Over the past 9 months, we have been going through various phases of lockdown, re-entry, and Working From Home (WFH). The current pandemic has accelerated change to an unprecedented pace. Changes which would have been made down the road are happening now. Long-term plans lack visibility and we are learning (albeit often grudgingly) to live with it. This volatility and uncertainty involves no small
amount of anxiety and stress. In fact, anything short of « stressed out » would be considered abnormal given the current VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world we are living in.
But how can we navigate these constantly changing and ambiguous environments and channel the stress so we can move forward with grace and conviction?
Employees are at their best when they are energized, positive, and engaged. Attaining and maintaining optimal levels of these attributes requires the utmost attention. So, what would help us optimize energy in order to navigate this fog of uncertainty, build resilience and make better strategic decisions?
There are a few things….
- Manage Digital Overload. Although WFM has accelerated digital communications, learning and innovations; with the mix of private and professional working spaces, it has become difficult for some people to switch off. Disciplining ourselves to set boundaries and disconnect at certain times – over lunch (45’ to 1h), earlier in the evenings, taking frequent breaks to stand up and stretch (5’), walk around and get fresh air (for example, 15-20’ 2x./day) helps to manage the mental stress associated with too much static time in front of the screen. These breaks don’t significantly eat into work time and in fact can boost productivity by recharging emotional batteries.
- Plan for the long-term but focus on the short-term. Having a vision of where we want to go helps us target our goals. This said, in these current increasingly VUCA environments (to the 10thpower!). plans can change frequently. Rather than lamenting over the worst-case scenarios which may or may not emerge, focusingon the things which are within your realm of controlis much more empowering. To help focus on what you can control, agilely chunk down your time into manageable blocks which you know you will be able to achieve in the short run. For many, this involves accepting what is and letting go of the things which lie outside our realm of influence. A time management workshop based on the Eisenhower or Covey’s Matrices http://www.gpsforprofessionals.com/time–management– workshop/can help with this. What do you need to let go of ?
- Positive Self Reection. Empathy is not easy and it is particularly difficult when we try to apply it to ourselves. Our brains aren’t wired that way – they hold so many unfounded limiting beliefs. However, showing empathy towards ourselves is the first step in extending empathy to others. Exercise: Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself all the good things about yourself for 3 minutes (set the timer!). This could also simply be repeating 3 positive statements about yourself for 1-3 minutes. By the law of attraction, being happy with ourselves allows us to be at peace with others and more naturally accept situations as they are. As human beings, we have the power of choice. Choosinghow you will begin your day can make all the difference. Some people keep a daily success tracking chart in excel. List 3 things you are grateful for each day. You have done a lot of things right – give yourself credit!
- Maintaining Personal Connections. Whatever the source, stress can drag you down. Social support is essential to avoiding the burnout associated with stress and allow us to sustain more optimal levels of performance. Sharingwith others on a daily basis can help to decompress before an explosion occurs. In like manner, ‘being present’ for our loved ones and colleagues when they need to share provides much needed space for reflection. A caring ear is what will be remembered and will truly count in the long run (which most of us will survive !). Personal presence can be felt in-person as well as virtually. A good friend or professional coach can help provide the presence and active listening to help provide support and clarity (ICF competencies 3, 4 and 5 at https://coachfederation.org/core- competencies).
With the increase of remote work, we must also remember to enforce informal conversations people are able to build and maintain the relationships necessary to increase trust and creativity. In the current WFH environment, social networking is replacing group lunches, coffee breaks and happy hours.
Sharing your feelings with others in whatever manner you prefer (phone, SMS, virtual cafés and happy hours) helps reason through difficulties and release anxiety. Make a goal of connecting with someone 2 to discuss something other than work at least 1x/day.
Building ResilienceThere is a plethora of possibilities. Here are a few:
- Optimize your energy. Exercise regularly. Run, walk, practice yoga, meditate, etc. 3x/week, 1x/day, 3x/day … ? And make sure to eat right, drink enough water(1.5 liters/day), get enough sleep. What works best for you ? Choose your favorite mix, devise a plan – then activate it!
- Journalingis another way of uncovering inner thoughts and releasing the stress inside. Revealing what lies under the surface to the page helps raise awareness, allows us relativize and let go. If you write a few pages every day, it may just be enough to get you to the point where new ideas and innovations are revealed.
- Remember to Breath! Stress breathing gets shallow. Slowing breathing down to 8 breaths / minute helps send oxygen to the brain and muscles, and subsequently move into a state of inner peace. Taking a few deep breaths and counting to 10 can help regain composure and override Amygdala hijack. Generally somewhere between the second and third thing you think of is the right option. Practicebreathing and holding back your rst response long enough to think of a second. Then wait to think of a third before you choose which behaviour to pursue.
- Remain Positive to Manage your Energy. For every negative thought or communication, it takes at least 3-5 positive ones to compensate so that we can neutralize the associated negative emotion and operate at optimal levels. Compliments and positive dialogue generate a spiral upward into increasingly positive territory (as opposed to negative thoughts which cause spiraling down thru a negative vortex). Analyze your interactions with others. What is the ratio of positive to negative exchanges? If they are any less than 3:1, there are several options to improve your communication style. Here is one process which always works:
- Identify the 10% in your colleague’s argument that you liked
- Voice it outloud starting with “YES, what I liked about what you said is ….”
- Follow up with your suggestion “…AND that makes me think….” Or “…AND I would build on that by saying…” This is essentially a ‘Yes…and” brainstorming game (versus the ‘no…but’ argumentative routine) which elevates the conversation to a higher level of positivity which will drive collective results much further and faster.
How will you choose to come back stronger ?
Dana Lefeuvre is an ICF accredited Master Executive & Team coach working at the intersection of Leadership Coaching & Culture. With over 31 years of experience working in and with multinational teams, she helps senior executives and multicultural teams adapt, rapidly integrate and co-create new work environments. Values and Vision are at the heart of her work. Dana leverages the power of positivity, collective intelligence, fun and efficiency in all her interventions. She coaches, designs and delivers workshops in English and French. Having been based in the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Angola, she also speaks some Bahasa, Portuguese and Spanish.