We are staring into the abyss. Despite the over 1 billion recent media reports comprising both real and fake news, we honestly don’t know what the next few weeks or months will bring.
What we know is that the more things change…. the faster they change!
The minute we enter the change curve we climb onto an emotional roller-coaster that hurtles us through fear, anger and surprise until we choose to either remain in the darkness or embrace the new normal. Change is instinctively felt as loss and the current opportunity is to reframe such loss into gain.
The two keys to navigating through and flattening the curve are LEADERSHIP AND COMMUNICATION.
As the Corona pandemic has taken hold society as we know it, there is now a prevailing sense of fear and helplessness with many unanswered (and unanswerable) questions, triggering a flight, fight or freeze response. The typical response to change, in the face of the unknown and in the absence of credible solutions, is to create a vacuum of silence. Inevitably this vacuum becomes filled by self-created, internal dialogue fueled by fears and uncertainty.
Leading through Conversation is necessary and vital. It’s about providing clear, ongoing, transparent, two-way communication. We have developed a 10-point plan to take you and your teams through the change curve. Here are the first five…
Still the Fear
When the brain has what is known as an “amygdala hijack”, the brain is flooded with cortisol which causes the flight, fight or freeze response and this causes the rational thinking brain to shut down. This is why rational, factual communication has limited impact. Leaders who provide a safe space for individuals and teams to express their fears and respond with transparent empathy and compassion will still the fear response and open the conversation to see the way forward. Using the science and magic of conversational intelligence you can re-engineer the brain for positivity.
he fastest way to engage your people is to connect, listen and give them a sense of purpose. During times of crisis, a strong WHY is a comforting north star that helps navigate a storm. Draw on their emotions, expertise and encourage them to be part of the solution – and most importantly, show them that you care. A solid leadership response is a human one. In the shadow of the crisis facing you as a business sit people with fears for their families, their security, their futures. Promote a message of #StrongerTogether.
Set up agile Communication Channels
In times of change, heavy, time consuming, top-down communication is counter-productive. The key word here is “Connection”. Bulk emails and newsletters, whilst informative at a different level, lack the personal connection required here. Use every day, simple technology to reach people with the familiar visual, responsive and personalized messages they use themselves, in the form of videos, and simple messages. SMS’s, WhatsApp, Zoom and Skype are ordinary every day, familiar collaborative platforms which are superb to both communicate and connect. A quickly executed campaign which speaks effectively and clearly to everyone in the organization with feedback loops to listen and respond, will go a long way to quickly quieten fears and motivate action.
Get into the Driver’s seat of your Business
When people no longer feel that they’re in the driver’s seat of their own lives it is natural for the paralysis of fear to set in. Much of the anger, frustration and fear in the everyday change curve becomes focused on the things outside of personal control. In your circle of control, you need to focus on the present and channel people’s energy into that which you, and they, can control in order to make the most of these moments.
1. Reframe your own Story
Every change curve is caused by a story of immediate or drastic change. We develop, with you, and then clearly articulate, your current story. As people come to feel part of this story, and see themselves in it, they become part of it. Your story must reframe your own narrative and in doing so open the space for the future to emerge. This new narrative can either be a short-term strategy to weather the storm or a pivot to a new way of doing business in the long term.
It was Churchill who said, ‘don’t let a good crisis go to waste’. We have reached the middle of the curve. By now you will have got to the Accept/Dismiss decision point. You can choose to remain with what you know or you can choose to move forward and embrace the change. In the second part of this article we will show you how to do that.
Bev Hancock is a conversational catalyst, strategic facilitator and global speaker who focuses on Leading through Conversation. As a conversational intelligence and leadership practitioner, she helps you to shape the conversations you need to have through the change curve. Together with colleague Michael Jackson, a presentation and change specialist, they create team thinking experiences and consult on developing agile communications strategies and content. To start a conversation with them, contact Bev at email@example.com or Michael Jackson on firstname.lastname@example.org.
ordinary women doing extraordinary things
As we celebrate women around the world I am conscious that we have so many ordinary women doing extra-ordinary things in business, community and families. For the first time I am sharing my story to a global audience and the lessons I have learned from shifting from “most likely to be average” single mom to living a fulfilled professional on a global stage. Here are some of the tips that I have learned on my journey…
Create your North Star as a Dominant Picture
In moving ordinary to extraordinary you need to change the Dominant Picture in your life. Do you have a compelling goal, a vision, a purpose you can feel, touch, and see? My original purpose was to see my boys cross the graduation stage. It was this that kept me going through some of the hardest times. This picture should be vivid, aspirational and connected to emotion. Can you see it, feel it and be it in the present?
Get out of the weight of other people’s expectations
Being the “normal” one in the family was possibly one of my greatest gifts. Other people’s expectations weigh heavy on us. Stop being shackled by the expectations of others. You have the freedom to choose your own path. Who do you really want to BE? If you are allowing yourself to be weighed down by the expectation of others then you are carrying a heavy load into your future, let it go and feel the freedom to be uniquely YOU.
You are your own Safety Net
The best advice I received is that You are your own Safety Net. Be confident in the strength that you have and know that you have everything within you to achieve your full potential. When you stay in the moment and recognise that you have everything within you to succeed, you allow the science and magic of our inner conversations to turn your best self into reality.
Celebrate your Graduation
We make the mistake of not celebrating success. We move on too quick without taking time to savour that we have reached our goal. As women in business, family, colleagues and society often place expectations on us that we feel we need to love up to. When you free yourself from these expectations you have the freedom to grow at your own pace.
I am Enough
One of the biggest things that is holding us back is realising that we are Enough. When we focus on just being enough in this moment, it opens the potential to give of our authentic best. It frees us from the judgement of others and allows us to give from our unique strength.
Choose a Word to be your North Star
Having a single word as your North Star is using the power of intention and language to create the future you desire. It is a simple, yet incredibly powerful means of focusing on the one thing that will move you forward this year. Having a single word to focus your thinking, decisions and way of being takes the heaviness out of goal setting. What is the one word that is going to propel you towards your best self this year?
And Finally, put yourself in the room you don’t belong…and then belong.
Possibly the one thing about my journey that I have learned is to allow the future to pull you forward. So often we don’t believe we deserve a seat at the table, a place on the stage or the space to give of our best. This is an opportunity for you to be the YOU you were meant to be.
If you are ready to put yourself in the room you want to be and would like to start the journey to the new you. Let’s start the conversations.
I jumped off the Bloukrans Bridge – Why you may ask ( my husband certainly did!) would a 55 year old feel the need to dance with danger? I am not overly adventurous, in fact I tend to be an over-thinker by nature so doing something this crazy needed to be for a very good reason! The Bloukrans bridge is the highest Bungee Bridge Jumping site in the world. A magnificent gorge spanned by a mighty bridge.
To work authentically in the #consciousleadership space
means having an understanding of the holistic experience of leadership in the
4th Industrial revolution where leaders are working on the edge of fear, the
unknown which so often requires a leap into the unknown. So I challenged myself
to consciously choose to take the leap and make this learning more than just an
intellectual exercise, but rather one that touched body, mind and soul. Here was what I learned taking this leap of faith…
Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the embracing your vulnerability in the moment, it is not a blind leap it is a conscious one.
Speak the challenge into existence
When we make an intention concrete by articulating then we give the challenge for and substance. This helps to still the unspoken fear. So what I did is put a silly poll on Facebook which signaled my intention to follow through. By doing this it increases self-accountability. Knowing that I am a role model to others, it hopefully gives them encouragement to face their seemingly overwhelming challenges.
Calm to your inner self-talk
The inner self talk started as soon as I started having the gear put on. The voice inside my head was going into overdrive with questions like “are you friggin insane?” (a question that was echo’d by some friends and family). For the next half hour waiting for the group to assemble I could literally feel my inner conversation rebel so my conscious choice was to practice presence, to breathe, to still the inner anxiety actively reframing the inner dialogue to…“you can do this”.
Trust your guide
We had the most wonderful guide Vernon who went out of his way to make me feel comfortable. Explaining the safety procedures and keeping up a stream of banting and getting you to talk about yourself. He took us down to the zip wire that would be our first introduction to the experience and talked us through the journey. It emphasized the value of having a fellow-traveler to help still the inner anxiety. By now I was focusing on breathing and concentrating on the beauty of the gorge below the bridge to keep my mind off the jump.
Take advantage of a trial run
The zip-line to the bridge was the equivalent a “base camp” experience. As you push off from the launchpad I could feel the first hit of adrenalin as I could feel the vastness of the space of the gorge. I could feel the anxiety starting to rise and having to remind myself to take one step at a time. I took several deep “tummy” breathes and reminded myself to enjoy the moment..
Surround yourself with a great team
In times of extreme stress, change or risk having the right team around you is essential. From the moment we suited up, to when we arrived on the bridge, the team were superb. Each called you by name, making you feel that YOU matter. As you were clipped onto the zipline that gave you the first adrenaline rush and a taste of what was to come, they assured you by explaining the safety procedure and were there to take you to safety on the other side. They went out of their way to assure you of their expertise and caring – taking care of the head and the heart – and then provided pumping music that keeps the positive energy alive.
Focus on the WHY
As the moment got closer, the more important it was to focus. As they were strapping me up, one of the team asking me about my work in leadership and asked what I thought was the most important thing that would make this jump successful? My first reply was “to believe that you can…”. For me this was about understanding the point of choice and what our body, mind and spirit experience is as we go through it.
Face the Fear
For me, the greatest fear was not as I jumped but rather the minutes before as I shuffled closer to the edge of the abyss. In was in those moments that I realized that this is our crucial moment of choice. It is at this point we so often back off and take the safe path. Recognising this moment of truth is the key to taking the plunge. Having two capable and supportive guides at this moment was invaluable and together we counted down and I dived over the edge…
Expect the Unexpected
In anticipating the jump, I was convinced that the worst moments would be between the bridge and the time when bungee chord reached its limit where I would feel completely out of control and that time would slow down. After the first rush you feel the chord jerk around your ankles and once you realise you aren’t going to slip out of your shoes you have the opportunity to savour the moment and the increased adrenalin in your system makes everything just seem a little sharper. And you give yourself the opportunity to savour the moment. I felt a huge sense of achievement as I walked up to the centre where my husband had proudly bought me the T-Shirt and was there to greet me with a hug. (my very own cheering section).
As I think about the challenges I face in business, breaking into the global market and taking on new challenges, I am a little more confident and aware of what is possible. When I speak about taking up the challenges of the future world of work, I can do it with a little more authenticity. Fortune favours the Brave!
Bev stimulates the vital conversations that empower you to thrive in the future world of work. She uses her deep understanding of conversational intelligence to build, trust, accountability and inclusive leadership into every conversation and – to align purpose, strategy, culture and leadership with employee and customer experience. So if you are not thriving it is time to… CHANGE THE CONVERSATION.