This is clearly a unique time in our world for us as individuals and our organizations. If ever we need to use our resilience skills it is now.
I have been focusing on being open. It is natural to want security, safety and to feel a sense of control during times of uncertainty. We naturally contract, make judgments about how people and things “should” be and it is easy to blame or to try to distract ourselves when we feel stressed. I have been asking myself, “Are You Open?” Then I stop and pay attention. If I feel grounded, present and optimistic about what is possible, I am gratefully open. If I am pessimistic and contracted, I sense that I am closed. I then pay attention to my emotions and the stories I am telling myself. Are things really as difficult as I am imagining? How can I reframe this as a challenge and opportunity for learning? I then work to cool down and to shift into a more open state where I pay attention to the possibilities and potential actions. We each need to identify our strategies for cooling down. There are lots of opportunities to strengthen the muscle of being open and resilient.
Leaders need to encourage team members to adapt an open mindset and to be open to what is possible during this time. A client of mine, the president of a large organization, has made changes that would have taken years to make that are putting the company in a stronger competitive position. More is required than just cost cutting. His leadership team has worked to be aligned and engage in open conversations. They are collectively imagining a new future together and taking bold actions. They recognize that there will be no returning to “normal.”
This can be a time of significant change. In the face of such challenges we have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and our organizations. It takes awareness, being open and real dialogue to collectively agree on and make such transformational changes.
It is useful to remember that hardships are powerful learning opportunities for both leaders and teams. We can gain deeper self-awareness, compassion, curiosity and courage. Leadership research demonstrates that dealing with hardships is a critical experience for developing impactful leaders. While success cannot be guaranteed there is much to learn during this time of the global COVID crisis, financial strains, structural bias tension as well as climate change challenges. This is a unique time for leadership teams to identify and align around a compelling vision and to gain commitment. It requires agility and collective action. It is not easy and success is not guaranteed. However, learning can be. I hope you will remember to be open and take care of yourself and your team amidst this experience.
What will you say that you learned during this time? How will you have grown in your leadership and life journey? How will your team and organization characterize this time?