Podcast: Mental Wellness and the Short- and Long-Term Impacts of the COVID Pandemic on Your Workforce

As the United States looks to begin a scaled approach to reducing pandemic restrictions in the coming weeks and months a hidden enemy lingers that is not getting much attention. While many healthcare workers are facing the brunt of the risks associated with supporting pandemic response, they are certainly not alone in shouldering stresses associated with the last few months. The acute and chronic stressors during difficult times may have negative repercussions for many people and organizations for years to come. During this episode, we talk with Joe Smarro and Jesse Trevino of SolutionPoint Plus, advisor to healthcare systems, education systems, first responders, and corporate clients in the areas of mental health, wellness, and resilience.

Released June 5, 2020

Show notes: Below are links to mental health information and resources mentioned in the show:

Imposter At Arms

Every veteran eventually faces the same thing: the day they leave military service and venture into the civilian world to start the next chapter of their life. This is an exciting and uncertain period in a veteran’s life, where they’re thrown into the wild “real” world with only the skills they’ve honed as a servicemember. This transition period forces veterans to translate their existing skills into a value-add in civilian life and to figure out how they’ll engage the business community.

The process a veteran goes through in order to understand where their skills are valued and required in the private sector can take months or even years. It’s a process of self-discovery, devoid of the formal, regimented guidance veterans are used to having. Transitioning from active duty requires setting new civilian expectations for themselves, identifying how they want to use their skillset and ultimately picking a new career.

When transitioning into the civilian workforce, however, veterans often place unrealistic expectations on themselves and misinterpret the way society views them and their abilities. This misalignment of self-expectations and societal perceptions commonly results in a phenomenon known as imposter syndrome.

Seventy percent of people will experience imposter syndrome at some point in their life. Experts describe imposter syndrome as “an internal experience of intellectual phoniness in individuals who are highly successful but unable to internalize their success.” The syndrome often manifests itself through overworking, discounting successes, low self-assessments and anxiety about fear of failure. To understand how veterans develop and experience imposter syndrome, it’s helpful to take a look at their previous military environment. Read More…

Weeds and Wishes

Photo by Saad Chaudhry on Unsplash

Over the weekend I heard the story of a mom who, when asked what moments were bringing her joy as she endured the COVID-19 stay at home orders, shared a photo of her young daughter blowing the top off of a dandelion in their backyard. The mom, according to the story, found herself lost in the pure enjoyment of her child as they watched the seeds spread in the wind. And, just for a moment, she was able to put aside the impacts physical distancing and isolation have had on her and her family.

In reflecting about the experience, she recalled that only a few days before, she and her husband were marveling at their lovely, weed-free lawn. Now with her daughter spreading hundreds of dandelion seeds, she watched as the dream of a weed-free lawn drifted away and was struck by the contrast in perspectives. For her, the dandelions represented an intrusive weed but, for her child, those same weeds offered the promise of a wish.

The idea of weeds and wishes really stood out to me in reflecting on my journey as a leader both at home and in the “office.” As we move beyond our current circumstances, I think the ability to see things from different perspectives will be the hallmark of successful leaders in the new world of work. And, if I’m honest with myself, I often see only my weeds rather than the wishes of others. If you, like me, need to grow in this area, here are some key areas to focus your personal development energy.

Empathy – A 2015 research study by DDI found that empathy was the most critical driver of overall performance in every aspect they explored. And, in 2019 Business Solver’s State of Workplace Empathy report suggests that empathy matters now more than ever – a statement that’s likely even more true with the pandemic. For a leader, having the ability to step into someone else’s shoes and truly appreciate their perspective is critical to building an inclusive and engaging workplace. Increasing your capability to empathize with others is possible with practice. Here you can find a few easy practices that will help increase your empathy so you are able to more readily see other people’s perspectives.

Humility – The first key to seeing things from another’s perspective is creating an environment where they will share. Authentic humility is a necessary precursor for creating psychological safety that enables people to share different points of view and drive creativity. When leaders understand the limits of their expertise and are truly open to challenge, their teams are willing to risk sharing different perspectives. But, as humans, we tend to be overconfident in what we know or the transferability of our knowledge base to new areas. If you don’t believe me, just check out how many pandemic experts there are on Twitter! So, if you want to build a culture where people are willing to let you see when they have a different perspective, you’ll need to be genuinely humble. Fortunately, like empathy, humility is something you can work on. If you want to practice more genuine humility, here are a few quick tips:

  1. Spend time listening to others. Demonstrate that you value them by investing your time in hearing what matters to them most.
  2. Ask for help when you need it. Successfully achieving things through stubborn self-reliance can easily become a form of pride. While its good to be confident in your ability to solve problems, being willing to ask for help is a good way to demonstrate that you know the value others can add through their unique capabilities.
  3. Practice self-reflection. Take time to critically review your interactions, the language you use, and how you approach working with others.

Appreciation – Last year Paul White published a great GovLoop article on why employee recognition programs aren’t working. In it, he encourages leaders to shift from recognition to authentic appreciation. Among other things, White notes that authentic appreciation focuses on performance plus the person’s intrinsic value. By expressing appreciation, leaders acknowledge the unique capabilities of each individual and the value that those capabilities create for the team and the organization. Practicing authentic appreciation requires leaders to look more closely at what their team members are accomplishing. And to validate the underlying capabilities each individual brings to the team. This careful examination leads to better understanding and an improved ability to recognize when someone may hold a differing point of view.

I’ve heard a lot of hopeful predictions about the lasting effects of the pandemic on making work more human. And, I sincerely believe that we’re experiencing a shift in ways of leading that will continue to acknowledge the bottom-line benefits of human-centered organizational cultures. If you want to hone your capabilities to lead in this new era of work, starting with empathy, humility, and recognition are great first steps.

This article originally appeared on GovLoop.com

The Path to Reopening: Leadership in Times of Crisis

In the past two months, I have had the opportunity to witness teams facing the most challenging situations they have ever experienced. It is an honor to be working with such remarkable leaders during these times, be they involved with companies, governmental groups, or non-profit organizations.

Daily, I learn how they regularly meet the challenges of this crisis.  The teams and their leaders do it with ingenuity, caring, and a focus on problem-solving and learning.  While each story is unique, there is a remarkable consistency in how the best leaders and the strongest teams approach the situations they are now facing.

The path to reopening is a subject that is both fraught with emotion and shaded with a multitude of opinions.  The teams that meet the challenges seek to embrace and understand those aspects of the crisis and then bring to bear tools that serve them in any circumstance. Read More…

Podcast: Storytelling in the Age of Disruption

In this episode, Shawn Overcast interviews Michael Margolis, CEO of Storied, a strategic messaging firm that specializes in the story of disruption and innovation. He is also the author of a new book titled Story 10x: Turn the Impossible Into the Inevitable.

Organizations in every industry, across the globe, are experiencing perhaps the greatest disruption of our time, with the pandemic COVID-19. We haven’t experienced a public health or economic disruption of this scale in our lifetimes. And yet, (strike this – over the past 20 years), individuals and the organizations that we work in have been no stranger to the experience of serial disruptions. Whether that be the way (italicize to emphasize these words) we work – through advancements in technology, where we work – with the continued expansion of globalization, and with whom we work – and the growing workforce demographic to include 3-4 generations working side-by-side. Michael discusses strategies for how leaders can “meet the moment” and evolve their narrative. In this podcast, we learn practical ways to move our teams and organizations from the story of the past to the story of the future, by first recognizing and reflecting on what comes with the place of ‘no story’ – the place of in between.

Released: May 20, 2020

 

How to Stay Creative While Working Remotely

When we meet in person, something absolutely magical happens. We look each other in the eye, share a story or two, then something may just click and we may even bond! Enforced remote environments for those of us that can stay home and work remotely may not seem as magical, but we can look at it as an opportunity to redesign the way we work and improve upon what doesn’t. We can begin by finding creative ways to do our work and incorporate it in each day.

1. Put yourself in a creative mood.

Even in such an unprecedented, ambiguous, and tough environment like we are in right now, I try to see positive changes where they exist and create the energy of excitement in my day. What helps me is setting the right mood by looking at silly pictures of my family, imagining myself where I’d rather be, or getting inspiration from leaders who are stepping up during this pandemic. As a very visual person, I also like to do an analog activity with myself. For example, I imagine a moment in life that brought me a positive feeling, I visualize the moment like it is happening now, and cultivate that feeling.  Only then, I am ready to continue while keeping that feeling alive… You can also recall any moment that brought you a positive feeling, the last time you moved to a new, exciting place, gathered with family, or played with your dog in a park while throwing a frisbee.  You can create your own ways of getting into the right mood by focusing on bringing that right energy, maybe by going on a morning walk/run, or reading a few pages of a new book or doing a mindfulness exercise.

2. Find inspiration by exploring communities with similar or different interests. 

You could join a professional association related to your career, search an online site like Meetup https://www.meetup.com/ for a group that interests you personally or professionally, or ask your friends and colleagues for a recommendation. To further your creative journey, explore groups with different perspectives.

Personally, I draw inspiration from the ATD NY Chapterand Women in Innovation communities.  At ATD Gabrielle Bayme and I run remote Learning Labsfor talent practitioners to experiment, practice, and take risks by trying their own hands-on projects in a safe environment and get feedback. It helps me be more creative by getting inspired by others and try a few things myself.  At Women in Innovation (WIN), a strong and creative community of women leaders in innovation, I learn so much from attending the online events and being part of the engaging community on Facebook. I constantly draw inspiration from their blog

I also read stories from leaders, listen to their interviews, and attend virtual design workshops to learn from our community and share them back. There are a myriad of events out there and ways to learn how to stay creative while working remotely. I’d recommend narrowing it down by listening to what your heart calls for. What clicks for you?

3. Develop creative ways of working in a virtual space. 

At gothamCulture, we use the digital participatory design workshops model we developed and presented last year at the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). The main challenge was whether we could create the same energy as it would be in person but in a virtual space. 

When designing these workshops, we took these things under consideration to remain creative and collaborative virtually at the same time:

  • Open Space Technology: We wanted a giant group of people together from various locations and functions in a virtual room and to ask them to contribute the most relevant ideas. 
  • Participatory Design: We wanted to get people to collaborate hands-on while developing a prototype together. 
  • Future Search: We wanted to find a way for people to connect the dots across the entire system. The workshops had to be interactive and built upon each other. 
  • We built the model with three different groups one built on each other. The difference between the groups considered would be the audience, various roles, and locations, or the angle of the opportunity participants are trying to solve for. For example, one group would be responding to “what”, another to “who and how”, and another to “when”.
  • We wanted to be able to tell the story through technology: video conferencing and mind mapping tools. We use Zoom to facilitate these sessions, particularly because of the virtual breakout functionality where we can send people in smaller groups to collaborate. We used diverge/converge to develop solutions that were grounded in the same “shared” reality:

 

How it Works: Group 1

When we facilitate these sessions, we:

  • Enforce participants being on camera and ask beforehand and explain why. We need to be able to engage and hear all the voices. 
  • Engage multiple facilitators and a video conferencing producer to move the group forward and ensure technical support.
  • Use facilitation techniques to make focus groups collaborative and assign roles between facilitators.
  • Build trust upfront by giving just enough context, setting up ground rules with participants, ensuring confidentiality, and using powerful ice-breakers.
  • Incorporate debrief after each session to bring the learnings into the next session.

Finding new approaches to do work and inspiration from communities keeps me creative. This is the time like no other to be experimental, explore different avenues, learn from each other, create an open, sharing and supportive environment to help each other and continue looking for that magic together while working remotely. This is also a time to be kind to yourself and take a moment to breathe, and I hope the suggestions above can help our readers draw a few ideas on working creatively in a virtual environment. 

Essential Leadership in the New World of Work

Since March, our world of work has changed more than any of us ever would have imagined. Now organizations are starting to explore a phased return to previous work arrangements. Last week I shared some thoughts on practices leaders should employ to help their teams successfully navigate their return.

But, for teams and organizations to thrive in the long run, leaders will need to embrace new skills and new ways of leading. And, while there are numerous areas you could focus on developing, here are three key capabilities that will help better prepare your team for future disruptions:

Authenticity – A recent literature review on team resilience suggests that team identity is a key enabler of teams that can successfully recover from disruption. Strong team identity requires a leader who engenders trust through authenticity. Authentic leaders are genuinely self-aware and inspire loyalty and trust by consistently being who they really are. And research has shown that authentic leadership is the single biggest predictor of employee satisfaction. As your team slowly returns to more typical ways of working, you have the opportunity to show up in a more authentic way. Practice openness and true humility. Be honest about the challenges and opportunities you are facing as a leader and as an organization. And, create a safe space for your team to do the same. Read More…

Former POW Shares Thoughts On Surviving And Thriving In Difficult Times

The last few months have fundamentally changed the way many people live their lives day-to-day. Over the last few weeks, in particular, I have noticed an increase in a variety of what might normally be considered “unhealthy” behavior during my interactions with people.

Some individuals seem to be taking one of three paths as they attempt to make sense of their new realities and as they come to grips with being thrust into a reality where they have limited control and where the situation is rapidly changing-

  1. Finding false hope. These people keep finding a date that they hang their hopes on when things will “return to normal”. The challenge is that every time one of those dates comes to pass and things have not returned to normal, they pick a new date, each time seeming to lose a piece of themselves.
  2. Losing hope altogether. These people really seem to be struggling. They seem consumed with every news story and conspiracy theory that they come across. They feel like the sky is falling and they are beginning to (or have) lost hope that things will get better.
  3. Finding resilience. The rest seem to acknowledge their new reality and face facts without losing hope that things will get better (a concept articulated by Admiral James Stockdale called the Stockdale Paradox). They don’t hang their hopes on the next date that things will be fine and they don’t fall into a pit of despair. It is these folks who seem to be best adapted to survive and thrive in environments where they have little control.

Read More…

Making a Comeback: How to Lead Your Team’s Post-COVID-19 Return to Work

While we are not out of the woods with COVID-19 yet, many organizations are beginning to plan for gradual return to office work. For some employees, this will be a welcome relief from the isolation of remote work. But, for others, it will be a disruption that could feel even bigger than the shift to working at home.

Regardless of where you and your team fall on that emotional spectrum, as a leader you should see this change as an opportunity to demonstrate empathy and strengthen the connections that can help drive high performance. Here are some key practices that will help you lead your team through their return to work: Read More…

Podcast: How to Survive and Thrive in Uncertain Times: Lessons from a former POW

In this episode, Chris Cancialosi interviews Ralph Galati, former Air Force officer, and POW and Executive Director of JDog Foundation.

The loss of control and isolation that many people are feeling globally as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is affecting them in a variety of ways. Some people seem to have lost hope while others seem to hold out unreasonable hope that things will “go back to normal” on a certain date only to be let down when their hopes aren’t realized. In this episode, we talk to Ralph Galati, former Air Force officer who found himself shot down over North Vietnam and who then served as a prisoner of war for 14 months before being freed. Ralph shares his perspective on what people may be feeling during this time and how to draw upon the internal and external resources you have to not only survive but to thrive in uncertain times.

Released: May 5, 2020