Unmuting Ourselves: Learning to thrive in Uncertainty

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Home > Articles > Unmuting Ourselves: Learning to thrive in Uncertainty

 Unmuting Ourselves: Learning to thrive in Uncertainty

Susan Goldsworthy OLY | Today's Manager
March 1, 2021
Read on for suggestions on how to thrive and be kind in these crazy times.


As we begin 2021, we look back on a year of uncertainty when our existing way of living was disrupted in both our professional and our personal lives. The coronavirus pandemic brought with it lockdowns, restrictions, and economic challenges for many. Instead of spending time on planes and in meetings, many of us found ourselves working primarily from home and through virtual online platforms. The phrase, “You’re on mute’ became one of the most commonly-spoken all over the world.


The stresses and strains of 2020 began to increase for executives as the year progressed.

From surveys with more than 600 leaders on p
rogrammes from April through December, 1 I found that less than half felt that they were operating at their best, with around 40 per cent reporting that they felt they were in survival mode, feeling greater levels of anxiety, frustration, and irritability.

2021 is a new year and yet it is unlikely to bring with it significantly greater levels of certainty. So one of the questions organisations need to reflect upon is how can they create a climate where their people can openly share how they are feeling in order to be able to cope during changing times.

The Actualising Tendency
2 refers to the motivation of all living things to fulfil their potential. A sunflower seed will grow, whether it is planted in healthy fertile soil in a field or whether it lands between two paving slabs. However, the conditions it finds itself in make a difference to how well it flourishes.

Carl Rogers, one of the founders of humanistic psychology and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, believed that we all have within us the capacity to know what we need to grow. He referred to three conditions necessary to encourage an individual, a group, or a community to thrive: first, there must be a congruence between what is felt and what is expressed; second, it is important to cultivate an attitude of unconditional positive regard—an acceptance or caring; and third, there must be an empathic understanding that involves a sensitive and active listening.
2

We are a social species as we are people who care for each other, support each other, and truly listen to each other takes courage and yet is vital for the health and well-being of humanity. Creating these spaces via technology takes considerable leadership, patience, and thoughtful planning.

One practical technique that can be helpful is to ask people to share one thing that is bothering them, annoying them, or concerning them that is outside their control. Open this up for everyone who wants to participate. Neuroscience shows us that the expression of negative emotion reduces the intensity of the emotion in our brains, so by sharing what frustrates us, we somehow feel less frustrated
.

I
t is important that leaders do not try to solve the issue or provide solutions. Rather, it is to offer the space where everyone feels secure enough to ‘unmute’ their voices and speak up. Following the ‘venting’ people are then better able to  move from their areas of concern into areas of influence and to discuss what they can do to move things forward. This sense of autonomy increases psychological wellbeing.

When we are able to co-create safe spaces and be secure bases for each other, everyone benefits. In times of planetary crisis, imagine what we could acheive if we extended our congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathic listening to include all ‘persons,’ all living things, be they human or other-than-human.

Change starts with the individual. So, as we start a new year, focus on your inner voices and ask yourself how you can be more congruent, more respectful, and listen more deeply today. Start now. In a changing world, finding ways to be kinder and more compassionate with yourself and then with others is a necessary and worthwhile pursuit.

M
ay 2021 be a year of recovery, resilience, and regeneration for us all.

References

1 Surveys by Professor Goldsworthy, IMD, wth executives from across the globe
2 Carl Rogers (1980), A Way of Being, Houghton Mifflin Company

Affiliate Professor of Leadership & Organisational Change at IMD and a former Olympic finalist, Susan is passionate about working with people to turn knowledge into behaviour.

She is co-author of three award-winning
leadership books, Care to Dare, Choosing Change, and the recently released Where the Wild Things Were, for people of all ages to raise awareness of biodiversity loss and the need to protect what we still can in our magical, more-than-human world.




IMAGE: SHUTTERSTOCK

Copyright © 2021 Singapore Institute of Management

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Today's Manager Issue 1, 2021

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