Sunday, October 26, 2008

Now is the Time for Managers to Ask About Feelings and Meanings

If you think life is always improving, you are going to miss half of it.

---David Whyte

Turbulent times call for special managerial skills---helping teams walk together through the chaos with the confidence that a new and stronger order will arise out of the ashes of the old. Just like a forest fire enables new growth.

This is life but we as a rule do not like such unpredictability and uncertainty. If we ignore the reality, we endanger our ability to cope and adapt. For our wellbeing at home and at work, a better way is to confront our heightened anxiety about the world around us. Let’s face it, the creative destruction of the financial markets coupled with the upcoming American presidential election add up to a great deal of edginess everywhere.

How does a manager help in these circumstances? Aside from the benefits of exercise, relaxation and fun, the critical antidote is dialogue. A good way to begin is to ask: “How are you feeling?”

If fears and anxieties can be addressed honestly and without judgment, the next steps present themselves. Hope and optimism begin to arise even when the markers are not clear. A renewed sense of “why we are here together to do something meaningful” shines through.

Margaret Wheatley in Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time has some other tips for use individually or as a team:

Start the day off peacefully
Suggestions include driving to work in silence, listening to soothing music, reflecting on a spiritual phrase or parable and starting a meeting with the first five minutes as silence.

Learn to be mindful
Keep yourself from instantly reacting. Pause so that your reactions and thoughts don’t lead you. Step back and consider other responses.

Slow things down
Take a breath in meetings when you feel your anger or impatience arising. Be proactive in slowing down the meeting, if appropriate, to think things through as needed.

Create personal measures
Know who you want to become. Ask yourself: “Am I turning toward or away?” from that aspiration for myself.

Expect surprise
Accept that life will keep interrupting your plans and surprise you at every turn of the way.

Practice gratefulness
On a daily basis, literally “count your blessings”. This helps grace, internal peace and relationships to grow.

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