I tried my hand at trapezing last week when we were away on holiday and it was a blast. On my first try I had to move from hanging with my hands from the bar to swinging my legs up over the bar, then let go of my hands and swing back. In the next pendulum swing, I had to get my legs back down, swing back and forward quickly building momentum and go into a back somersault and land on the safety net. Phew! Tricky for a first go!
The Science of the Arc
What intrigued me most was that the most difficult manoeuvres are always done at the peak of the arc - either at the start or finish.
Knowing this going into the swing gave me some confidence to know that if I had my swing giving me momentum, the steps along the way at the peak would be hopefully (!) more effortless. The first swing was so fun. Even though I had to wait for the next arc sometimes to complete the manoeuvre (getting two legs hoiked over a bar upside down is not as easy as I remember it from primary school!) I managed to complete the trick and land after a backwards somersault.
Avoiding the Face Plant
The second jump was not so great - I leapt off the platform, swung down and at my heaviest, my hands slipped off and I sent sailing into the safety net face first. No free following momentum up to the sky and glorious twirl, just a plummet earthward. My nose is now just healing after a nice skid right down it. My pride is still wounded.
Are Your Strategic Manoeuvres Being Done at Your Weightless Peak?
The arc of the swing is a perfect metaphor for our aim in shaping the future in our organisations. Spend time building momentum through mastering the critical foundations such as trust building, relationships, purpose driven strategic planning and collaborative processes. Then the tricky new innovations and agile moves you want to have happen, occur with far more ease, at the point of least resistance. Things are much easier to attempt because the groundwork has been done to help people feel connected to each other, the purpose, and to the work.
A colleague who works with organisations helping them work in more collaborative ways through technology, spoke to me about the difficulty she has with teams when the mindset of being adaptive and in learning mode has not been developed in a team. They find it very difficult to implement the new initiatives and way of working. This is a perfect example of those teams not having the momentum to do the more complex change and shift they need. They are still stuck on the platform.
The same concept applies to holding those 'tricky' conversations. How many of us attempt to have a conversation with someone in our teams without really doing the fundamental relationship and trust building between times? If we need to explore potentially complex or challenging feedback in a conversation (our top of the arc manoeuvre) and we haven't put any time into the relationship, we won't have the momentum of connection and openness. This connection gives us the lift we need for both people to be open to influence and working together towards a solution.
How Strong Are Your Safety Nets?
A big part of my work with organisations is helping them identifying the safety nets that support us to be in our learning zone - creating a thriving Buzz. The main element identified by people in teams is the need for strong trust. When we do 'crash and burn' at work, as I did on my second turn up on the trapeze, are we supported by a culture of trust and learning? Are mistakes seen as failure to be avoided at all cost? Or an opportunity to learn and grow? Google spent two years identifying the key elements of their highest performing teams - the key - psychological safety. Safety helps us to feel supported when we are out on the high wire, or swinging from a bar. It's a critical part of teams that are armed and excited about the next tricky manoeuvre at the peak of the arc.
Oh - and in case you wanted proof of the face plant - here is the result:
For more thinking about how to help your teams move to extraordinary and build the GLUE of TRUST and COLLABORATION, check out my new book Glue: The Stuff That Binds Us Together to do Extraordinary Work