Over the past few weeks I've gotten emails from pretty much every company on my contact list telling me all the steps they're taking to keep me and their employees safe during the Coronavirus crisis. I'm sure you've gotten those emails, too.
I know they all have the best intentions. That they care about my health without a single thought to the litigious world in which we live. Anyway, it's basically all good information and wise advice. From the CDC to your local healthcare providers, there's plenty of information available about best practices to stay safe and healthy until we get past this.
My question is, after you've distanced yourself from crowds, washed your hands, and done all the other recommended practices, what are you doing for the mental well-being of yourself, your team, and your organization?
Coronavirus is a serious issue that is having a huge impact right now. That's true. But it's also true that, in the long term, stress and overwhelm have the potential to have a much greater negative impact. So, what are you doing about that?
Overwhelmed executives have their effectiveness—and that of their teams and organizations—in the areas that are most important to success:
- Creative problem solving
- Moving strategic planning to strategic acting
- Time and priority management
- Shifting focus from distractions to the most important issues
- Sustaining attention on the task at hand
No amount of hand washing or social distancing is going to make any of those things better. So, here are four suggestions:
Wash and breathe.
When you're washing your hands, take some deep breaths. Take the air in through your nose, drawing each breath in deeply, extending your abdomen. Hold for a second or two and then breathe out. Do this for 20-30 seconds, letting your breath wash over and through you. You'll feel more relaxed and focused with every exhalation and, you'll find that the more often you practice this pause, the more focused and "in-control" you'll be.
Distance socially but not from yourself.
This may be a good time to distance yourself from others but not from yourself or the core of your business. Most leaders who are impacted by stress and overwhelm also struggle with sitting still, being thoughtful. They find it easier to work in their business than on it. That makes this a perfect time to invest some time thinking about the big picture of your business and yourself. What are the 1-3 big initiatives that would have the biggest impact on your business and yourself as an executive and leader? How can you spend more time working on those things and less on the daily minutiae?
After disinfecting work surfaces, clean up your relationships.
When you're thinking about making your workspace germ-free, think too about the toxicity of your relationships. Overwhelm and stress typically erode your patience while making you more prone to frustration and disengagement. Your declining ability to listen and give attention to direct reports, customers, and others around you will eventually result in loss of employee engagement, lost staff, sagging revenue, and a toxic organizational culture. Use this time to listen to yourself while learning and applying the tools that will help you diffuse your anxieties while giving others the attention they need.
Cut down on handshakes, but not connection.
Having a trusted advisor or coach to brainstorm, bounce ideas, or just talk with about your fears and concerns is a valuable tool for moving through change and turning adversity into opportunity. Use that tool. If you don't have someone who fills that bill, consider contacting us. Full Forward is here right now to listen, support, and advise without charge, obligation, or strings. So drop us a message or reach out by email. Taking that step is a proven way to bring out what's inside you, put it into words, and deal with it.
Business as usual has changed for the short-term but it's not going to stay changed forever. How you use this time will determine if the business-as-usual you return to will be just more of the "same-old" or a stronger, more agile, more successful way. Use this time to learn how to better manage your stress, your overwhelm, your priorities, your relationships, and your leadership ability. Your organization and your leadership will be more sustainable, successful, and satisfying.