It is interesting to reflect on the leadership conversations I had with clients back in December of 2019 or January of 2020. The year-end goals, professional development focus areas, team building initiatives, and strategies for the future have all shifted. For those who have stayed on track with your original plans are you sure that is still right?
I have very few answers (and be wary of any consultant or coach who says they do), but I believe I have the right question, which is:
“Are we still having the most important conversation?”
The pandemic has surfaced fear, changes in lifestyle, political polarities, and a brand-new work environment. Virtual work can be a dream come true, or another person’s version of hell. Regardless of preferences, everyone is dealing with some type of COVID-responsible harm. For some, that damage means loss that is tragic and devastating; for others, the injury is unsettling, inconvenient, or scary.
Then there is the pandemic of racism that has always caused our society to be sick. However, the loss of George Floyd is highlighting just how disease-stricken we continue to be. We must take steps to name, address, dismantle, change, reconstruct, and heal.
These two pandemics
will not be ignored!
Leaders, please hit the pause button on all the conversations you believe were most important five months ago and reassess what healthy dialogue should look like now. What needs to be named in your organization? What needs to be eradicated from the workforce? What needs to be addressed in your own form of leadership? Ask yourself, are these conversations I’m still having the most important?
These are individual questions, but they also require a collective response. It is everyone’s responsibility to do this work, but it cannot be done alone. The time is now to perceive and receive what must be seen and heard.
Humor can be the best medicine! I have seen the memes that joke about people returning 2020 and getting their money back, or when time travel becomes available, always skip 2020. I am beginning to wonder, though, if we do not start talking about the most important things, the dynamics of 2020 may new leave.
What conversations do you need to be in now?
Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash
Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash
I joked recently with a client that half of life is spent managing our own or other people’s anxiety. She agreed. We both laughed, and then we quickly sobered at the realization of this truth.
Every difficult conversation, decision, negotiation, request, compromise, declaration, or directive stems from a sensation that something needs to shift or be different.
Passivity or sameness in life can create a sense of anxiety as boredom can be a freedom killer. Others have anxiety at the mere idea of change, let alone living through one. Freedom can manifest unease and apprehension is born when
The problem is rarely the problem. The problem is anxiety and our response to it. When anxiety goes unaddressed or unexplored, it can fester into difficulties. Then it becomes a ‘whack-a-mole’ approach as we try to fix one problem after another versus the underlying root – our response to anxiety.
It’s like that one dandelion at the edge of the yard. It’s not hurting anyone, and it bugs you that you have a weed, but it’s only one. We think if we ignore it, perhaps it will go away. Three weeks later, it is shocking to see the yard overrun by gangly stems with heads of white fluff that seem to have spread overnight. Now that darn weed has hijacked your front yard, and you react to this new problem by harshly mowing everything down hoping unwanted wildflowers do not grow back. They do. They always do.
For twenty years, I have had at least one Peter Koestenbaum quote thumb tacked to whatever bulletin board is in my office. He is a master at redefining the role of anxiety in our lives. One of my favorites is the following:
Anxiety is the experience of growth itself. In any endeavor, how do you feel when you go from one stage to the next? The answer: You feel anxious. Anxiety that is denied makes us ill; anxiety that is fully confronted and fully lived through converts itself into joy, security, strength, centeredness, and character. The practical formula: Go where the pain is.
Koestenbaum also has a beautiful way of reminding us that we truncate our lives when we resist or run away when faced with anxiety. We must move towards it. We often have to get closer to the issue and study it; by understanding, it we learn, and then we grow. We may never be weed free, but we can create new environments that hamper the spread of weeds. We can also be intentional with what we plant.
Where are your weeds? Where is your pain? This is where you need to go.
Photos by James Peacock on Unsplash
Carrie Arnold, PhD, MCC, BCC
In no particular order: Author | Dog mom to Moose | Speaker | Reader Mom to human offspring Wife | Lover of Learning Leadership coach & consultant, The Willow Group | Fellow, Institute for Social Innovation | Program Director for Evidence-Based Coaching at Fielding Graduate University