In crisis, we all approach energy management in very different ways. We typically start by either coming slowly out of denial or jumping in head first.
Either way, over the last few weeks most leaders and their teams have eventually been working full throttle – either on work they know, or working in ways they never have. This can be true for those whose work situations have drastically changed. Long days (and nights) of constant calls, emails, videos, electronic communication, team meetings and other new ways to connect, not to mention hundreds of invites into an onslaught of generous yet overwhelming offers of free music, webinars, classes and must-have coping tools.
The Goldilocks Phenomenon of Connection
During times of high stress, we as social creatures gather.
The good news is that connection is all around us – new ways have emerged overnight (I was never invited to virtual dance parties and “cocktails at your place” before this).
On the other hand, it also can be too much. Too much news, tv, email, food. Too much time at home, online, awake or asleep. (Too much connection! Too much time with family! Did I really say this?) Too much (or not enough?) empty space. Not enough sleep, exercise, boundaries, etc.
The key to all of this: Not.Too.Much.Not.Too.Little.Just.Enough. Some things we don’t have control over (no babysitting!) and many things we do.
The “New Normal”
Many of my clients this week are concerned about their team’s energy and emotional well-being. They have been at this for a few weeks and the “new normal” is sinking in, marked by multiple leaders getting asked the unanswerable questions:
- How long will we be working like this?
- How much more is to come?
Fatigue is setting in. Overwhelm is high. Routines are off. Distractions are everywhere. Fear is present, higher in some places and at times than others, yet around us nevertheless.
Operating in this “new normal” with no certainty about the duration is taxing. My minister, in her virtual sermon from New York City, likened the stress to PTSD, acknowledging exhaustion and stress and resurfacing former PTSD (from 9/11 and other experiences), regardless of individual circumstances. Emotions are running high and have a huge impact on our teams and us as leaders.
Agility and Resilience in Times of Uncertainty
In our work to build high performance leaders, teams and organizations, we have a model of 9 characteristics that leaders build, practice and model. One of the most relevant characteristics that is particularly important during times of turbulence – Agility and Resilience. This means:
The team anticipates and adapts in an unpredictable and changing environment.
- Members face into reality, innovate and take action to leverage change
- Members are robust under conditions of enormous stress and change
How to create this for yourself and your team? The first steps are in my post from last week which you can find here. The meta summary? To be robust, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, set clear boundaries and get into action.
The first step for any leader, parent or human is to start getting yourself whatever you need to think clearly. Once you get focused and manage your emotions (I know, easier said than done – a future post!) that frees you up to think and act tactically and strategically, short and long-term, and do what matters most for yourself and your team.
Act Defensively with an Offensive Mindset
Lately, I’ve been leading a weekly virtual roundtable for our CEO clients with my partners. It can be enormously helpful for them to share practices and brainstorm with each other. Last week’s summary theme was them helping each other to “act defensively with an offensive mindset for during and after the crisis.”
This means asking yourself:
- What priorities do we need to be focusing on today?
- What innovation / opportunities can we seek and create today and for the future?
- How do we prepare for the scenarios we will face after?
For some, it will be rebuilding businesses. For others, there will be what one mentioned as a possible “demand tsunami” we must start preparing for now, even when we can’t see it clearly and don’t know when or how it will come.
What Your Team Needs Now
Most teams and leaders focus on the “what” (the content, work, deliverables). While this is critical, teams also need to focus on the “how” (the context, process, how we are doing).
When you slow down to have a “how” conversation, it can be the shot-in-the-arm the team is needing which will ultimately create acceleration and sustainability if you do it regularly.
Here is a simple design for how to do that.
Design For Simple Team Check-in
While it seems counter-intuitive, it is the perfect time to do a check-in with your team. We are conducting them globally right now.
- Start with the human element. Have people give voice to what they are thinking / feeling. As one client’s team value called it: “Say the Thing.” Be real with each other about how we’re doing personally. Call out the themes you hear (there are probably 1-2 main ones, like overwhelm, exhaustion, etc.)
- Then, do a check-in on the team’s performance.
- What is going well in our team? What do we have to celebrate? Whom do we want to recognize? What is a “whoo hoo” for how we have been operating? What have we learned that’s worked we want to build on?
- Where could we take it up a notch? You can infuse it with a little humor – what’s your favorite disconnect / breakdown / difficulty we have had in the last 2 weeks? Anything to get people talking about what has been hard, what is not working, process breakdowns, etc. Use the theme/s from #1 above to cue up – what can we do to curb / improve x theme? (How might we adjust our meeting protocol, for example?)
- End with clear next steps. Otherwise, insight without action is merely interesting information. You want to clarify and align on:
- Clarity about what will be different. What success looks like – how will you know?
- Who is on point. If someone in particular – the more specific, the better.
- Timing. When you will revisit progress.
While there is a lot to be afraid / upset about, we must not forget this is an opportunity for us as leaders, along with our teams, to evolve and grow.
- How is my resilience right now, and what do I need to do to continue to take it up a notch?
- What is my team needing and what is the simplest, highest value way I can make it happen?
- In reflection, what is it the team (and I) most need right now?
Please feel free to reach out if you’d like to connect about what you need most or, to discuss the biggest current challenge you are facing today. Wishing you good mental, physical, emotional and social health.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours in practice,
If you are interested in exploring whether we are a good fit to help you and your organization, contact us for a complimentary discovery conversation.
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