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Leading your people with compassion and courage through upheaval

Location. Location. Location. If you hope to support your people to adapt, evolve and grow through this time of upheaval it is critical to understand their psychological and emotional location.

To map their location, I find the metaphor of sink or swim, helpful.

Are your people:

Sinking – having trouble keeping their heads afloat, being swept away by the rip tide, gulping in water, coughing and spluttering? This is code for feeling overwhelmed, swamped, lethargic or anxious, so much so that they are having trouble concentrating, attending to tasks or taking on board and digesting new information.

Treading water – working hard on the surface to keep everything afloat, arms flailing and feet paddling hard beneath the surface? This is code for effort, feeling emotionally wobbly, yet working to face reality. Feeling uncertain and exposed, but working hard to contain their emotions & still reaching out to do their best to support others.

Swimming – managing their breathing, pacing themselves, arms and legs working in a coordinated fashion to move through the water? This is code for feeling secure, understanding what it takes to pace themselves to reach daily work goals, practically working to adapt, maintaining the ability to see the end game and remaining hopeful.

My colleague Stephanie Brown, a positive psychology expert, proposes there are typically 3 states we find ourselves in when faced with the challenge of a crisis & with the need to adapt & evolve. Overwhelmed (aka Sinking), Vulnerable (Treading Water) or Safe (Swimming). These states are not static, we can find ourselves in all three of them in any given day. Nor are they linear.

Even so, the teams I have been coaching lately have found it very powerful first to acknowledge their states and then support each other to transition from sinking to swimming.

Our location directly correlates with how quickly we can learn to adapt to our new reality. If we are in a state of constant overwhelm, adaption and evolution is almost impossible. This is because our psychological and emotional resources are being called on to deal with the crisis and preserve the status quo. I hear evidence of this when team members say, “If I slow myself down long enough to acknowledge how I feel I just start crying” or “We have to put so much effort in these days just to get the basic work done!”

Where are your team members located this week? Knowing this will help you lead with both compassion and courage. Simultaneously challenging and supporting your people to face facts and find positives, during this time of upheaval and uncertainty, will help them feel safe and secure. For my tips on supporting your team transition from sink to swim, email me today to receive a copy of my White Paper “ Leading Your Team with Compassion & Courage Through Uncertainty and Upheaval.”