Stock Up on Compassion: Leading through Crisis
Over the course of just a few short weeks, COVID-19 disrupted the lives of millions across the globe. In the wake of this new reality, leaders have had to adapt quickly and change course significantly from where they were headed prior to the crisis. Understandably, it’s been a struggle to for leaders to guide themselves, their teams, and their organizations through these challenging times.
Throughout our many conversations with leaders since the start of this pandemic, we’ve been struck by their vulnerability to sharing their experiences and challenges. This open exchange is how we remain resilient, by leaning into all that’s happening and gifting the lessons we’ve learned to one another and sharing the tools and tactics which have helped us along the way.
Inspired by this spirit of sharing, we’ve created a forum where leaders can engage and learn from each other’s experiences, as well as share and seek resources. Through a series of webinars aimed at fostering and facilitating this meaningful connectivity and support, leaders in all industries, from healthcare to manufacturing, have been weighing in about specific challenges and opportunities they are facing.
In our first webinar, we tackled a topic that was on the minds of all attendees – how to equip your team to persevere. Leaders and teams are experiencing stressors, familiar and unfamiliar, from all angles and at a greater pace.
Identifying those stressors is the first step toward developing strategies to overcome them so your team can work better together and move forward in a sustainable way.
Identifying stressor reactions
During a crisis situation, a neurological shift activates our primitive brain. The brain interprets crisis from emotional stress, such as a sudden loss of income, in a similar way to how it experiences being chased by a tiger. It does not distinguish one type of crisis from another. This response often uncovers hidden parts of someone’s personality that impacts interpersonal communication.
When faced with fear, anxiety, and stress, the primitive brain employs two essential survival tactics. First is to assess the situation. How serious is the threat? And, second, decide on the appropriate physical reaction – Flight, Fight, or Freeze.
The Flight, Fight, and Freeze reactions are effective survival responses that ensured the survival of our species. But they often uncover personality traits that are less productive in the workplace.
Here are some ways that Flight, Fight, and Freeze behavior might present in today’s modern workplace.
- Assign blame
- Irritable and agitated
- Amped up
- Rationalize and justify
- Avoidance and escape
- Aloof and insensitive
- Stunned and inactive
Equip your team to persevere
Leaders must stock up on compassion like never before, for both themselves and for their team members. Effective leadership begins with practicing self-awareness. Start by determining where you are mentally, physically, and emotionally, and then where your team members may be at any given moment.
During the webinar, we introduce a tool useful for this practice called Above the Line/Below the Line. This tool was then applied to our current situation and the Fight, Flight, and Freeze behaviors.
Using this tool, executive leaders can focus on three important areas:
- Create calm
- Acknowledge emotions
- Demonstrate vulnerability
- Practice empathy
- Increase connection
- Communicate constantly
- Develop structure and routine
- Focus on what we can control
- Plan future and persevere
Learn more about the Above the Line/Below the Line tool and how put this resource into action: