Boxes, Cliches and Disengaged Teams • MJVacanti - Inspire
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Boxes, Cliches and Disengaged Teams

Boxes, Cliches and Disengaged Teams


“I’m fine.”



On we go. We know they’re not fine and on another day we ask them what was happening, to which we’ll get a reply like, “I’m just really type-A and things were piling up.” People say type-A because it’s perceived as a good thing, an accepted box of honor, but it’s not. We shield ourselves with categorical boxes, because the real answer would freak people out. The mask of type-A behavior properly expressed may sound very different; “I quickly become anxious when a bunch of stuff is happening, and people won’t just do it my way, so I just say ‘fine’ and grind it out.”


Stress, resentment, disengagement. That is a pattern we can count on, but we don’t speak up, we don’t dig in and help, we say, “great,” shrug our shoulders and auto-speak something silly; “it’ll be fine – don’t worry.”

“We got this. It all comes out in the wash. It is what it is.” How many times do we utter or hear these dismissive auto-responses?


Avoiding how we feel, of being empathetic of others, depletes the energy in relationships and teams.

Accepting the limitations of “boxes” and “clichés” dehumanizes in a passive yet powerful way. None of us are a single type, a simple personality or operate in a fixed state. Sometimes we wish we could maintain a fixed state, but each day is new. People aren’t just “being” themselves when we see signs of misalignment, disbelief or stress, they’re having a negative response to influences and deserve our attention – a helping hand. When we pause to really engage, to see people, we can help them back to a healthier, happier space. As a team mate, it’s our responsibility.


We need to meet people where they are, in the space they currently occupy and pause long enough, listen well enough to bring them back into the game.

In many situations I was questioned why I would spend so much time and energy on this “nonsense.” The answer was clear and consistent, “because we don’t have the strength to drag broken pieces along behind us, and we need everyone at full strength.” Like preventative medicine, we can heal wounds before they manifest into infectious conditions. A pause now saves a multitude later. Being present is hard. We’ve likely never been taught what and how, rather embraced the stupidity of, “buck-up/man-up,” as if provoking these pseudo strengths of ignorance will take care of everything.


There is a lot of unlearning to do before we can learn to be better.Boxes and clichés have been ingrained in our development since we first took steps and tipped over. “Life’s tough,” right? We start life with laughter and excitement, enthused for every experience and gradually we are taught to ignore that crap and “figure it out.” And as we start to figure it out, the message shifts to “do what you’re told,” followed by “you should know better,” and eventually we become beat into submission enough to be compliant. “You finally get it.”


Now that we get it, we squeeze ourselves into one of the 16 personalities available to us as a gift from Gallop. Patch together 4 letters and associated generalizations and life becomes clear. The professional horoscope I needed so others could simply understand what/who they’re dealing with.


Where do we go from here?

We are better now. We have more information. Neuroscience, behavioral science, biological reactions – their causes and affects are far advanced from the time when our learning patterns were being established. Our capacity is greater than we recognize and our capabilities have been stifled with less information, boxes and cliches. We can choose to grow. We can choose empathy. We can choose new patterns, train our hearts and heads to open up to possibility.


Optimism is a practice rather than a condition.

Positive is an outlook, a forward-looking attitude not a lucky draw from the gene pool. ‘Better,’ is a daily destination and when we make these choices, we harness our resilience, become more interested in others, see what was previously hidden and boldly break the patterns holding us back.

Want to be on a great team? Become great. Seek growth, engage with care and passion. Unlearn to remove barriers and become intentional about relationships. Be kind to yourself and believe in your uniqueness.


Take a small step. Try something new. Move forward. Smile.

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