3 Ways to Show Up When You’re Stressed and Uncertain
I hope you had a little time to unwind this weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t. The sad news is this week looks as uncertain as last.
I know you don’t have much time. It only takes a moment to choose how you show up.
3 ways to show up:
Choose how you show up or uncertainty will push you around.
#1. During uncertainty, choose to show up with curiosity.
- What are we missing?
- What are the options?
- What might we try?
#2. During uncertainty, show up with empathy and compassion.
I find sympathy degrading.
Sympathy borders on pity. At its worst, sympathy suggests superiority. At its best, sympathy says you care.
People don’t need you to feel sorry for them. They need you to feel sorry WITH them.
Sympathy serves you well when it leads to empathy and compassion. Empathy suggests shared emotion. Compassion suggests dirty hands.
People don’t need pity. They need you to believe in them.
- Help me understand the stress you’re feeling.
- Help me understand what your challenges feel like.
What can I do to help?
Empathy costs emotional energy. Compassion costs time, resources, and physical energy.
#3. During uncertainty, show up to help.
Helping isn’t doing someone’s job, unless they are incapacitated.
Taking over – doing someone’s job for them – suggests they’re unqualified.
Provide help that enables team members to act with confidence, enthusiasm, and excellence.
- What bureaucracy might be eliminated?
- Who might you know that could be helpful?
- What resources might be available?
- How might you clarify priorities so people can ignore insignificant urgencies?
- What permission might you provide so initiative doesn’t fear punishment?
The question isn’t how to eliminate uncertainty. The question is how to maximize opportunity.
Which suggestion is most relevant to you?
How might leaders show up during uncertainty?
The Three Qualities Leaders Need in an Uncertain Future (IDEO)
Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World (CCL)
How to Be an Effective Leader in Times of Change (Gallup)
Dan, another great one. I love how, when everything else I read is coronavirus-related, your posts make no reference to it, AND YET are oh-so-applicable! Thank you for the reminder that in times like these, the right thing to do, the right way to show up, is the same way that is ALWAYS the right way to show up.
Thanks Glen. It’s been interesting to see how basic leadership principles apply during this time. 🙂
Thanks for the good word and stay well.
Dan–some great points. I like your first idea–show up with curiosity.
Here are a few more to consider.
1. Set mini-short term goals. For the next 30 minutes I am going to___________.
2. Take care of your mental health–breathe, meditate, yoga, go for walks, etc.
3. Limit the amount of time your spend watching “corona news” on TV.
4. Count your blessings. ( That’s what my mother always told me.)
Stay well. We will get through this.
Well said, Dan! It is helpful to frame the current reality as “uncertainty.” Amid many other things many of us, myself included, do not like uncertainty. It is so helpful in times like this to turn toward others with curiosity, integrity, authenticity, courage and love. The act of being our best selves with and toward others can make entire relational systems healthier.
What a great way to explain the differences between sympathy, empathy and compassion! Putting these terms in light of our current situation with the pandemic and seeing how different people have reacted, really puts them into perspective!
During uncertainty, I like to show up with empathy and compassion (#2). I tend to focus more on the individuals, rather than on the big picture. I like to understand the needs of the individuals first and that in turn will then help me work backwards to see the problems or flaws with the systems and engage in possible solutions.
I have found that people appreciate it when someone takes the time to really listen to them and validate their concerns. While we may not always have an answer or solution, simply actively listening can make a difference. I liked the phrase that sympathy is degrading and borders pity. Sympathy does not really contribute to a solution or to making things better. Rather, we should take it a step further and always try to empathize by putting the effort to try to understand what the other person is going through. This often requires that we put our own personal biases aside and try to look at the situation from the other individual’s point of view.
Thank you for this post Dan, it is very good.
All three suggestions are relevant different ways. Showing up with curiosity is so important and is needed to determine a solution. I think that showing up to help is a natural next step to follow curiosity. This is because performing the tasks that you mentioned appear to really be ways of answering the curiosity questions. Showing up with empathy and compassion is probably the most relevant point to me. Your statement “People don’t need pity. They need you to believe in them” is exactly my experience. Uncertainty leads to anxiety and the resultant stress can make a pebble into a boulder for people. I recently had a nurse who I was working with come to me crying because she couldn’t concentrate on even menial tasks due to the stress she was experiencing from our COVID response work. At that moment I was struck by the true weight of uncertainty on our ability to function. What she needed in that moment was for someone to empathize with her and to believe in her. I hope I delivered. In this way it also seems that the three points you made are probably inter-related. Showing up with curiosity leads to the opportunity for people to break down uncertainty into solvable problems that they can help with and this provides them with confidence and decreasing stress.
I would also add that leaders should show up with open-mindedness. This will allow for them to roll with the punches and adjust as new data is presented and new solutions are found.
Thanks again Dan, this post was very helpful.
Being stressed over one thing or another is very personal. Some people are stress out over small things, like children or grocery shopping. Other people stress out about their health and dying. While others may stress out about how they are viewed or what they are viewing. Whatever it is that stresses a person out, the one thing remains for everyone is that the world keeps turning. Businesses keep working. Children still get hungry, and bills still need to get paid.
With that being said, how do we manage stress so that we can keep getting on when things keep getting on.
The first thing to remember is that stress is temporary. No matter if the stress is big or small, to the individual person that particular stressor is fleeting. Even with something like paying the mortgage. A person can lose their house, find themselves living in a new place, and then the stress of paying the inflated mortgage they were paying is now gone or at least changed. While they have had additional stress in moving them and their family, the original stress of paying an inflated mortgage is over.
Another thing to remember is that the stress we experience is dictated by our internal preferences rather than our external stimuli. While the external stimuli may trigger our internal experiences and reactions, we are the conductors of our own internal symphonies. Our reactions are the only things we truly control in this thing we call existence. Whether we choose to control those reactions is a different matter. Some reactions may be so strong as to evoke an out of the normal reaction. Others stimuli we do not even blink at. This is important when we have an employee reacting strongly or counterproductive to work or life stress. These employees may require special actions to motivate them to continue being productive members of the work force. This effort may take much work and effort, but to be a truly successful manager, this effort in understanding the employees inner workings and motivational desires is not only required but essential to a successful business organization.
Dan – I think this posting reflects the importance of focus on long term goals by leveraging empathy and leadership in the short term. Sometimes, we do not have all of the answers in peacetime or crisis. I like to take these times to reflect on what we do know, what we have, what we can do, and how that all contributes to the greater good and vision. Additionally, our most valuable resource/asset is our people – checking in with them more closely can pay off in the long term. This is a trying time where leaders that are in touch with their people are most successful.