Oct 25 / Jackie Kennedy

The Ripple Effect of Narratives in a Team

It’s not uncommon to hear colleagues say, "I'm so busy," or "I'm swamped with work." We've all been guilty of it, and I'm no exception. In fact, one of the most common lines I have found myself saying lately is - I am spinning today!

This narrative of busyness can become ingrained in our daily conversations, impacting not only our mood and perspective but also the overall culture and environment at 'the office.' It can also become an excuse for not getting things done, without even realising it. 

We can get stuck in a cycle of meetings/inbox/meetings/inbox - round and round the hamster wheel goes and if you're not careful the narrative will spread to your team and they too will be stuck in the cycle! As Daniel Goleman said, “emotions are contagious,” and the narratives we share have a ripple effect on the entire team. 

The question we should ask ourselves is, how do we break free from this cycle and make room for meaningful work?

One solution lies in prioritisation. We need to identify what's genuinely important, what aligns with the bigger picture, and learn to say 'yes' to tasks that truly matter while confidently saying 'no' to those that don't. It's not just about setting boundaries; it's about ensuring that we spend our time and energy on tasks that bring the greatest rewards.

We must also confront the idea of doing 'busy work' without real purpose. How often do we find ourselves engaged in tasks that lack meaning and value? It's essential to differentiate between work that contributes to our goals and work that merely keeps us occupied.

The power of narratives extends beyond our immediate surroundings. Language shapes our reality and, subsequently, our behaviour. It's a reminder that we need to go back to basics, making space for deep and meaningful work that aligns with our priorities and the bigger picture, while reducing the busy work that clutters our schedules.

Returning to the concepts of setting boundaries and applying the 80/20 principle, we need to ask ourselves if we're truly doing the right work. Is it meaningful? Are we working with intention, or are we merely keeping ourselves busy for the sake of it? It's time to redefine our narratives, making them revolve around meaningful contributions.

We have the opportunity to shift our perspective and realign our priorities, not only to prevent burnout but also to optimise our productivity. Let's be cautious not to confuse feeling tired with experiencing burnout. Burnout is a serious issue that occurs when we've pushed ourselves too hard for too long at an unsustainable pace. As we delve into these discussions, it's crucial to acknowledge the importance of mental well-being and to avoid downplaying the significance of burnout.

This narrative of busyness that permeates our workspaces can be an opportunity to help each other realign and reprioritise. It's a chance to clarify what truly matters, both on a macro and micro level. On a macro level, we should ask ourselves about our most critical life priorities and how we can make time for them. On a micro level, it's about scrutinising our daily tasks to ensure we're dedicating our time and energy to tasks of genuine value.

This is not the only narrative that spreads. As leaders, we need to realise the impact our mood might be having on the team. As fellow team members we need to also be conscious of how our personal narrative, current experience or challenges could be impacting our colleagues' experience of work. While expressing our emotions is valuable, it’s important that we channel them in the right direction, to the right person and to be aware of how they affect others. Did you know that ‘negative’ emotions spread x5 faster than positive? Emotions are contagious after all. 

What is your dominant narrative right now?
Is it serving you and your team?
Is it responsible?
What would you like your dominant narrative to be?
How might you get there?

Let's commit to breaking free from the narrative of busyness and any other narrative that is not serving you or your team and channel our energy into tasks that make a real impact. Our LeadMe Academy programme includes lessons to help teams learn how to prioritise projects and stay productive, how to get into deep and meaningful work, and how to shift the narrative around being busy. 

As we look ahead towards 2024, it's the perfect time to reprioritise and reposition ourselves for success. Embrace the power of narratives, shape your reality, and influence the culture around you positively. We all share a responsibility in maintaining a positive, productive environment.

To continue this conversation, reach out to me on email [email protected]
Created with