According to a recent New York times article 1, 30% of people report being depressed or anxious during this current Covid-19 pandemic. In my coaching practice, I find that most people are experiencing some level of uneasiness, angst and sadness during this time. Human beings are social animals, so to stay home and isolate goes against the grain. Our brains and bodies are meant to be in connection with others, through physical touch and close proximity. The pandemic is making us do what is unnatural and unhealthy.
During this challenging time of isolation and increasing anxiety, it is time to amp up your coping skills. Try these steps to calm yourself. The first one is in the right order – notice your body first – but the others can be done in any sequence:
1. Notice the physical symptoms and breathe, darn it, breathe 2!
Your body is an early warning system for your emotions. Notice what happens when you get upset or triggered. I can actually feel a squirt of adrenaline from the adrenal glands in my stomach, and I know that means I am feeling anxious or threatened. Your symptoms could also be tension in the shoulders, feeling redness in your face or neck, a quickened heartbeat or sweaty palms. Notice when this happens, and stop what you are doing. Breathe! Breathe from your stomach and feel your breath going all the way down to your feet. This will ground you in your body, and from there you can respond more maturely rather than react without thinking.
We are almost six months into a pandemic that has radically changed our lives. We are working from home, communicating electronically and meeting virtually. Despite these cataclysmic changes, leaders need to remain calm, be emotionally available to their teams and inspire others to sustain high performance standards. This is why the concept of mindfulness, which helps not only your team but yourself too, remains an important tool for leaders, even in these unprecedented times.
We know that the most highly effective leaders practice a high degree of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment, observing both your own thoughts/feelings and what is going on around you. Mindfulness is important to leaders because they must be aware of both what’s going on inside them (their thoughts, reactions, emotions and moods) and what’s happening outside them in their teams, in their organizations, with their stakeholders and within the larger society. If leaders are unaware of any of these dynamics, they are not able to manage either themselves or their
How can a leader increase his or her mindfulness?
In this unprecedented time of COVID-19 and shelter-in-place mandates, we are living through a landmark event that we will all remember for decades to come. In my conversations with clients and colleagues who are fortunate to be salaried and still employed, it seems that most business people are either highly stressed with the demands of the crisis or bored with not enough to do. And, many people are lonely because of the inability to get out and socialize during these times.
We are also finding a good amount of free time on our hands. Without the daily commute and the distractions of the office, we find several more hours a day to fill. It’s important to create a schedule or at least a checklist of daily activities that you can commit to. I’d like to provide some suggestions for self-care activities for you to consider during this uncertain time:
o Your Brain at Work by David Rock
o No Ego by Cy Wakeman
o Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein
Lastly, Brio Leadership is offering pro bono, laser coaching sessions to anyone who needs them. These laser coaching sessions are focused and short, no more than 30 minutes. The client comes to the coach with a specific problem, like how do I keep a brave face for my team when I'm falling apart inside during this crisis and we work on it immediately and with laser-like intensity. And, it's OK to cry in these sessions.
Perhaps you'd like to try one out? If so, please reach out to me at
Are you a member or leader of a team? In the workplace, a team could be comprised of the executive officers of a company, a departmental leadership team, a special project team or any number of other teams that come together to accomplish shared goals. Teams are everywhere in organizational life today.
And yet, only 10% of teams rate themselves as high performing. There is an urgent need for a better understanding of how teams can function at their best, and a growing awareness of how team coaching can provide that. Team coaching is a powerful tool to drive business results.
What is team coaching? In team coaching, a certified team coach facilitates and coaches the team as a system or entity unto itself. Each team has its own unique and special personality, reflecting the contributions of the individuals on the team and the environment in which it operates. A team coach understands the system dynamics of a team and can help the team address issues that prevent it from achieving high productivity.
In Hans Christian Andersen’s 19th century fable “The Emperor's New Clothes”, the only citizen of the kingdom who tells the truth is a young boy who blurts out, “the emperor is naked!” Everyone else defers to the status of the ruler, flattering him about his new “outfit”, which is, in fact, his birthday suit (nakedness).
Cute story, right?
The reason the fable has survived as long as it has is due to its inherent truth. Power and rank often diminish our powers of perception, perspective and empathy, especially specifically when few people have the guts to speak the truth to power. This is the reason why executive coaching can be so impactful. The executive coach, as a trusted and equal partner to the executive, can say things that others might not. That is not to say that the coach/client relationship is adversarial. To the contrary, the coaching relationship is one that involves trust, confidentiality and openness.
Are you wondering if you could benefit from executive coaching? Here are five top reasons that you need it:
When someone talks about being mindful, do you envision sitting cross-legged on a cushion chanting “Om”? And your first reaction is, “There’s no way I’m doing that!” Many of my coaching clients have this reaction when I first introduce them to mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing or scanning the body for tension. During our coaching sessions, I introduce clients to several breathing exercises and encourage them to practice often in two-minute pauses during the day. That way, you don’t have to sit on a cushion for 20 minutes every morning (although that can help), but you incorporate mindfulness mini-sessions into your daily routine.
Mindfulness practices are particularly helpful to leaders. Leaders have heavy responsibilities and are often stressed with too much to do in too little time. And, because all eyes are on the leader to set the example for the group, it is important that the leader takes a measured response to challenges and obstacles. Mindfulness has been shown to create these benefits:
What leader doesn’t need all of these things? Here are four practices to gently add to your daily rhythm that will build your mindfulness capacity:
It is a fact of life that we all get stressed, not only at work but at home also. During these moments of stress and worry, it is known that practicing gratitude is an effective way to calm our brain and focus on the positive. Brain science has shown that gratitude is “can change your brain, make you happier, boost your immune system, improve your relationships, and make you more productive.”
Recently, one of my coaching clients was telling me how he uses gratitude when the situation at his office gets tough or stressful. I asked him what he did to practice gratitude and he listed the usual: “I tell myself I’m thankful for my wife, my family, my house, my car, etc.” While I admired his gratitude practice, I challenged him to push this concept further, by “amping up the gratitude” as I like to say. He was curious to understand my meaning so I made a few suggestions:
This month, our article is an infographic on the benefits of coaching. There is a growing body of research that establishes coaching’s return on investment as between five and seven times the cost. Read on for more information:
Listening seems like such a natural skill; one that we don’t need to practice or learn about. Really, who doesn’t know how to listen? Unfortunately, it seems that many of us haven’t mastered this core leadership skill, given how often the need for better listening turns up on 360 leadership assessments that I’ve seen.
We are living in an easily distracted time, with so many things vying for our attention: emails, phone calls, smart phones, Facebook, LinkedIn, TV – the list goes on and on. One of the casualties of this kind of environment is listening – truly listening to someone with your ears, mind and heart, which I call deep listening. This kind of listening is coveted by your team, your family and your friends. Deep listening creates stronger relationships, trust and loyalty. I recommend this kind of listening to all leaders who wish to make a difference with their teams.
Here’s five steps to active listening:
1. Physically prepare yourself to listen
Someone pops their head into your office to say, “Do you have a minute?” In our busy lives, it’s tempting to continue responding to email while you try to multi-task and listen to the person. If you don’t have a minute, say so and set up a future time to talk. Or, if you just need a moment to finish what you’re doing, you could say, “Give me one minute, please.” Then, immobilize your distractions: quickly finish what you were doing, take off your ear buds, put your cell phone away. Then physically create an environment for effective listening by either moving to a table near your desk or to a private room. Another option is to pivot in your chair so that you are facing towards the person with your hands off the keyboard. Then, look them in the eye and take a deep breath to oxygenate your brain. Then ask, “What’s on your mind?”
2. Focus on what the person is saying
Here are several suggestions on how to focus your attention on the other person and what they are saying:
a) As if you were watching a live play in a theater, imagine a spotlight illuminating the person who’s talking. Visualize darkness everywhere else. This directs your mind and attention away from yourself and to the other person.
b) To better focus on what the person is saying, silently repeat their words in your mind. For
example, if the person says, “I’m having trouble with Sharon, the accountant…” you mentally
repeat, “I’m having trouble with Sharon, the accountant…”
c) Visualize in your mind what the person is explaining. If the person is describing an argument they had with a co-worker, envision where they were and what they were doing as they were yelling at each other. I often get a picture of what was going on and play back that image to the speaker, as in, “I was imagining how that was for you, and I got an image of a momma bear in my mind. Did you feel like a momma bear?”
d) Get curious about what was going on under the surface. What was motivating the
characters? What might have led up to them acting the way they did? What were their
3. Ask open ended questions
To confirm your understanding and show that you are really, truly listening, ask some open-ended questions. Here are a few examples to get you started:
4. Paraphrase what you’ve heard
Another tip is to paraphrase or summarize what you’ve heard. You could say, “What I’m hearing from you is really three things…” or “Here’s where we are in this…” Then ask for agreement: “Do I have that right? Did I understand correctly?” Succinctly reviewing and summarizing what the speaker has said brings clarity to the situation and helps them focus on what’s really important.
5. Use empathy.
Brene Brown defines empathy as “connecting to the emotions that underpin an experience” (Dare to Lead, 2018, p. 118). Name the emotion that you guess they might be feeling, with words like, “Gosh, that’s terrible. You must have felt so frustrated.” That leaves the door open for the other to agree or refine the emotion. They might come back with, “No, I wasn’t frustrated, I was mad!” Another way to empathize this is to say, “I would be feeling the same way if I were in your shoes.” Sometimes, just your presence with the person is enough to show that you connect to what they are feeling.
In our multi-tasking, always-on world, it’s unusual to take the time to really listen. In my coaching and consulting practice, I find that those who make the effort to actively listen stand out as a leader and a shaper of high-impact teams.
When I teach leadership skills workshops I have a favorite exercise that asks participants to think of their worst boss ever and write down two or three characteristics of that individual that drove them crazy. Invariably, one of the most common complaints I hear is micromanaging.
No one likes to be micromanaged, even if the individual is new in position. And, micromanaging is not an effective leadership style because it doesn’t respect the abilities and talent of team members. There are several types of micromanagement:
From the desk of