At this moment, the entire world has been presented with an extraordinary example of needing to develop transitional agility. By global mandate, everyone had to flip the switch from hustling day and night to staying at home and trying to work out how to not go crazy.
Transitions take place all day every day. Under normal circumstances, most of them go pretty much unnoticed unless it’s a major one (marriage, divorce, promotion, fired etc.) and as such, they are minimized by us, (unless we’re the one going through them). However, this particular change even though the impact varies from person-to-person, has affected us all. As a result, to some degree it is undeniable.
Why does this matter?
Consider this: When we are introduced to someone, the first thing we usually do is exchange is our names, which is then ordinarily followed by what we “do”. When the pandemic arrived, what we “do” for many people became massively disrupted. Our self-identification, our way of being, changed in what felt like an instant!
I believe, as does one of the world’s leading experts in anxiety and trauma. Dr. Shauna Springer that we are on the brink of a mass identity
Recently on our Leadership and Loyalty podcast, I got to sit down and have a powerful and deeply insightful exchange with the outstanding individual known as “Doc” Shauna Springer. “Doc” Springer is known for pop-culture and mainstream insights in psychology and interpersonal relationships, affecting all people, originating from what she has gleaned from two decades of work at the extremes.
Dr. Shauna Springer is a graduate of Harvard University and is one of the world’s leading experts on PTSD and Transition Trauma. She co-hosts a weekly podcast on these topics in collaboration with Military Times. Her work has been featured on NPR, NBC, CBS Radio, Business Insider, VICE, Forbes, Washington Post, and Military Times. She is a bestselling author of Warrior How to Support Those Who Protect Us and a regular contributor to Psychology Today. If you would like to know more about Doc Shauna you can take a look here: http://DocShaunaSpringer.com #EpidemicOfHope
Identity In A Crisis
Today, the world is very different than it was as recently as the end of 2019. We are all having to do things that may be uncomfortable. However, even if it feels like we’ve gone backwards, I believe that COVID-19 has pushed us to embrace a future we’ve been resisting. We’re being pushed to embrace technology and in so doing, to step up and cognitively develop new roles.
One of the words I’ve heard thrown around a lot during this time is “resilience”. Some people believe the idea of Military leadership is all about resilience. However, according to Doc, some members of the Military and veteran community privately dislike the term. Why? Because when our outward identities do not match our internal struggle, being called out as “resilient” can increase our feeling of shame. By definition, we’re resilient until we’re not.
Compassion is key:
No one is immune to the kind of stress COVID-19 is provoking. Military veterans have felt this fear for many years. Crisis transitions from the military deployment create a perfect storm. When we have been fully dedicated to something – whether it is military mission or our work as corporate, a transition is about bigger than just finding a new job. Transition can also involve a feeling that Doc Springer describes as an “emotional amputation” if we lose contact with the people and roles that have given our lives structure and meaning.
COVID-19 in the invisible enemy inside our gates – this is a battle with life and death stakes. We’re consumed by stress and our first responders have never faced such a volume of death – it’s similar to being in a warzone. Our first responders lead people through stress, trauma, and horrifying situations.
How do we help people who are on the front line with stress, trauma, and crisis?
While we practice social distancing and quarantine ourselves to protect others as necessary, it’s important to remember our need for community. We can and MUST connect even at a distance. Many are working in the mindset of ‘stay back’ or ‘keep people away’. Instead, we need to rethink and be creative about how we interact and connect with others. Ideally, we’re all together but, our options for face to face contact are severely limited at the moment. That doesn’t mean we can’t have a community.
As Doc Springer wrote in her CNN article, “Support the newest warriors: Those on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic” in many ways, the 2020 pandemic first responders are the new veterans. They are the tip of the spear in this battle; they must not fall. We must support them, or we’ll all fall.
As a summary of what she shared, consider these insights. They are watching their colleagues fall ill without supplies to protect them, seeing traumas they’ll never forget, risking themselves and their families. These experiences are reflected by that of military servicemen and women as well as veterans. Help people have insight as to why this is so traumatic. Don’t sit in your fox hole and wait for someone to call you. Take action to help others.
Everything is connected is NOT some “new-age” idea. Psychologically speaking every experience is linked to a whole series of others. Therefore, these experiences of being a frontline worker can trigger familiar trauma.
Those of us who are not first responders may have a sense of “I don’t have the right to feel this stress or anxiety”. Many leaders have traumatic backgrounds. They’ve built resilience and have done the things they needed to do. Many have never dealt with their traumas pushing them into a place of massive uncertainty.
As Doc Springer shared, for many leaders, it is harder to do nothing than to do something really hard. They feel a helpless rage when they can’t help people they feel responsible for. Many kind, compassionate, purpose-driven leaders are going to have to let some people go, people who feel like family. They’re going to have to make impossible decisions where basic values – like “take care of my people” and “keep my company viable” are in conflict.
Some leaders are so focused on serving their people that they feel like they can’t open up and can’t acknowledge their own trauma. As a result, a leader may minimize something that can have a significant impact for years to come.
You and I need to understand that we can lead and influence others by sharing our own story, thus giving those we lead permission to name their own nameless anxiety. I highly suggest that you do this for yourself and those around you.
It’s important to recognize the reflections of the past in the present. Ask yourself “what does this remind me of?”, “what is the difference?”, and “where can I take control?”.
Addressing the Anxiety
Doc Shauna Springer has created five practices you can do to create a plan of action and reassert some control during this time of uncertainty. The following content is based on what she shared in her podcast interview.
The first practice is simple. Take out a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle, on one side make a list of things that you cannot control, and on the other side, make a list of things you can control. Take that list and make a plan of action. This can take us out of the feeling of helplessness like we’re sitting and waiting for bad news. We can put ourselves to work doing something positive.
The second practice is to take a distant perspective. Think “In five years how do I want our society to have handled this?” and “What role in society do I play as a leader?”. Create a plan of action based on your responses.
The third practice is to think of a wise guide, someone you would trust with your children, someone who is kind and nurturing. Think about how they would handle this. Respond in ways that will reflect this person and make you proud.
The fourth practice is to send a letter. Doc suggests creating a list of 20 people you care about; now add 3 more people who are isolated. Set a reminder to call them every day, not to talk or vent but, to listen. Give the other person space to make a plan.
The fifth practice is to avoid solitary confinement. When we shelter-in-place, we can begin to fear the very air that we breathe. Get outside and get some fresh air; sit outside in your backyard. Develop a connection with nature and how we’re connected to the bigger world outside of us.
If you have money, if you have savings, if you are able to do business, do business. #DoBusiness!
The invisible threads that bind us are trust and connection. Doing business with others is a way to show that we trust each other to get through this. It will hold our economy stable for us to do business where we can. Doing business is about investing trust – and our resources – into the hope of a positive future together.
Finding Human ConnectionWhen you go for a walk, there’s nothing wrong with looking the person in the eye and saying; “hello, how are you doing?”. Human connection takes you out of the mindset that other people are the threat; they’re not. Look people in the eye; don’t wait for someone else to do it first.
We have the opportunity to do something different. During our interview, I made this suggestion, we can ask ourselves, “Am I behaving like the virus?”. That is, am I behaving so brutally that I don’t care who I take down to survive? If I are moving into that then I am no better than the virus. And to connect with Doc Springer’s insight, this is not something I will feel proud about in 5 years.
Think 2-3 steps ahead. Could I transfer this virus to someone else at risk by putting my rights ahead of others?
As Doc Springer wrote about in the Business Insider Article, “5 reasons why some people may refuse to social distance and how to convince them to listen”, there are multiple reasons people don’t see the threat. For example, the virus is invisible. Or, they see it, and put their rights ahead of everyone else regardless. Military service members understand and respect that there is a time when you put your rights aside for the good of the whole. In the early days of the pandemic, in this article in Psychology Today, Doc Springer posed the question of whether we face a castrophic level of self-absorption (“my rights matter most!”) that will put us all at risk.
When I ask people to “Five years from now, do you think COVID-19 will still rule our lives?”, they say “No”. So, we know this, in the form it’s in, will go away. We know things will be different. But, the question I present to every leader I assist is; five years from now, are you proud of how you behaved during COVID-19? If you’re not, you need to change your behaviour right now because you’re a leader!
Leadership is by example, that all it is. Yes, we’re afraid. Yes. we’re all threatened. Yes, we’re all in some level of trauma or crisis. Treating other people poorly is not going to help. Five years from now we can be a role model. We can #CreateAnEpidemicOfHope.
Use Fear and Stress To Your Advantage
Doc Springer and I also talked about the difference between good fear and bad fear. Here are some pieces of that conversation.
Fear is not always bad. Good fear is based on good information. It inspires us to change our behaviour to make us align with the right choice. Bad fear spins us out of control. It creates behaviours that we don’t value and don’t want in five years. It is unhelpful if we feel no fear when we should be thinking about the consequences of our behaviour. There are people unaware they can transmit viruses they don’t even know they have. There is an appropriate level of fear. We try to minimize it by saying “most people won’t get it very severe” or “I’m young, I’m healthy, if I get it it will be flu-like symptoms’. Nurses and doctors, that are healthy and young, are dying.
People don’t always fit the profile. We have to think about the people on the front line, and how our behaviour puts them in a place where they have to decide who lives and who dies in terms of having limited equipment. That alone is enough for me to go “okay, let’s do what we can to protect them”.
You are going through whatever you’re going through. It is not less or more than others, although you’d like to categorize it as such. It’s yours; you just have to accept that. Be more human and treat people better.
Be the leader that helped and protected others during this crisis. Give yourself and others permission to be vulnerable and agile. Transformation comes from application. There’s so much we can do and some we can’t do; know the difference between the two. Insight without action is worthless.
Consider how you can add to the conversation. How are you facing the crisis and what can you do to support others?
Dov Baron is first and foremost “The Dragonist”. As The Dragonist, he teaches us how to recognize, find, retain and nurture dragons (top talent) hidden within our organizations. Want to learn more about what Dov has to offer, and how you too can become a Dragonist in your realm? If you and your leadership team are dedicated to getting the result you set out to achieve in the most meaningful manner, bring Dov in to speak to your organization about the strategic advantages of Dragon Leadership. Go here to get started. Copyright: Dov Baron International 2020