‘Nothing exposes our true self more than how we treat each other’, and as a client reinforced this morning, ‘and of course how we treat each other changes everything.’
As with so many things that follow a cycle in life, crises are no different and this crisis has a life cycle of its own with stages to go through. Whilst there is a welter of sensible and scientific information, prediction, indication and conjecture alongside a mire of other noise, whichever we choose to engage with, what is clear currently is that nobody really knows at what stage we’re at or where the end might be.
This level of uncertainty and elevated stress is testing even the greatest of leaders. Despite hope, action and positivity, the emotional states and needs of both ourselves and our teams will vary with the cycle’s stages and the duration of each stage, not to mention different moments of the day. A new habit takes about 21 days to establish and 90 days for the new habit to be normed into our lives, whether that is how we work, eat, drink or exercise or anything else for that matter. Even in ‘normal’ times, as everyone knows, this is a challenge.
We are all still adjusting to a new normal and it is affecting everyone very differently. Some clients are reporting that they have never worked harder and are utterly exhausted and others are enjoying the reset, reconnecting with children, friends, partners and even pets.
There has been an unfortunate and exceptional rise in those reaching out who are experiencing mental health challenges. One client right at the very beginning of this lock down requested very specific scientific and medical information on depression, mental health and addiction support, he knows that there are some highly functioning addicts in his business, but also that this environment creates the potential for others to emerge. A particularly insightful observation on the darker impacts and consequences of a crisis, I couldn’t help but admire. Anyone who understands human nature will know that creating an environment of psychological safety is vital to success, and now more than ever. As the expression goes ‘not all that are isolated are lonely and not all those that are lonely are isolated’.
When information is uncertain and/ or inconsistent, science points to an increased human desire for transparency, guidance and a need to ‘make sense’ of things. A leader’s words and actions will help people feel safe, help them adjust and give emotional support, and crucially also try to put this experience into some sort of meaningful context. As this crisis lurches from life and death tragedies, to the economy, and keeping people in employment in radically different ways of working, the ‘next normal’ is, as yet, unapparent.
But the following is possible;
Take a breath and look after yourself first.
Seek to inspire – feedback and revitalizing the belief that you have in your people’s skills and capabilities, will go a long way. Celebrate company successes (however small or large, come to that).
Build resilience – in yourself and your teams. Trust is critical, don’t be afraid to show vulnerability and be honest about where things are at. Accentuate all the positives as the crisis continues, to strengthen team and community bonds . Show that you care.
Communicate simply and frequently and repeat often.
My youngest daughter and I were reading the wonderful book of our time by Charles Mackesy ‘The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse’ and on one page it read, ‘‘everyone is a bit scared’ said the horse. ‘
‘Are they?’ said my daughter looking straight at me.
‘ I think so’, I replied.
‘But we are less scared together’ she read.
Stay safe and take care of you and yours and if you would like to talk or would like further information, just reach out.