So many people have lost more than their jobs in this pandemic – they have lost their identities.  They don’t know how to answer the question, “What do you do?”

Safety in Numbers

Since humans are wired for connection and belonging, it makes sense that we gravitate toward people with similar interests and perspectives.  As we share experiences, our relationships deepen and the safety we feel as part of a group reinforces our identity.  When you lose a job that severs your connection to a work group or professional association, you may struggle with how to define yourself and your value.

Who Do You Want to Be?

If you consider who you want to be and how you measure your professional and personal value, your answer might be, “I want to be a partner, parent, friend and team leader.”  Bruce Shaffer, whose position as Director of Human Resources and Internal Communication for Schlumberger’s subsea business was eliminated recently, explained that he was able to move from bitterness to acceptance by getting clear about who he wants to be.

Bruce recognized his value to family members and former colleagues who needed his support.  As he reflected on what success means, Bruce said Ralph Waldo Emerson described it best:  “To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children … to leave the world a bit better … to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.”

What would it mean for you to believe that you are more than the job you do?

Three weeks ago I lost my dear friend and mentor Cecilia Rose to cancer.  The world isn’t the same without Cecilia but it is a better place because she was here. As a person of deep faith, I have no doubt that she was ready for her new life.

Gifts that Last

I’m remembering many, many generous gifts of Cecilia’s time, her wisdom, her wit and her joy.  She helped me expand my thinking and feeling through Systems Dynamics work, her insightful questions and her ability to listen with empathy.  Cecilia was always in my corner and willing to lovingly challenge me to see other perspectives.

Follow Their Example

Cecilia fought until the end to beat cancer with the same determination she applied to everything in her life. As I considered how best to honor her, I decided that trying to follow her example would be most meaningful.  I will continue to practice what Cecilia taught me and share her gifts with others.

Are you wondering when we’ll get to the new normal?  In Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0, Jim Collins writes that “uncertainty is chronic, instability is permanent, disruption is common, and we can neither predict nor govern events. There will be no ‘new normal’; there will only be a continuous series of ‘not-normal’ episodes that defy prediction and are unforeseen by most of us until they happen.” Simon Sinek explained on Brené Brown’s  Dare to Lead podcast, “If you have a finite mindset that thought scares you, and if you have an infinite mindset you smile and think, “Ooh, that’s fun.”   Sinek pointed out that an infinite mindset empowers us to find opportunity in surprise.

Do You Like Surprises?

I’ve had countless coaching conversations in the past year with people who are really sick of surprises.  I am too!  Although it’s hard to envision opportunity when I’m in survival mode, I can appreciate that embracing an infinite mindset will help me adapt and thrive.  When I saw Ford Motor Company’s announcement that 30,000 employees in North America will have personalized work schedules that include face-to-face interactions in the office and independent work at home, I recognized this as an example of applying an infinite mindset to the long-standing issue of work/life balance.

The Future is Fluid

How will your team work together in the future?  Nikki Morgan, EVP of TDIndustries, a construction and facilities services company, sees a common theme emerging: much more flexibility regarding where you work, but in-person collaboration will be essential.  Nikki said, “More investment will be made in technology to enable remote workers to interact easily with onsite or other remote employees.  Offices will be de-densified to allow for more distance between people and much more collaborative spaces.  Some are looking for more real estate, while others are looking to reduce.  Although my company will probably never be back to 100% onsite, we are committed to providing safe environments for collaboration.   We have a people-centered culture built on strong relationships between employees, so we will have to work harder to ensure we still have face-to-face opportunities to build those relationships.”

Simon Sinek believes that “leaders who embrace an infinite mindset…build stronger, more innovative, more inspiring organizations. They have the resilience to thrive in an ever-changing world, while their competitors fall by the wayside. Ultimately, those who adopt an infinite mindset are the ones who lead the rest of us into the future.”  Contact cheryl@csbryan.com if you want to be one of them!

Do you know anyone who is confused about how to address inequality on their team, in their organization and in their personal life? Who feels defensive when asked to check their privilege? Who doesn’t understand the cry that silence is violence? These people are likely reacting to shame.

Shame vs. Accountability

As Brené Brown explained in a recent Shame and Accountability podcast, shame is not a tool for social justice; it is a tool of suppression. Rather than motivating us to change, shame triggers a fear of disconnection from our tribe that we inherited from our ancestors. Our brains react to that fear and we fight, flee or freeze.
Accountability is a more effective tool for motivating change. To explain the difference between being shamed and being held accountable, Brené shared this example: when you tell a child he is a liar, he feels ashamed and alone. If you tell a child that he is a good person who told a lie and that’s not OK in your family, you’re holding him accountable for his behavior. That helps him accept responsibility and change his behavior so he can stay in the tribe.

Empathy and Action

When we feel shamed for saying the wrong thing or not speaking up to challenge the status quo, relying on empathy enables us to be curious about the other person’s perspective. Then we must manage our own reactions by recognizing our triggers, breathing deeply and pausing before we respond. Listening first, then considering what to think, say or do differently is a way to avoid getting defensive, rationalizing our behavior or demanding absolution from the person holding us accountable. I recommend Brene’s mantra – I’m here to get it right, not to be right.

Change requires courage, curiosity and commitment. I invite you to check out The Role of Senior Leaders in Building a Race Equity Culture and So, You Want to Talk About Race and consider joining a Brave Conversation about racial inequality. Contact cheryl@csbryan.com today to find out more about small discussion group opportunities or inquire about a custom-designed corporate program.

One of the many terms highlighted by the pandemic has been “asynchronous” – referring to learning and/or working at different times and places.  We haven’t had much choice while working from home but my clients are realizing that there can be real challenges to this approach.

Paint the Big Picture

Think about a jigsaw puzzle of an elephant.  If you haven’t seen the picture on the box you wouldn’t know that your piece is the knee.   It is too easy for each person to focus on his or her part of a project and overlook how the pieces fit together.  When the leader paints the big picture of success and everyone’s role in achieving it, the team can work in synch with clear priorities and refresh the picture as the project evolves.

Make the Connection

To nurture connection between team members in an asynchronous environment, I recommend inviting each person to talk about how others are contributing.  Regular live interaction and gratitude are essential to reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Staying connected to the big picture and to each other are two ways to make the best of our asynchronous world.  If you are feeling disconnected, I encourage you to reach out to someone.  They are likely feeling the same way.

How Can We Change Our Fear DNA?

Everyone I talked to last week agreed that it has been really tough to think strategically.  Worrying about the potential long-term challenges of working from home and making decisions about how to re-enter public spaces is keeping our brains occupied with the basic need for safety.

Looking Back to Look Forward

In the middle of feeling stuck trying to edit content for a website refresh, I attended a webinar that reminded me how I got there.  I recalled from my training in systems theory that we tend to repeat patterns passed down like DNA through generations.  Judy Wilkins-Smith suggested I look back at which of my ancestors might have been afraid of losing income, consider their circumstances, accept their decision, and then make a conscious decision to respond in a different way.

Fear as a Gift

Judy offered a new perspective on fear – consider it an opportunity to grow instead of something to avoid.  Thinking about a time when I overcame fear took me back to jumping off the high dive at the neighborhood pool for the first time.  Very scary before I did it and a little less scary each time afterward.  That jump gave me the gift of courage, which is what I need now to keep moving forward and trying new things.

I invite you to consider which of your ancestors experienced something similar to whatever it is you fear right now and then decide how to use that fear in a constructive way.