March started off a celebration of Women’s History Month and ended with episodes on how to identify and support leaders who are struggling, especially now that we are in the midst of a pandemic.
Ironically, the focus in March changed the week of the 5-year anniversary episode where I offered some perspectives that will help you to look at things differently so you could release some of the stress that you are likely experiencing.
Changing your perspective, depending on the perspective you choose, can be like releasing a pressure valve.
The next episode, which was the episode before this one, talked about the effects stress has on your system and why you may be finding it hard to function at your very best.
I listed out some symptoms of a leader who is struggling and the mindset of a leader who, while being challenged in a crisis, can continue to function and grow in the face of those challenges.
I know it has not been easy to talk about hard things but the way to the other side is through. We need to acknowledge what we are dealing with before we can get through it.
Under stress, we typically go into a Fight, Flight or Freeze response. Flight looks like avoiding or running away from a problem. Fight looks like getting defensive or combative. Freeze looks like going still as you take in information and formulate your next move – are you going to Fight or take Flight?
New research is also showing a female response to stress will also include Tend and Befriend. Some of us under stress will have increased nurturing behaviors and seek out social connections.
How many of us in the current crisis have gone on a baking frenzy?
My hand is way up in the air.
How many of us have increased the amount of reach outs to friends, family, and colleagues to reassure them and ourselves that they are thought of and the connection is still there?
Again, my hand is way up in the air.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, it is not business as usual. While you can’t expect that you’ll have the same performance that you had before this crisis there are some gentle things you can do to increase your focus and productivity.
Perhaps not feeling calm all day every day, but injecting calm throughout the day.
When we are stressed, we tend to be very active but not always productive. When we feel stressed, we often also feel time-pressured. We start moving so fast we can get stuck in the weeds, losing sight of the big picture and important details. We start giving unimportant details too much time and attention which results in lots and lots of wasted time. We are also more likely to make mistakes when we are moving too fast and under too much pressure.
The goal is to avoid or, if you are already there, to get out of this frenetic state so you are functioning optimally.
Start with a practice in the morning that helps you calm your racing mind and get clear on what the priority of the day is.
Set timers or put on your daily calendar time blocks to unplug and engage in activities such as meditation, prayer, reading, walking, stretching, yoga, breathing exercises, fun and play. You choose what works best for you.
Those activities will help to take you from feeling energetically stretched and scattered to bringing that energy back in your body and feeling centered.
This level of calm has several benefits. It quiets the chattering, distracting, monkey mind thoughts so you can give whatever you are currently doing your full attention. A state of calm comes with a heightened level of awareness so you are able to see things more clearly.
Additionally, this level of awareness helps you to realize everything will get done in due time. It all gets done one step at a time.
This practice of finding calm will help with the next practice to help you continue to increase your focus and productivity.
Your thoughts and emotions are your signals to your state of being. If you find yourself anything but calm, joyful, or enlivened, you are likely feeling threatened by something and it’s creating fear, however subtle. You may not even recognize the fear.
The emotion of fear gets a bad reputation in our culture because we see it as a weak emotion only felt by those who lack courage. When in reality, courage is the ability to do something that frightens you. An act is not courageous unless the person taking the action is feeling fear but does not let the fear paralyze them.
By definition, fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
Guess what? The current crisis is threatening to you and to people and things important to you. If you can become aware of your experience and name it you have some power over it.
You can then look more closely at what the fear is and challenge the belief that is causing it.
I’ll use myself as an example. When I find myself getting wiped out, I notice it’s after spending too much time reading the news online. The numbers and the stories overwhelm me because I feel powerless to stop it or make a difference.
The belief is I am powerless in this situation and am a victim of the circumstances. To challenge this belief so it no longer has power over me, I ask myself, “Is it true that there is nothing I can do that will make a difference?”
The quick realization is that there are many things I can do to make a difference:
Name your fear and the belief that is causing it, and then challenge that believe so that you can see that you do have some power and there are some things you can do to control your destiny, however small.
Find a trusted person to talk about your feelings with. It is so powerful to have someone you can go to admit that you are sad, angry, joyful or “meh” without your emotion being judged.
Now, all that being said, this exercise isn’t to push you through the emotion so you can move on as quickly as possible. Do this exercise gently and know it’s okay to sit with the emotion for a while before you take a closer look at it.
The next practice I recommend to increase your focus and productivity is to…
For some (or many) of you, this is really hard to do because you’re accustomed to being the person who is on top of things and gives off the impression of having it all handled. Some leaders even feel threatened by this.
But if you want to have more focus and be more productive, you’re going to have to make this a team effort.
Let’s face it, during a crisis it must be a team effort so let your team shine.
Be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. You show you’re open by listening, asking questions, showing appreciation for an idea (even if the idea isn’t going to work acknowledge the person for speaking up and bringing the idea to you).
I started with accepting help if it’s offered because the next one can be even more challenging for over achievers.
Lay your cards out on the table. Make and a list of what needs to get done and ask your team and your colleagues for help. If you have a team, make them a part of the process of identifying everything that needs to get done and ask if they are willing and able to take on some tasks.
I’m hearing stories of teams shuffling tasks around so the tasks are being done by the person it makes sense to be doing it.
For some of you, you need to step away from daily operations for chunks of time to attend webinars on the changes in your industry. You need to rely on your teams even more right now.
You may be quarantined or sick. You’re going to need to rely on your friends, family and local community to get groceries, medications and other supplies.
Now is not the time to let the identity of being the superhero get in the way of the greater good, and your own good.
Believe it or not, there are people right now who are dying to be more helpful.
Helping others gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. If you don’t give others a chance to be helpful you are blocking an opportunity for them to find meaning in this crisis and to also show how capable and caring they really are.
If you struggle with any of these recommendations to help you increase your focus and productivity (finding calm, self-awareness, accepting help and asking for help) I’m going to invite you to take the Energy Leadership Assessment as the solution to that problem.
Forbes magazine listed the Energy Leadership Assessment as One of the Top 11 Assessments Every Executive Should Take.
The reason for that is, quoting right from the article, “The Energy Leadership Index Assessment provides a unique lens on self-awareness and emotional intelligence, two key ingredients for any leader. Situational awareness of yourself and others is critical for a leader to respond appropriately to the people in their charge. Understanding where you are at any moment and how you respond to stress can make all the difference.”
The knowledge you gain from taking the assessment allows you to continue to grow and develop as a strong, compassionate, effective leader.
If you would like to explore the Energy Leadership Assessment you can go to womentakingthelead.com/assessment to find out more and purchase it if that feels right for you at this time.
I would love to work with you.
Again, for those of you in leadership, I thank you for your contribution. We need self-aware, skilled leaders more than ever.
I hope this was of value to you and here’s to your success!
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