I hope you are enjoying your summer.

Many countries have seen an improvement in the Covid-19 spread and have started to ease travel and meeting restrictions. So you may have hopefully been able to take advantage of the improvements, maybe taking some days off, or simply enjoying some more social contacts.

As for myself, I was finally able to travel back to Oslo, after being locked down in the Netherlands for months.

With our Grooa Inspiria Center temporarily closed and all in-person programs on hold, I had actually felt a bit lonely, in spite of all the virtual sessions and online meetings. So it was nice to be able to spend a bit of time back home with old friends and family.

But the last few weeks were not only more social, they have also been quite productive for me. I took some time off from the daily routines – no coaching or training sessions this last month – because I wanted to focus on one piece of research. There was one specific question that intrigued me: as the pandemic forced us to change habits and to somehow adapt to a highly uncertain situation, I had started to notice that some people were really suffering, growing restless, frustrated and mainly claiming to feel more overwhelmed and swamped than ever, while some others seemed to be better able to cope, often even thriving.

I wanted to dig a bit deeper in what was happening, what made the difference?

I dug into hundreds of pages of notes and insights from my coaching, training and meetings with European business leaders, to try and find some correlations. Initially, I identified some practical aspects that seemed to be most significant; for example those with long commuting time who had a suitable working space at home were clearly enjoying the flexibility more than those who lacked space and peace of mind at home and missed their more comfortable office. The former could more easily thrive, the latter were struggling and feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty to get sufficient concentration and work productively.

However, exceptions were often more frequent that any rules I could spot. I eventually started to notice that practicalities were not the main differentiator. Some single people felt lonely, ignored, undervalued and compelled to work more than usual, while some others enjoyed the freedom and the ability to choose where and how to make a difference. Some parents of young children felt overwhelmed by the need to be at the same time teachers, care takers and full time employees, while some others discovered the fun and enriching experience of letting go and sharing responsibilities without trying to be superheroes.

So what was it that made a difference?

Eventually, I noticed 3 reoccurring differences between those who felt mostly swamped and those who were better able to cope:

1. Listening or not to the “Inner Saboteurs”: we all have moments of self-doubt, when we think that whatever we do is never good enough or that we must do more in order to be appreciated; when we believe that we are “expected” to do everything and start to even resent others for not noticing our efforts, thus doing and talking about it even more; if we are very stressed, we might not be able to snap out of these damaging thoughts and we can get trapped into a negative spiral. Those who are able to recognise and silence the Inner Saboteurs, are better able to handle periods of chaos and ambiguity; they are able to stay focused on the present moment and more realistically select what hey can and cannot do.

2. Emotional Management. In addition to recognising and silencing damaging thoughts, those who thrive in difficult periods have also learnt to recognise raw emotions and respond rather that reacting on impulse. For example, we might sometimes impulsively jump in to help someone who appears to be struggling, even if not asked; but this would be a reaction, not a managed response; we may even tell ourselves that we are being kind, but the opposite might be true, we might show disrespect or mistrust towards the other person. With stress and uncertainty we might risk to get into an ever increasing emotional spiral of reactions. Being able to recognise our impulses allows us to productively channel our responses, fr example by simply smiling and telling the other person “let me know if I can help”.

3. Asking vs. Assuming. This is probably the most important difference. When our thoughts or emotions risk to take us towards an unproductive or excessive behaviour, the most effective alternative is to courageously ask lost of questions. Instead of assuming that every request that comes our way must be addressed, we can enquire as to its urgency, or importance; instead of assuming that the new project mentioned by the boss falls in our area, we can ask how has the boss thought of staffing it or what resources she is planning to use; instead of assuming that we need to do the kid’s homework first so we can teach them afterwards, we can ask them how they wish to go about learning, maybe they want to try by themselves, maybe they like to learn together, they may not need explanations all of the time, sometimes try and error works well, and so on.

I found that those who seem to better thrive in the pandemic are those who – being aware of their Inner Saboteurs and instinctive Raw Emotions – are able to pause, consider that their thoughts and feelings might be biased and then ask, in order to gain more insights and make better decisions. In this way, they are able to identify alternatives and engage others, so they are seldom swamped.

Not surprisingly, the mentioned 3 differences correspond to the first 3 leadership competences required to have personal influence through courageous conversations – as we cover in our CLEAR Mindset Training Programs.

Nobody is born with these competencies, we must learn them. In our online and blended training programs, you can learn them online and then choose to practice in our interactive workshops.

As mentioned in the July newsletter, the next online training on Courageous Conversations will start on September 11:
here you can register to this free online course.
Also remember all registered participants will receive the ebook “How managers often cause, and how they can minimise, RESISTANCE TO CHANGE” in which you will discover how having courageous conversations also helps overcoming resistance to change.


Managing Partner
Grooa AS