Updated: Mar 22, 2020
How are you doing? These are challenging times riddled with uncertainty as we face the coronavirus pandemic.
Many of us may be concerned or facing health challenges personally or with loved ones, or worried about the ripple effects of social distancing--one of the strategies to control the spread of the virus--to the domestic and global economy, our businesses, jobs, our households, etc. In other words, our universal human need for certainty, including safety, food, shelter, employment, is shaking our core as a collective.
If you are safe, these are precisely the times when we must raise our self-awareness, our social-awareness to monitor our own and others' emotions, and then dig into our toolkit. It's time to bring out the tools to self-manage, bring peace and harmony to our inner community, and lead fearlessly—powerfully, intelligently, and with integrity.
In this article, I share my perspective as a leader, coach, mother of a young teenager, single head of household, entrepreneur, and friend. In doing so, I share valuable tools you can use to stay calm, centered, creative, curious, connected, courageous, and compassionate, while up-leveling your leadership.
It’s during these difficult times when our loved ones, our teams, our colleagues, and our businesses need us the most as they adjust and recalibrate to the changes and new ways of operating and relating, as do we.
As you read through these insights, take and share what serves you and leave everything else behind. While we often feel that "we know" something, I've learned that knowing it is only the first step. Integrating what we know to be useful and beneficial in our lives every day is the ultimate goal and end-game.
#1 Be Watchful of Your Interpretations
As your coach under these circumstances, I'm lovingly reminding you that the interpretation we give to the events happening around us will determine whether we feel anxious, devasted, hopeless, or not. Fortunately, we have control over our thoughts and can direct them to focus on the things that we can impact vs. those that we can't. Our thoughts drive our emotions.
However, I’m not suggesting that we ignore or shove our emotions to the side, e.g., sadness, grief, doubt, worry, etc. It's healthy to sit, process those emotions, and let them work their way through our bodies. When you've sat with them and feel ready to flow out of them, let's become intentional about where we focus our thoughts.
During challenging times like these, your mindset, ways of thinking about the goals you pursue in your personal and professional life, becomes abundantly clear, and color the interpretation that we give the events around us.
Where is your mindset today? Here’s a quick assessment.
On the fixed end of the Growth-Fixed Mindset Spectrum, if you have a fixed mindset perspective, you tend to :
See these changes as a massive threat
Experience highly negative emotions (fear, doubt, anger, frustration, hopelessness, etc.)
Absorb new information at a slower rate—your mental capacity and bandwidth are busy processing the negative emotions
Judge and evaluate your performance as a test of your competence and worth—taking mistakes highly personal and as a hit to your ego
Don’t see the potential in yourself and others to rise above the situation
Conversely, if you have a growth mindset, you tend to:
See change as a good challenge to test your limits and stretch you out of your comfort zone
Find new ways to take constructive action, getting creative to explore an alternative course of action
Look for opportunities to learn from the experience
See the potential in yourself and others to overcome the conflict or situation
As we navigate these turbulent times, take stock of how you are choosing to interpret the current unfolding events. Most likely, you'll spot that your reaction to this event, the COVID-19 pandemic, isn't atypical to your response in other uncertain and challenging situations throughout your career and life.
The follow-up question after you've made your assessment is this: if you don't like your current reaction based on your recent interpretation of what's happening and its impact on your life and that of others in your sphere, what can you do?
Consider reflecting and asking yourself these empowering questions:
What would be a more empowering perspective I can adopt? (hint, if you’re looking at the fixed mindset interpretation, most likely, it will be in the opposite direction of where you are now)
What’s most important to you? (consider your family, friends, colleagues, business, community)
What can you personally do to have a positive impact on what’s important to you?
What can you do or be to direct your focus to what is critical that you can impact?
#2 Choose How You Want to Respond Instead
I'm using this period of "social distancing" to regroup, reprioritize, connect emotionally with loved ones in person (e.g., my son) or using technology (phone, Zoom, text, WhatsApp, FB, IG, LinkedIn) to nurture and bond with friends and loved ones.
I'm also retooling, training, preparing my online courses, writing articles, etc. These things are important to me and I can control what I do about them. That's how I'm choosing to direct my focus and bring joy into my life, given the circumstances.
I will not focus on the fear of "What if I don't ____ (fill in the blank)" That's not where I'll spend my precious energy. That is a choice I make every day.
What about you, how are you intentionally choosing to respond and spend this time?
As leaders, leverage your EQ, your self-awareness, monitoring your emotions, your self-management, how you choose to respond to these emotions, your social awareness, noticing the feelings in your team members and the leadership team, and your relationship building.
Use this time to connect on a deeper level with those in your sphere of influence and with stakeholders.
How? One way is to share stories with your team about a time when things were difficult and how you and your team got through it together. Ask them to share their stories too. The team will get to know each other on a whole new level and come out stronger on the other end of the crisis.
In addition to adapting to working remotely and recalibrating around all work activities, do whatever brings you joy that you can still do given your boundaries, e.g., go for a walk in the park or around your neighborhood, tackle that home project you've been ignoring. Reach out to family, friends, colleagues, and connect with them. Rest, journal, meditate, catch up on reading, play games, sing, dance, you get my drift. Make it the best experience you possibly can. That is your choice too.
Go back to the previous answers to those empowering questions to help you channel your behaviors and actions in ways that will be constructive, productive, and that will serve you and those around you in the way that you and they need the most.
And while you’re at it, retool! As the dust settles and you get into a groove, use any additional time to self-develop, fill any gaps, technical or otherwise, and expand your expertise as a leader.
#3 Take Your Empathy and Care to New Heights
“Why are people being so stupid?” “Why do we have to do it like this?” “Why are they taking this so seriously?” “Why are they not taking this more seriously?”
Everyone's threshold for uncertainty is different. Every person in your life and business may be experiencing mixed emotions from the ones you are feeling. Our reactions to the same events will vary based on a myriad of factors.
As leaders in business and life, getting curious and showing people care and compassion for where they are will go a very long way.
It will help us become better listeners and look to understand their perspective so we can generate high-impact results, enjoy more peace of mind, and nurture healthy relationships.
So, here are the last two empowering questions to explore:
How could you support someone, in your circle, community, who may be struggling?
And if you’re having trouble coping, who can you reach out to for support? Let them know, “I’m having a tough time with ___ (fill in the blank), and was wondering if you could help?”
In either case, let’s not make assumptions that we know or don’t know what someone is experiencing. Let’s connect with them and find out directly from them, “How are you doing with this? “How can I help?” This suggestion applies to colleagues as well as friends, neighbors, family, community members.
Let's use this period to monitor and address the stressors we're experiencing and to lean on each other for support. This pandemic, as well as stressful situations, create opportunities for us to contribute to each other and to ask for the help we need.
Check-in with yourself if you find these tools and approach demanding. As leaders, we are responsible for leading ourselves and caring for those we lead. We can only do that effectively when we put ourselves in their shoes, get curious, listen, and, together, creatively come up with solutions.
And don't forget, you are role modeling for those you lead.
How you lead through uncertainty and change reflects how your team and family cope and respond. They're looking to you for guidance and inspiration. Times of change are the times to step up.
We're going to get to the other side of this pandemic, together, and feel stronger and more united as citizens of this planet.
We’ll be here to support our community today and in the foreseeable future. To reach us, email us at email@example.com.
In the meantime, be fearless! (act despite the fear)
With love and appreciation,
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