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King 5 News: How Managers Can Support Teams in Times of Uncertainty

The issue of mental health isn’t just personal. It plays a role in business too. How can managers better support their times during times of uncertainty and stress? It starts with recognizing that your team is not okay. That likely, you are not okay either.

TRANSCRIPT:

Lindsey first, can you just start by telling me, what do you do and how do you help organizations?

Hi, thank you Kim… So my company LTHJ Global, what we do every day is try to reimagine what it would mean to reach our human potential, and we take that concept into corporations where leaders are on the cutting edge of trying to reimagine the future of work. We work with individuals, either leaders or parents who are trying to figure out what, what might it look like if I led with diversity is the norm, and stop trying to change my child into something and instead try to flush out and support my children’s natural, gifts and talents. And it also looks like products, we’re really in a development phase right now where we’re looking at products that are designed with diversity at the root of it, so we stay busy.

When it comes to the issue of mental health, I think that most people think of it on a very personal level, but the truth is that it plays a role in business as well, right?

Absolutely, absolutely. And now, more than ever, there’s one thing that anybody at home, peers today, it is, your team members are not okay. And most likely you as a leader are not okay either, and we are not as an admin to sustain prolonged fight, flight or freeze state. And this year, and probably going into next year, is a prolonged anxiety that we are all feeling, and it builds and builds and surmounts. No longer getting your best from your team members or yourself, and so mental health more the ever needs to stop being stigmatized and instead lead the conversation.

Can you talk a little bit about just generally some of the mental health issues that you have seen during this pandemic, because sometimes that commonality helps us once we hear that somebody else is experiencing the same thing that we are, we realize we’re not alone. So what are some of the things that you’ve specifically seen?

Absolutely, I think primarily, we’re seeing it with corporate leaders, small business leaders, where they are seeing that their teams are dealing with anxiety on an end level, and that is because whereas normally you may have bouts of anxiety or depression. There are coping mechanisms in place for one self, and sometimes even within our work culture where it’s okay, it’s understood. Now what’s happening is that we are seeing kids in school, parents, workers, leaders all
dealing with the sustained anxiety, this slowly building melancholy and depression. But everybody’s acting like it’s not there. That it shouldn’t exist, like we should be back doing normal things and in social science, we talk about it, in terms of when there is the competing priority of normalizing anxiety and depression while also experiencing anxiety and depression, this creates a new type of psychosis where by the individual is in this anxiety spiral. I’m feeling anxious, I shouldn’t be feeling anxious, I’m feeling anxious. They shouldn’t be feeling anxious. And that’s really dangerous.

Yeah, we literally are not cut out for what we’re experiencing right now. When it comes to business leaders specifically, what are some of the things that they’re up against right now?

I think at the beginning of the year, it was an initial energy around, okay, this is going to be six weeks, eight weeks of difference, and we’re going all hands on deck., and we’re going to get through this. As we’ve been working with leaders through this year and going into the sixth month, the seventh month, the eight month, now they’re starting to feel fatigued, psychological and emotional, and even a somatic, the body is fatiguing from trying to contain everything that they’re feeling. An era of we’ll get through this, let’s just continue with the status quo. And so we’re really seeing a lot of our leaders are tired. They’re tired, not just physically, they’re tired emotionally, and what happens after the sixth hour on Zoom, the seventh hour on Zoom, the eighth hour on Zoom is all of these faculties that we normally can sort of re-fire in community with individuals, we don’t really have when you’re in your home by yourself. It’s really important that leaders understand that they’re not alone in what they’re feeling.

What about women and members of the BIPOC community in the world of business?

Yeah. Wow, you know, I think the most recent data said something around just billions of dollars that we are going to lose as a global society right now as women try to adapt to not only working their fulltime jobs, but also working fulltime at home, and then also a new fulltime job of being a school teacher and a personal chef. Before this interview, I was out doing gym, we were doing frisbee.

Both of our kids are right over here, they’re just out of the room, but they’re right here.

And so one of my dear friends and the owner of an organization called Executive Dual talks about the fatigue of the constant code switching. I’m a parent, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a manager. That sustained desire to try to be the best in every single one of those situations, as each of those situations is a rising minute after minute, we’re seeing that sort of stress. And then add to that, that we have raised our level of consciousness as it pertains to anti-racism efforts in our country. And so what we’re talking a lot about in the BIPOC community is how do I sustain this commentary, the social dialogue that is going on right now? How do I sustain being indeed by the media with having to confront these issues while also having to navigate COVID and showing up for work in this time of uncertainty? And so again, with our leaders who are right now on a DEI and anti-racism journey within their organizations, it’s about asking them to create empathy bridges. Can you take a look at what you are experiencing? And now, add to that, all the intersectionality of how misogyny culture and racism culture and other isms impact upon that same lived experience.

Yeah, it all feels very overwhelming when we talk about the reality of our situation right now, and it is, but I guess the good news is that there are strategies and techniques that business leaders can use to help manage this.

Absolutely, absolutely. The three techniques that we really try to drive home right now are, one, do more listening. Do way more listening. If your team member is underperforming, and especially if this is normally a high performer on your team, there’s something going on and they may feel as though they’re not allowed to talk to about it. We’ve been conditioned to think that we’re able to just put a mask on your face, show up and it’s all gonna be better. Right, it’s a
continual reminder to your team, I’m not expecting perfect right now, the fact that you’re here and your top half is not in pajamas.

Right. Mention the bottom half, but yes. Forget the bottom half.

So one, way more listening and seeking to understand. Two, is there is no substitute for a community, and we are an animal that is rooted in belonging and connection as we hear Dr. Brené Brown remind us all the time. And so looking for innovative ways to create community for your team, and community is not a strategy meeting, community is what happens at the water cooler, what happens when you’re grabbing lunch. How are you still creating those opportunities for your team? And the third one is to allow your team to be innovative in a way you never imagined possible. So whether that is working for a couple of hours in the morning and then in the afternoon. If your little one needs time to figure out how to have their own Zoom meeting. Work all of a sudden is now at 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM for that parent. Allow for innovation. Your team is way more creative than you ever imagined.

Last question, co-worker to co-worker, what can we do to support one another? Since this is how we’re communicating with each other right now.

Yes. Oh my goodness, I love that question. You know, I would say at my company, what we are really focusing on right now and both internally for us as co-workers, but then also with our clients, is looking at how do you get offline? And so even something as simple as, hey, do we have to have that meeting virtually? Can we take that call on a phone? Because that gives somebody in the freedom to be out walking their dog, while they’re on a call. To put their feet in the grass, while they’re on a call. Take in some fresh air, while they’re on a call. So looking for those opportunities to really just get out of the routine and create more of that connection and community. Because what happens there, and this is again from that social science standpoint, is that when we take ourselves physically out of a certain space, that we start to open up and unwind a little bit. So a little check in with a leader starts to turn into an authentic conversation about how they are and where they are and what they need.

That’s great advice. Thank you so much for your time.

Thank you! It’s a pleasure.