Previously published on Forbes
I heard a colleague say this morning, “It’s a strange and crazy time.” It’s true that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. But is it “strange and crazy”?
That’s one perspective.
My experience is that, in many ways, life is a little less crazy. As a team of consultants in the leadership development space, we’re not traveling like we used to. Our time with clients is all virtual, shorter, more manageable. We’re home more and also connecting as a team more. My perspective: “It’s a creative time.”
Your perspective matters — not just to you, but to others as well.
Here’s the thing: If you’re a leader, people listen to you. What you say informs their experience and way of naming what’s going on. Business leaders often underestimate how much their employees look to them for information and reassurance.
In my work with leaders through crisis, I encourage them to choose a perspective that provides calm sensibility for themselves and others at work.
Choosing a perspective is easier to do than you might think. For example, one perspective about the time we are in is, “We’re fractured as a nation.” And we could certainly find evidence to support that. Another perspective is, “We are learning about just how diverse we Americans are.” And that’s true, too. So, which perspective is more empowering? Which one would you choose if you could?
Guess what? Leaders actually do have a choice.
Here’s Why the Perspective You Choose Matters
Research shows that it’s common for leaders to react poorly in high-stress situations. Specifically, 53 percent become more closed-minded and controlling during times of crisis, instead of calm and curious, and 43 percent more become angrier and more heated.
Reacting poorly is a choice. It’s a choice not to be the steady, reassuring presence your employees are looking for, and it will have a ripple effect throughout your team or organization.
On the other hand, when a manager practices good communication in difficult situations — is calm, collected, candid and curious — it results in a happier and more engaged team.
When day-to-day routines at work are disrupted, as they have been since mid-March of this year, people look for their leaders to help them make sense out of what is happening and how to think about it. They want a perspective or way to understand that allows them to calm down and access their own and collective sensibility. Leaders are the source of this. Being calm and optimistic supports your team to get their own feet back under them.
So, what does it take to create a perspective that provides greater calm?
Pay attention to your own thought processes.
You have to notice your thinking and catch the disempowering, anxiety-provoking “perspective” you seem to be holding. What are you saying to yourself about all of this? If you can’t hear it, ask your colleagues or partner at home.
Consider the following examples. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?
- It’s a mess.
- We’ll never figure this out.
- We’ll never get back to living a normal life.
- I can’t manage a team like this.
- We can’t hit our targets working like this.
Choose your perspective.
How can you think about what’s happening in a whole new way? How might someone not so close to the situation think about it? Try on perspectives until you find one that seems “right” for you. This isn’t about positive thinking. It’s about finding another perspective that is as true or truer than the perspectives above.
Here’s what that might sound like:
- We’re bright people; we can figure anything out together.
- A new “normal” is emerging. What do we need to do to be ready for it?
- I am a great team leader. How might I create that sense of “team” when we can’t be together?
Just for fun, try on this perspective today: “There’s nothing wrong here.”
See how your day changes by holding onto this. You may just find that you feel calmer, more empowered, more energized. Now see what happens when your whole team feels this way.