How to cultivate great relationships in the workplace – introduce Purposeful Play
Has there been a moment in the last couple of weeks that gave you a real sense of personal and professional pleasure?
A couple of weeks ago I spent some time with a team who have been valiantly navigating the double challenge of forming during a major business integration AND a global pandemic. Just another example of the new normal?
They needed to connect in a way that felt light-hearted and fun, while having meaningful conversations about how to work best as a team. And so we came together to listen to a story and unfold it in ways that built personal connection, trust and commitment.
And the whole time I was thinking, “I am so happy right now. I am doing what I love”.
So, I’m asking you today, what do you love doing? What brings you pleasure?
How do you stay in touch with what feels meaningful and purposeful to you? 
Doing what we love triggers that wonderful cocktail of happiness chemicals in the brain (delightful endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin), fuelling a sense of purpose, pleasure and meaning in the moment, while nurturing our longer term emotional and mental health.
We should do more of these things, right?
In recent years, telling stories has become for me a simple yet fulfilling creative practice. It is not something I imagined seeping into my ‘work’, yet here I am – unfolding stories with people and teams from global financial services firms to the NHS!
When I bring stories into my work, it does not feel like work – it feels like purposeful play.
Telling stories to one another has long been part of the human ritual of sustaining connection and actively remembering the shared values that hold us together. For countless generations, storytelling has kept communities and families in dialogue, hearing and learning from each other in the most difficult times.
We need this today more than ever.
So back to this team from a couple of weeks ago. A global team of data governance professionals dispersed across the US, Europe and Asia, the team had come together during the pandemic through the merger of two sizeable global organisations. While still building basic working relationships, they had been navigating the challenges of collaborating across time zones and cultures to support their firm through critical phases of integration and transformation.
That’s a lot right there.
Once Upon a Team…
This team needed to get to know one another, build trust and deepen a positive team culture based on shared values and commitments – while having a really good time together. We met online for 3 hours for Once Upon A Team, a unique storytelling team experience. For some it was breakfast, for others lunch or dinner time, but everyone arrived curious and expectant for something different.
Watching their faces as I told the magical tale of a Prince on a quest and the unusually gifted comrades he employs along the way, I saw all the signs of rapt absorption: corners of mouths twitching, eyebrows shooting up in surprise, knowing head nods, small gasps, and big smiles at the story’s resolution.
I saw people being human and delightfully vulnerable as they listened deeply and experienced the magic of story together. We never get too old to hear a story!
Hearing a story is pleasurable but letting it speak makes it meaningful.
The characters that appear in stories can be as effective as any coach in helping teams clarify what is most important to them and how they want to realise their collective goals. 
The techniques we used to ‘unfold’ the story allowed the team to surface the enormous amount of collective wisdom they have to offer each other. They talked about trust, about mutual respect and appreciation, about demonstrating support for one another, about making mistakes and being quick to learn rather than blame, about pulling together to pool their collective strengths and reaching across barriers to motivate each other when things get tough.
Every voice in the team was able to speak and be heard by their teammates, and everyone’s unique gifts were made visible and received positively. The team used all that wisdom to design their team alliance, expressing personal commitment to building a culture they could feel proud of, energised and motivated by.
And I loved every minute of it.
What does your team need right now?
We’re transitioning into hybrid models of working which are having a significant impact on team climate and are testing the agreements teams need to work collaboratively and positively across multiple barriers.
Is now the time to take some time to come together, strengthen connection and trust, and re-design your alliance to become the best team you can be?
Your mission, should you choose to accept it…
Is to take some time this week to reflect on what you love doing and what brings you pleasure.
And then ask yourself if there is one thing you can make more space for in your life to keep you connected to the people, practices and places that bring you purpose, meaning and joy.
Then book it, do it, make it happen!

And if you’d like your team to enjoy a purposefully playful time together, perhaps the light-heartedness and wisdom of Once Upon A Team may be what you need?

Here’s to you and to great relationships in the workplace!

Find out more about our Transformational Storytelling Experiences


Deasert Spring shape
Deasert Spring shape
Deasert Spring shape
Deasert Spring shape