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I hope you are staying safe in these proving times.
The Second Wave of Pandemic appears to be more proving than the first one.
The First Wave was hard, but we learnt a lot. After the initial period of anxiety and fatigue, we managed to cope and we built resilience. Liberated from the obligation to commute, we felt more productive while enjoying the new flexibility. We became proficient in organising virtual meetings and welcomed the instant access (no more searching for free meeting rooms) as well as the inclusiveness (no more “those around the main table” and “the others”; everybody is equally distant and equally included). Then the summer brought improved corona numbers, we resumed some social activities, there was renewed optimism and many expected to continue to harness the benefits of flexible working.
But then the Second Wave hit us, and it did so quite hard; not only because we thought that the worst was already behind us, or because we are now facing the cold and dark winter. We have also started to realize the complexity of going through “the whole shabang” of year-end reviews, appraisals, business plans and what-have-you, in an unprecedented, uncertain, and sometimes chaotic ecosystem, populated by endless debates between those in denial who want to go through the motion, those in dismay who are paralyzed by lack of visibility and the pragmatically agile ones who just want to do what needed to turn the page and continue to adapt.
As a Leadership Consultant and Executive Coach, I see the same picture across all sectors, geographies and management levels: leaders feel more under pressure than ever before and they notice that their teams are also suffering. There is abundant evidence that many leaders and their teams are experiencing two complementary issues that often produce a negative spiral:
The renewed uncertainty combined with the year-end pressure gets people into a survival mode: narrow focus, preference for doing more of the usual, in an executional semi-passive mode, always feeling short of time. Lost is the sense of a higher meaningful purpose.
Initiative, creativity, and motivation take a hit.
The individual narrow focus causes interpersonal exchanges of purely transactional type. Seeing each other as functions rather than people negatively impacts the organisational ability to foster open dialogue and to drive critical decision-making.
A decrease in healthy collaborations also negatively affects engagement and mental health.
What can we do?
Stress and pressure can be very effectively tackled by practicing Mindfulness. By learning to stay focused on the present and to be more clearly intentional, we can avoid getting distracted by our anxieties. We often tend to perceive demands and time pressure as a personal challenge, an attack to our reputation; we may then go on automatic pilot, reacting to our worries and getting over-prepared / over-worked. We need to remember that our perception can be biased. We need to learn to hold to our intention and not get distracted by becoming self-conscious.
Take the recent example of the VP who spent several days fine-tuning the detailed presentation of one of her expert team members, worried about how it would reflect on her and anticipating the impatience on the CEO. It did not go well, of course, the expert fumbled through a presentation that was no longer “his own” and the CEO sent them back to rework it. After gaining clarity through a session of Mindful Leadership, the VP went back to the CEO, clearly introducing the proposal and inviting him to listen to the details, because “we can feel confident that our expert has looked into all details”. The expert was at ease and the CEO was more inclined to listen, with the VP offering the occasional recap. Proposal approved.
In these critical periods it is also imperative to help teams collaborate as human beings; the virtual space can at times be perceived as impersonal. In order to resume productive collaboration, we need to get to know each other as people. We must introduce fun moments in our virtual meetings, and we must also engage in broader conversations about values, purpose, learning about our way of working, not only discussing the status of projects.
Several teams who recently spent one hour ahead of their business plan discussion in exploring each other’s values, testify of increasingly proactive participation to the rest of the meeting.
How can Grooa help?
Do you wish to take an accelerated course in Mindful Leadership? Register here below for a free online program in three sessions, that you can attend LIVE or follow in your own time, watching the recording. Give yourself the gift of a beneficial mindful break to clear your thoughts, stay present and avoid reactive habits that make you constantly rushed.
Do you wish to organise a Virtual Team Session to boost morale and re-align your team? We can help you design your session and if you wish we can facilitate the session for you. We are designing and facilitating ad hoc programs for several management teams. Here below you can book a strategy discussion with me to discuss how we can help.
Stay safe and continue to lead courageously with a smile