Striving for Collective Wellbeing

January 24, 2024 at 4:23 PM |
Posted by:
Laura Witham
Laura Witham

At Alia, we work with leadership teams across the country to deepen their connections with one another, align with their organizational missions, visions, and values and create new solutions together. One effective avenue to approaching this work is our Breakthrough Sessions, which provide an immersive experience for teams to explore specific content areas or tackle agency-specific challenges in concentrated blocks of time. In a recent Breakthrough Session with a leadership team, the concept of collective wellbeing was a primary focus. We often say that wellbeing begets wellbeing, so when a leadership team is functioning well (i.e., treating each other well in person and behind the scenes, supporting each other, aligning on the work they do, keeping each other informed, and being human together) their culture filters through to the rest of the organization’s staff.

Illustration of Aspen tree grove.A valuable illustration was created by the session participants: one leader shared the way to decide what kind of plants you can keep is to buy a bunch of different kinds and see which ones last – then you’ll know those are your plants. We asked if the organization sees their staff the same way. Maybe one plant needs a new location, another more consistent watering, another may need more light, and some might need plant food. Do we blame them for not watering themselves or relocating to a sunnier spot? Is it worth our time to make a few adjustments to engender a plant to thrive? Likewise, maybe a staff member needs a new spot in the organization to utilize their skills better, another may need consistent, predictable supervision (arguably, all do), another staff member may not thrive in an empty building that was once full and needs more interaction in their day, and another staff member might need enrichment to stay engaged. This is the role of a leader – to figure out how staff can thrive and to advocate for them to improve the health of the organization and improve retention.

If your leadership team is feeling dried out, underfed, spindly and reaching for light, this culture filters through to staff as well. We are not individual, potted plants but more like the Aspen tree grove, which are interconnected by their roots and sharing nutrients and resources to support each other.

How might your team start acting like an Aspen grove and model the health that your organization needs? Here are some ways to start:

  • Meet in-person more often
  • Start meetings with check-ins on how you’re coming to the meeting today and how your team is doing using a two-minute timer to hear every voice
  • Start addressing tensions one by one
  • Learn how to show up with the self-awareness and openness that staff concerns might require you to change

May we all learn that our collective wellbeing is worth striving for.