Change is the only thing that is constant and right now it feels like the rate of change is increasing exponentially. Apparently the universe felt we really needed to be reminded of that as we witness the spread of COVID-19, the financial markets rise and fall, our major industries have halted and all but essential employees are sent home. Things we need to repeat as Leaders to ourselves and our teams are:
1. Ask yourself, “What is my tolerance for uncertainty?”
These times are a test of our resilience. Now is an opportunity to develop tenacity and to teach those around you the same. You are a role model…be honest and human. Our ability to succeed and be happy in life is not only determined by what we know. Lots of people have management skills and are good at building relationships. But far less people can rebound from strife, remain positive in adversity, have grit to stare fear in the face, hold steady and know that you have everything you already need to prevail. Know where you stand.
2. Acknowledge that this is scary for you, your family, your colleagues and your friends.
Just because you’re scared, don’t be scary. At your next staff meeting open with, “This is a difficult time. Let’s just stop for a minute and share what’s going on with us right now.” That moment of reflection allows everyone to step back, take a breath and exhale the emotional churn festered.
In this safe space you witness a human sigh of authenticity. There may be tears…fear…frustration. Once all the emotions are shared and discussed there will be compassion…people offering to help each other…solutions to personal concerns created…a shared meaning…and you will see each other instead of just yourselves. This will lead potentially to innovative work done with total focus.
3. Set boundaries to watching the news and the stock market.
Not much changes in an hour or three. Get your news from a reliable source. Commit to check the news only once a day. Don’t sit around all day watching news and markets you can’t control because in a crisis this leads too anxiety for you and everyone around you. You can’t change anything that is being reported. You can only manage your choices. Don’t engage in long perseverative discussions about the coronavirus. The future is unknown. Long dialogues can become repetitive, breed fear and simply recycle what is already known, leading to more anxiety.
4. Commit to stay in the moment with personal development or a home project.
Mindful deep breathing and setting a daily intention are calming techniques good for any day. In a crisis they are particularly helpful because they are actionable. Start the day with a deep breath and purposefully choose one thing that you will accomplish today. If you work remotely or have time on your hands watch the webinars or online trainings you’ve wanted to complete. Research top podcasts in your areas of interest. Resurrect a craft project you’ve set aside. Sketch. Paint. Knit. Woodwork. Organize family photos or create a photo book. Clean your car. Refresh bookcases. Rearrange furniture. Send a handwritten note to people you care about. Write down goals for the rest of 2020. Play board games. Streamline automatic online bill paying. Clean out your closets. Organize your pantry or linen closet. Spring clean. Put your winter clothes away.
5. Schedule a weekly virtual meeting with members of your family and your remote team.
Humans are meant to be connected, not quarantined. Don’t become isolated, lonely or alone. Purposefully schedule a regular time each week where you will connect with people you lead and care about via Zoom, Facetime, Skype or other platform. Host a virtual happy hour with team members wear their favorite hat… make it fun!
6. Connect with nature.
Go outside while respecting social distancing. Spend time on your patio. Go for a walk or run. Visit a park. Open a window. In Italy and Germany residents sing on their patios or applaud healthcare workers at the same time each evening to feel connected. Organize something similar in your complex or neighborhood. A breath of fresh air is reinvigorating. It is spring!
7. We can only see what is right in front of us.
You are walking in the dark and you hold a lantern directly over your head, the lantern only illuminates the area right around you. Beyond that circumference, things are less clear. It’s a great metaphor to being present to what can we see, and not get distracted by imaginings of what may be lurking out there in the dark. When we are present to our senses – what we can see, feel, hear, and know to be true – we can lead and choose from a place of centeredness. We can respond intentionally rather than reactively. Trusting our wisdom and noticing what’s right in front helps us take the very next step. As we walk, step by step, the light comes with us and illuminates our path wherever we go.
Ask yourself: What is showing up? What cues and clues am I being given to take the next step? What do I know to be true given info that I have in the moment? Do I have to act now? Can I allow time to get clearer? Staying right here, right now is so important because the world is changing moment by moment.
8. Loosen your grip.
It takes courage to surrender your plans. It takes courage to release your control and need for predictability. But when you try to hold on too tightly, you actually create more pain and stress and anxiety for yourself than if you loosen your grip and let go. You will host meetings where literally every detail, plan, and project that people were spending hours and days and weeks managing are getting ripped apart and vaporized. The only response is flexibility. Holding on creates tightness and tension. Opening our hands and hearts creates openness for fresh perspective, insight, and opportunity to usher in.
9. Rely on your resiliency.
During these changing times, we are all being called to evolve. Lucky for us, humanity is resilient. You are resilient. You can absolutely trust and rely on your innate ability to adjust, adapt, and be agile — this is your true nature. You were born with it. It’s hard to find the way out right now. But we don’t have to. We just need to take the next step, right here, right now.
10. Adopt a “we are all in this together” mindset.
If there was ever a time that we need strong leaders it is now. People look to you to set the pace. Mr. Rogers reminded us that in times of crisis we should look for the helpers. Be the helper. Lead with purpose and the people you affect will never forget it. Inquire about how those close to you are dealing with this crisis. Offer to grocery shop for a shut-in. Organize a virtual meeting to see who needs help. Post on social media ways you are willing to serve. Donate to fundraisers that support hospital personnel or restaurants that are delivering free food to hospitals.
Although the current mandate is to ‘social distance’ from people to keep safe we aren’t really doing that…We are physically distancing to keep safe. As humans we naturally want to connect so don’t isolate. Pick up a pen and write to someone you haven’t seen in a while. Call an old friend. Schedule a family call.
We must remember that in the end we are all walking down the same road in life. Sometimes we reach out for a hand to hold and sometimes we must be the hand that takes it in.