By John H. Thurman Jr, M.Div., M.A., LPCC
The massive and often unpredictable impact of the coronavirus and its effects on individual lives and businesses is not over. While things continue to move in a positive direction, we are a long way from being out of the woods. Researchers know that psychological “casualties” always exceed physical casualties in the wake of disasters and pandemics.
With that in mind, here are some things to look for as the country slowly opens for business.
Because of isolation and quarantine:
The purpose of this article is to help you mitigate the impacts of the stress of the past several months by providing support to your workforce.
Dr. George Everly has provided exceptional leadership to international leaders in the field of Crisis Leadership since the early '90s. Over the years, I have had the chance to sit under his training and have been able to know him through various conferences and continuing education events. This material comes from that training.
Based on years of studying human behavior after both human-made and natural disasters, we have learned that disasters, though unique to each situation, tend to follow a general and predictable psychological pattern.[i] I might add, I have been deployed as a Stress Counselor for FEMA after floods, hurricanes, and an earthquake. I have witnessed each of these.
With that in mind, here is a general overview of how people respond to both natural and human-made disasters.
Over the past 15 years, I have responded to over 180 disruptive workplace events ranging from layoffs to mass shootings, and I have personally observed both exceptional and impotent leadership.
This article will give you some of the best researched and most up-to-date strategies for being ready for whatever crisis comes your way. You have both the joy and the responsibility to be a resilient leader to those you lead. Why? Because resilient leaders make things happen in both their personal life and in the business world.
When you implement these principles you will be a more compassionate, and clear-headed leader, even on your worst days.
Preparing for “bad days" means becoming more resilient both before, during, and after an adverse event, even natural human-made disasters. Being ready can be one of the most valuable things you can ever do, especially when facing potentially life-changing circumstances (Everly 2019).
In reviewing people and companies who have overcome adversity, there seem to be five core psychological/behavioral factors that leaders have to take their organization through tough times.
Active Optimism – the deep belief and conviction that life events will turn out well, primarily because one believes she/he can contribute and assist in making things turn out well. Active Optimism is much more than just a belief. It is a mandate for change. It is a gut reaction to move forward when others are retreating.[ii]
Decisiveness is the ability to overcome the “paralysis by analysis" and make difficult decisions. You must be decisive and act to move forward. You have to acquire the courage to make difficult decisions. Making these decisions is easier when you are rooted in your values, your moral compass.
Moral Compass – is the ability to evaluate one’s actions against the gold standard of honor, integrity, fidelity, and ethical behavior. Once you make your decision, you will need to employ it.
Relentless Tenacity, Determination, and Grit. A key ingredient in being tenacious is knowing when to pursue a course of action and quit. To discover hidden opportunities, build your resilience, and boost physical, spiritual, and psychological energy. You will need to rely on Interpersonal Support.
Interpersonal Support is having a group of people in your corner. While we are more connected than ever before, research tells us that we are lonelier than at any other time in history. To be an effective leader, you have to have to connect to others.
While disasters are chaotic, they do follow a reasonably predictable recovery trajectory. Knowing this can empower leaders to anticipate possible adverse psychological and behavioral reactions and assure your team of appropriate psychological support.
4 Pillars of Resilience Leadership in Times of Crisis
KEY THINGS TO REMEMBER
Optimistic people seem to be hardwired to be hopeful most of the time and consistently see the good things in life.
The word optimist has an ancient root system from the Latin word ‘optimism’ meaning the best. For our purposes, practical Optimism is a mindset that helps individuals focus on the positive parts of life rather than the negative ones. It is a personality style that routinely displays resilience and personal strength.
Optimism is all about perspective![iii]
10 PRINCIPLES OF CRISIS LEADERSHIP.
1. Structure is the antidote to chaos. Plans and routines help create a sense of continuity and comfort. When I worked with FEMA, we used the term “FEMA Flexible,” which meant we had a clear plan, but it had to be fluid and malleable based on the situation. And while we had to flex, we still were working off a master plan.
2. Listen before you open your mouth! Remember, you have two ears and one mouth. When you listen, try this: listen with your head, heart, eyes, brain, and gut. Why is this important? Stress, fear, and anxiety interfere with people’s ability to think straight and even follow seemingly logical guidance.
3. Remember, information is the antidote for anxiety! Information can reassure and empower.
Reactions (Physical, Psychological)
What is to address and remedy the situation
4. Empowerment is the antidote for feeling powerless and out of control. You might be asking: why is this important now? Because most people do not want to be taken care of, they want to have the power to take care of themselves.
5. Do what you say you are going to do because people trust actions, not words. People trust leaders that demonstrate and model the behaviors they expect from others.
6. Perceived Support is an excellent antidote for isolation because it is the leading predictor of resilience in crisis times.
7. A group unified around a mission does better in times of stress and adversity.
8. Remember, there is no such thing as an informational vacuum. If leaders fail to communicate, chaos will follow.
9. Timely, truthful, and transparent communication is essential to credibility. Leadership credibility predicts trust. Trust starts and ends with truth. Trust indicates cooperation and compliance.
10. The moment of absolute certainty may never arise. The most blatant failure in leadership is waiting too long to act!
Remember that when fearful, confused, and angry, people look to leadership for guidance. In the absence of leadership, people impassively strive for acute self-preservation without considering long-term consequences. This can be very detrimental in the long run.
People follow confident people, who display Optimism, are forward-thinking, and have a plan. Whether you are leading yourself, your family, or your team, you need to show these qualities because the only leadership failure is the failure to lead.
Bob Vandepol, MSW, is a thought leader in Crisis Management and Response; here is a link to his Ted Talk, Who Bounces Back.
Leadership in Times of Crisis: Critical Incident Response After Tragedy. by Bob Vandepol.
George Everly & J.M. Langing, The Johns Hopkins Guide to Psychological First Aid, Johns Hopkins Press.
John Thurman, Owner of Resilient Solution International, is a regional expert consultant, trainer, and Disruptive Workplace Specialist. To contact John, call 505-362-6705 or email John – firstname.lastname@example.org.
[i] Presentor, Everly, George (April 2020) Guidelines for Frontline Crisis Leadership at JHM during Covid-19. Accessed 28 September 2020
[ii] Thurman, John https://johnthurman.net/optimism-a-vital-part-of-resilience/
[iii] Thurman, John https://johnthurman.net/optimism-a-vital-part-of-resilience/Accessed 28 September 2020