligent to “check in” with how your team is.  Don’t be lazy and make assumptions.  Show you care.

When coaching teams towards sustainable high performance, – we are quite pernickety about this very important team discipline.

The “check in”

Teams are the engine that drive your business forward.  Of course they exist to get results, to get things done.  Yet if all you focus on is task task task “do, do, do”…. You are a leader responsible for contributing to burn out.  Harsh but true.  If you collude with the idea “we have no time to find out how we are doing”….. you are colluding with the culture that creates burn out.

We are all human beings, not human doings. Yet too many meetings on too many teams fear ”we only have time to focus on tasks”.  This fear is an illusion – yet it takes a lot of energy.

The curious truth is – when covid emerged – we ALL naturally spent time checking on each other…. “Are you OK?  How is your family?…”. Naturally we care for each other.

So here is a tip to help you improve your team culture by practicing check ins…

Train your team to “bottom line”. Speak to the essential.  And use this structure:

“ We are simply checking in – to invite our full engagement in this conversation….

Take a moment and reflect – observe yourself;

How is your state of mind – How crowded with judgement is your mind versus how “open” are you?

How is your heart?  Your emotional heart intelligence in this moment? Is there fear or courage in you heart?

How is your body?  Any aches and pains?

How is your spirit ?  The source of your inner flame? …..

And lets just go round….

My head/ mental world is … (one word only)

My heart/emotional world is…(one word only)

My body is ….(one word only)

My spirit is….(one word only)

Just go round.  A 10 person team takes no more than 8 minutes. Everything is impermanent. And this is a snapshot of now.

However, one thing will only get stronger…By doing the “check in” you create a culture of caring connection….by doing so you nurture the truth that we are all connected… that the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts.  This “connective tissue” is what allows your teams to shine.

Not doing the “check in” creates a culture of exploiting each other as mechanical objects.  It directly contributes to disengagement and burn out.

You are the leader.  You are free to choose.

We choose to be pernickety – because we know it makes all the difference….

The world moves on.  Your time has come, and your time will pass.  How will you lead?  What culture will you create?  One that nurtures or one that exhausts others? The world moves on, night becomes day, winter becomes spring…..What will you choose to build with your leadership?

Happy Attack

“Happy Attacks”

By Pippa Handford

We wanted to share with you a team exchange that we recently experienced. It brought us joy and laughter and we felt we should most definitely pass it on!

Tony is in the process of moving house, which inevitably involves a lot of sorting through forgotten boxes.  He stumbled across some old photos from his 50th birthday which he shared with us via our team WhatsApp group

It was a lovely surprise to receive such images and the photos certainly brought a smile and a chuckle.  It must have triggered something in Andy and I, as within a few minutes there were more nostalgic photos being pinged back on the WhatsApp group. I shared a photo of me competing my horse many years ago and Andy shared some photos of him with his daughters when they were much younger. What we soon discovered was that we had unknowingly shared photos from around the same time period – 17 years ago!

What was so special about this team exchange?

Yes, it was a welcome distraction from a busy day and a picture most certainly paints a thousand words! Yet it was more than that. It was a connection between team mates that revealed more about ourselves, which enabled us to learn about each other. It brought laughter and amusement and overall it made us appreciate each other that little bit more.

Happy Attacks are now part of our culture at Living Teams.

It doesn’t have to be old photos, it can be a photo of a stunning view, an image of a well-deserved glass of wine at the end of a busy day, or maybe a 30 second sound clip of the early morning birdsong.

It can be anything that in that moment makes us feel happy.

We have discovered that Happy Attacks are not only wonderful to share and receive, but they have also strengthened the bond between us.

What are you waiting for…. share your Happy Attack today!  We would hear about them!

Tony party

Andy family

Pip Rosie

Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 22.39.46

Living Teams Rock Moments 

We couldn’t feature the topic of ‘spirit’ without making reference to the incredible indomitable spirit of Ukraine, their leaders, their people and their music.

This clip is the rocking version of the Ukraine National Anthem.

Viktor Frankl

Thanks for joining us around the campfire again.

Lifting our spirits is so important in these challenging times so we hope that you found something here that was useful.

Look after yourselves and your people – be kind, stay safe and stay connected.

And pray for peace in the world.

Tony, Andy and Pippa

The “Living Teams” Team