We are in an uncomfortable pregnant pause of the COVID-19 storm. We’re in limbo, holding our breath in anticipation of the new normal, which is not yet in sight. When I spoke earlier this year of preparing ourselves for a marathon not a sprint, this was exactly what I meant. COVID-19 is not an event, it is a process (and a long and drawn out one, at that). While we may feel we are done with COVID and that we have had enough, COVID is not yet done with us. So how do we continue to thrive under very uncertain conditions?
Companies and organisations are asking me on a daily basis what they need to do to help support and empower their staff through this very long and indeterminate ‘COVID middle’. Here are some of my thoughts and insights for empowering you through the pregnant pause of COVID-19:
1. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that Christmas or New Year is the end of COVID-19.
January 2021 is going to come, and we are most likely in for many, many more months of the same uncertainly and the all-too-familiar lack of clarity. Be wary of making New Year’s resolutions. We cannot afford for our families and our work teams to fall into a deep January funk, when they realise that we are still in training for a marathon, and that there is no finish line in sight. Honestly, my advice to individuals and organisations right now is not to build up to a crescendo at the end of the year – it is not an end. You need to provide your teams with inspiration and support to go on for as long as it takes – this is one of the hard parts of this pandemic.
2. Make 1 November the beginning of the next 8 – 12 month COVID marathon.
If we get through this long pregnant pause quicker it will be a bonus, but rather take yourself and your team on a more realistic journey. Set many short term targets and goals so that they find their confidence and competence by taking continual baby steps. Celebrate getting through another week and then another month. Break it up into manageable chunks with new kinds of recognition – like reaching the milestones of a Comrades Marathon training programme.
3. Take it one day at a time.
I want you to think about how you would prepare to run your first Comrades Marathon if you were just beginning your running journey. You would buy a good pair of running shoes and start with Park Runs before entering any formal races. You would run short courses before pushing yourself to entering half marathons. You would build up your fitness and your skills, learning more about nutrition, your physiology, how to prepare both your mind and your body for the rigours of long distance running, and so much more. You would not expect yourself to be an expert straight out of the starting blocks, would you? So, here we are training for the COVID Marathon, living very much in the present while preparing and planning for an unknown future. What do you need to do to cope with the long haul?
- Help your team and family to understand what happens to their mind, body, immune system and relationships when under stress like this. Each human being is one interconnected system and we are all interconnected with each other.
- This is the time for everyone to learn about their own unique stress response and the steps they need to take to better manage themselves.
- See this unique time as a learning and growth opportunity for your own personal empowerment. Yes, really, self-awareness during challenging times results in very quick growth that will stand you in good stead for a lifetime. This growth can be up to 200% faster than normal.
4. Take responsibility for you.
I think that the shift to personal leadership and personal responsibility is one of the good things that is coming out of our COVID experience. For too long we have looked outside ourselves for validation, discipline, acknowledgement, motivation, leadership, entertainment, distraction and so much more. Now we have been forced to look within; to accept that there is power in self-influence. We are all leaders, whether we run teams at work, lead our families at home, or are responsible for leading ourselves. More people are becoming more engaged and self-aware, at last
5. Do not buy in to mass hysteria.
It doesn’t help. Stay calm. To do this, one must continually reflect on what is happening for you. Nothing good or bad ever lasts forever. This too shall pass. Limit how much you engage with the news and social media. Keep perspective – more people are still dying from diseases other than COVID. This does not mean we should throw caution to the wind. You still need to protect yourself and others by wearing masks, washing hands, sanitising and engaging in appropriate social distancing.
6. Be interested in what is triggering you.
Whether you are a talker or not, you need to be able to work through what is going on for you, internally, or this will manifest in other ways. Every person on this planet is processing loss, grief and trauma in their own way. Talking to someone – a friend, colleague or a trained therapist or counsellor, will help you to release the emotional charge and make sense of what is happening in your internal world. You will be nicer to be with if you can get a handle on yourself.
7. Look at what you have – not only at what you’ve lost.
Look at your skills, resources, attitude, contacts etc, and make them work for you. I read a story recently about a B&B that ground to a halt during lockdown. The owners started renting out their rooms to top executives who were working from home and battling to do so in an uncontrolled environment. They started providing a work-from-home solution away from home. Companies snapped up the opportunity and they are fully booked.
8. Do regular self-reflection work.
This is one of the hallmarks of highly successful people. It’s never too late to start. Ask yourself four questions at the end of every day and grow by working with the answers:
1. What worked for me today?
2. What didn’t work for me today?
3. What can I do differently?
4. What emotion am I carrying?
I hope these thoughts empower you as an individual, a family, or as a team during this pregnant pause. May they help you to, build resilience, feel more connected, and raise hope in yourself and your ability to win @ work and life at this time.