Things for teams to try: Improving Fairness and respect

Feeling like we are treated fairly and with respect can be something we don't really think about until it doesn't feel right. But there are ways to help improve our sense of fairness and respect within the team - here are some to try:

4 Fairness and respect - team

1. Share airtime fairly

Team meetings are precious windows in our week, not least because it is costly from a individual productivity perspective to down tools and gather together. Your team, like many others, is likely a mix of extroverts and introverts - those who talk a lot and those who say comparatively little. It's important to give opportunities for people to share, even if they aren't very forthright about it. We say "the quieter ones often hold an important truth" - encourage others to share those "truths".

If a bit of structure would help improve the inclusivity of your team discussions, then we love the Liberating Structure 1-2-4-All. By asking people to start alone, then share in pairs, then discuss in a group of four, and then offer up one idea to the whole group, you create "smallness in the bigness" and you accommodate different ways of being. It is inclusive enough to bring in those who like to think things through before they talk and those who like to talk their ideas out!

If you find it hard to contribute your ideaas, try to think about the benefit speaking up could bring to the team. You might be the only one in the team with that thought or idea, or you might be voicing something others were uncertain how to say – your team need to hear you!

2. Grant each other the permission to feel

If living through COVID-19 taught us anything it's that our pathways into a collective crisis might be the same, but our journeys through it are as unique as we are. To treat each other fairly and with respect we have to learn from one another. T

Feelings are data - they tell us whether we want more of a situation of whether we have to change things up to make it safer and more enjoyable. Feelings are both fleeting and lasting, acute and chronic, delightful and distressing. But all our feelings - from the positive to the negative - have one important thing in common. They help us to get to know ourselves and each other better.

When we listen to how we feel we build authentic connections to our experiences. We focus less on how we expect to feel, or how we expect others to feel, and we embrace what is. We move forward with greater appreciation, understanding and mutual accountability for making things better.

So the next time your team is going through a difficult time - either because of a worldwide pandemic or something specific to the team like the loss of a colleague or an office move, lean into the feelings you have. Put your fear, vulnerability and confusion to one side and choose compassionate curiosity instead:

  • Ask each other: "How do you feel about this situation?
  • Actively listen for feelings and people's deepest concerns
  • Play back what you heard to each other
  • Ask: How can we help each other?

What you'll learn about yourselves and each other will make the weeks ahead run much more smoothly. Identity, perceptions and false expectations will melt away, replaced by a genuine appreciation of who you are and what you can achieve together.

If you are still not convinced, we recommend watching Kwame Christian's TEDx on compassionate curiosity and finding confidence in conflict.

3. Hire for diversity

Working in ways that respect and accommodate differences is not only good for the soul, it helps your team move out of "group think" into a wholly more creative and innovative space.

When hiring into the team, look for people who will bring different strengths to the group effort, so you are widening as well as deepening your expertise. Acting with fairness and respect means actively seeking and welcoming diversity of perspective, education, and life experience in to the group.

4. Talk to yourselves as if you were talking to your best friend

When things don't go well, we have an inner voice - probably more accurately described as an inner critic - who provides a commentary on the specifics of how we messed up. The tone of this voice is not very kind or respectful and it tends to exaggerate the importance of our mistakes and their long-term repercussions. If I fail an exam, it's because I'm not good enough and I probably won't get the promotion I wanted. When in reality I got a bit unlucky with the question, I can always re-take and a promotion doesn't just hinge on passing exams.

Practising self-compassion is good for wellbeing, but it can be very hard to do because it involves silencing our inner critic. We can't often do that with willpower alone. One neat trick to silence our inner critic is to imagine a friend presented us with the same dilemma, concern, problem or mistake. How would we help them to put their worries into perspective? What kind words of reassurance would we offter them?

Next time you or the team feels bad about itself or is struggling, treat each other like good friends, and notice what happens.