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Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #76
(May 26, 2020)

Transitioning from RISK (Remote Isolation to Survive Koronavirus) to SAFE (Safe Activities For Employees)

I'm venturing into uncharted territory with this issue of CORE Bites. Normally, my goal each week is to provide a practical application managerial tip that you can act on. But this week is different. This week I'm feeling compelled to speak up (and out) about a new mental "undertone" I'm perceiving from recent conversations with several individual business leaders.

During these conversations I'm sensing some hesitation, uncertainty, doubt, apprehension—uncharacteristic temperaments for these individuals. I'm starting to think that while we've been diligently helping our employees deal with the fear and anxiety resulting from the coronavirus that we may not have been applying the same level of support for ourselves—as leaders—and that the myopic, non-stop, 24x7, onslaught of anxiety-inducing, ever-changing coronavirus information is now adversely impacting our leadership approach; our leadership direction; and, most concerning, our leadership thinking.

This phenomenon is relatively easy to understand. In the field of psychology we refer to this as Availability Bias which simply means that we're much more likely to put more stock into—and give more weight to—information and events we can immediately recall. The non-stop media campaign surrounding the coronavirus outbreak doesn't help with that.

Is it possible that we're talking about this so much—because we know many of our people are feeling anxious—that in so doing many people are now more afraid because we're talking about it so much?

Fear and anxiety are very similar to a virus and spread from person to person. But there's an antidote (or should I say vaccine?) for this kind of fear and anxiety ... LEADERSHIP.

So the question I need to ask is are we going to let fear and anxiety be the backdrop for how we lead our respective teams? Or, are we going to have the courage to embrace this challenge with the strength necessary to get us through this turbulent time and guide our teams back to a safe harbor? Before you respond to these questions, let me emphasize that by "courage" I'm not referring to some "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" reckless abandon. No, courage and leadership are not about the absence of fear. Instead, it's about managing fear in order to do the work that's necessary to get us through these uncertain times.

Risk is, in large part, a state of mind—our fears are fueled not only by facts, but even more so by the feelings these facts evoke. Generally, our perception of risk is pretty accurate but when our perceptions of risk become overly subjective and emotional (as is happening with the coronavirus) it can compromise safety, quality and productivity. Emotion impairs our perception of risk.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

Change, especially during a crisis, disrupts employees' expectations of the future by reducing their sense of control and their ability to process information objectively. The part of the brain that deals with emotions hijacks the cognitive system that analyzes and interprets information, resulting in high anxiety and a protective state of mind. This week (starting today), use the 4-Cs listed below to bring some perspective and balance. Remember, leadership is an action, not a title!

  • Calm: Your employees are going to be looking to you as a leader to project a sense of calm through this difficult, uncertain situation. We all know it's easy to be calm when the challenges we face are predictable. But this is a different time. As you navigate through the coronavirus crisis, you'll the exposed to much of the same anxiety-building information that your employees are exposed to. And, you're human, so it makes perfect sense that you'll have an emotional connection as well. But while a level of concern is obviously justified, it's critical that—in the eyes of your employees—you project a calm demeanor. The guiding principle here is to remain level-headed and rational in your thoughts and subsequent actions.
  • Confidence: In times of uncertainty and anxiety, it's critically important that leaders consistently 'behave' their confidence as well as articulate confidence in the organization and in the direction being taken to combat this crisis. This doesn't mean that you'll have all the answers—what's more important is that employees see you moving forward with confidence and adjusting along the way as need be. Inaction communicates insecurity.
  • Communication/Clarity: The issue is not the lack of information; the issue is that employees are exposed to way too much anxiety-inducing information. In times of heightened anxiety, employees look to, and are comforted by, the leaders who they have come to trust. Your communications should be timely, transparent, authentic, and, at all times, reassuring. (See "Confidence" above.)
  • Compassion: Compassion and empathy are extremely important at this time. You'll likely have a few employees who are not necessarily dealing with change all that well. You must be aware of the wide ranging and difficult emotions that people are experiencing in response to the crisis. Your role now is to demonstrate that you care and that you understand. Compassion during a crisis is a very important manifestation of leadership.

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

— Martin Luther King, Jr. —