Over the past few years, we’ve weathered several cycles that have caused us to reconsider whether we’re happy, whether life is working for us and what we’d like it to look like. The mental shift of reconsidering causes stress and discomfort when we first realise that we’re not comfortable with the status quo, even before we know what the desired changes might be. Sometimes, our reconsidering results in small differences in choice on a daily basis, and sometimes it puts into motion a larger and further reaching request for change.
Often, realising we’d like to feel or achieve differently means we start to notice the contrast of other options more clearly, and that contrast starts to help us form new desires and new goals.
Change, however, is never easy or comfortable, and it generally causes us to feel a degree of self-doubt somewhere along the line. We can’t see what might be on the other side of the change we create or wish for, and the unknown, whilst exciting, can always make us a little testy.
When we ask for change and something different, it’s only right that we question ourselves – especially when we’re in a position of leadership. Choosing change affects multiple aspects of our lives and other peoples’, and causing that change is often our sole responsibility. That said, change invites others to reconsider what they want too, and when the process is openly invited and supported, it can be incredibly powerful in a refreshing and renewing kind of way.
Whether invited or not, change can be psychologically and physically exhausting. The lack of control that change can make us feel often causes us to try and drive forward. It may cause us to work harder or focus on new methods. It might cause us to try and stimulate those around us by reiterating the same messages more loudly. We may start to demand that those around us take more personal responsibility and apply more focus to the changes necessary in an attempt to ensure some control over the outcome.
In my opinion, rather than continuing to find new ways to drive forward when approaching change, the most effective way of handling it is often to do the exact opposite. Perhaps what we should be doing is finding more moments to pause. More moments to check in with each other. More moments to breathe. Rather than chasing the win ourselves and trying to herd everyone else towards it too, perhaps we should be focusing on whether we all feel secure enough in the process to apply our energy to making the required changes. We draw this energy from sharing and collaboration, rather than from isolating ourselves and driving others.
It is natural that a lack of control over change results in us striving to take control in the areas we can affect (like petty choices, and how we communicate with those around us). It is natural that self-doubt can make us less likely to confess our inadequacies to anyone else, even if we’re able to recognise that we’re all carrying a level of stress. It’s natural that we’ll all show less healthy ways of communicating when we come under pressure and are running out of energy towards the end of a year too.
So what does readjusting look like when we decide we want to choose something new? What does “effective” look like when our brains are fatigued and less tolerant? How do we nurture our inner certainty and regenerate strategic thinking?
We remember that we’re ALL human. We remember that we’re all going through the same pressures and have been doing for a very long while now. We take a moment to be patient with ourselves and remind ourselves that there’s no possible way we’re supposed to have this all figured out; and that the same is true for everyone else. We’re all processing differently, and we all have different needs, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach when addressing change.
What we can do is check in with each other and ask questions that invite others to share how they’re doing. We can be proactive about unpacking how each of us is coping on any given day, work to our strengths and cover each other’s weaknesses. We can remedy the human inclination to disconnect under pressure with small moments of connection that allow everyone to pause and take a breath. When we create space for everyone to “check in”, we allow everyone to realise they’re not alone in what they’re processing, which helps to alleviate self-doubt.
Sharing helps us measure how much of what we’re dealing with is unique to us, and how much of it is universal. When we can identify what’s universal, and what is unique to us, we know better what we can and can’t control. When we stop waiting for everyone to self-correct, we can come together to discuss the new needs behind what we’re trying to achieve. When we can be patient with ourselves and others, we can find more compassionate ways of dealing with each other. Compassion, care and communication are what connect us. They are the salve for the myriad of psychological fallout and fatigue the world is experiencing at the moment.
A simple way to create moments of connection is by starting each day or weekly team meeting with a 5-minute “First Aid Round”. Invite each person, in turn, to say briefly how they’re doing today. Set the bar yourself, volunteering truth that encourages others to do the same. First Aid statements may sound like “I’m feeling frustrated and ineffectual today because that deal I thought was in the bag, isn’t.” or “Today, I’m feeling uncertain, and I don’t know why. My energy is low and I’m trying to gather myself.” It may sound like “I studied my behind off for that exam. I don’t know how my mark was so low.” or “I had a win yesterday, and whilst it was small, I feel proud.”
Many may struggle to share, access and articulate what’s going on for them without practice. Many leaders are scared about giving licence for a “whingeing session”. The idea here is not to fix it for everyone or to derail each meeting with side agendas, but a First Aid Round allows you to gauge the general energy and speak to what might be required by the team to move forward. If things come up that need addressing, you can do so after your current session. The focus is on connection. On compassion and communication. On seeing where each of your team is at and how you can cover each other today.
The more proficient we become at identifying our needs and unpacking them, the more proficient we’ll become at meeting them. The more we learn we’re not alone in our thinking, the more we’ll find the energy to rise. The more we discover or remember we’re part of a team, the more we will move together towards a common goal again; the more we will draw strength from each other; the more we will volunteer our strength TO each other.
by Christen Killick
October 24th, 2022