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  • Writer's pictureNonprofit Learning Lab

Leading in Times of Coronavirus

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

This is a guest blog and is posted with permission from Teri Beckman from Higol.

Leading in times of crisis is challenging.

And this is like no time we have ever witnessed in our lives. Coronavirus crazy.

Reacting from a place of fear is not helpful. But it is hard to stop feeling fear.

As a leader, how can you take control of your mind, find balance, and LEAD your organization and community, as is so desperately needed now?

Real Drama Real Pain Now – A True Story

Yesterday (before all restaurants closed) an employee at a local bakery here nearly lost her mind.  She was extremely fearful that incoming customers were going to expose her to the virus.

The bakery owner had not sat down to talk to his staff about how they were going to handle this quickly emerging and changing situation.  The worker then lost confidence he had a plan and fear took over.  As a result, she became hysterical.

The owner quickly tried to convene an afternoon staff meeting, but it was too little too late.

He had the employee escorted out of the building by the police.  She lost her job.

It was very public.  He likely lost customers too.

Needless suffering.  Can we avoid this??

To successfully lead in times of crisis it helps to understand:

How Does the Mind Work?

Actions of the mind are not random.  It follows very predicable patterns.  Let’s look at 4 steps.

1. Stimulation through the senses.

Think TV, NPR, Facebook, the government talking coronavirus.  We hear about its dangers, the stumbling economy, more danger, people getting sick, then we see leaders making mistakes, all in a quickly changing environment.  As a result, eyes and ears are quickly overwhelmed.

2. Body sensations.

This happens so fast, we do not notice it. But the sensory stimulation create physical sensations within us.  Sensations can be in the throat, chest or belly.  Sometimes the head.  For me, corona talk hits my belly.  There is a physical contraction.

3. Perception.

Here is where it gets interesting.  The physical sensation creates a perception – most often resulting from an event in the past or a concern for the future. Unfortunately, the PRESENT is completely bypassed especially when we feel fear.

So, in the case of the poor bakery worker, something in her past triggered a fearful response, OR she felt fear for the future, maybe both.

As humans, we  can enter a very dangerous feedback loop.  The mind sees danger (confirmed by the past/future thoughts). This causes the physical contractions in the body to tighten further (in my case the belly), cortisone is released,  increasing the discomfort, pain & anxiety, stimulating further the past or future stories and associations, stimulating more contractions. It becomes unbearable. We want the discomfort to STOP.

IT HAPPENS AT LIGHTENING SPEED AND WE THINK IT IS REAL.  We watch TV and boom – and we experience huge fear.  It’s hard to see all the steps that have gotten us here.

Fear helps us see we have lost connection with what is ACTUALLY HAPPENING IN THE PRESENT MOMENT.

4. Impulse to act.

In the case of the bakery worker, her impulse was to act out hysterically in public in front of customers. She was demanding the discomfort stop. No one could help her. The owner tried, but it was too late. She lost her job.

Let’s re-imagine this.

1. Be aware of stimulation through the senses.

Listen carefully, remain open to what you are hearing.  This allows a more subtle form of communication.

You gain an ability to ‘read between the lines’.   It is possible to see where the communication may be fear induced (thus not trust-worthy), and where there is more solid ground.  Seeing people’s faces helps.

Look for ways to get the information you need as efficiently (small chunks) as possible.  Protect your senses from becoming over-stimulated and overwhelmed.

2. Notice how the sensory stimulation affects the body.

It will affect you. It is okay. Just notice. A contraction is simply a contraction. Specific simple movements and a few deep breaths can release it. Feel your environment, the ground, the texture of your clothes. Come back. Contraction does not have to dictate reaction.

3. Look for clearer perception.

Not a slave to past or future fears, see with much more clarity what is actually happening now and what needs to be done next – the very next step.

If the owner of the bakery could have done this, he may have avoided a very unfortunate incident and loss of a good employee.

If the worker could have done this, she would likely still have a job.

4. Take appropriate action.

Take exactly the next best step. Often it is one that helps ourselves and everyone around us.

The answer is indeed within you, within us all, if we can lead our mind instead of reacting to it.

This creates clarity and confidence within yourself and your team. You make the very best of a challenging situation.

There may be opportunity to better serve your clients, customers, patients.

I know there is opportunity to become a more strategic, stronger leader.

Leading in times of crisis becomes like surfing a wave. We are completely present, alive, our best selves come forward.

Support  Yourself

If you are an Executive Director or CEO join us next Wednesday for a complementary virtual Round Table: Rebooting the Fearful Mind: Sharpen Your  Lead in Times of Corona.  Click on title to learn more and register.

Need more?  Please reach out.  We have put together small coaching packages to help you navigate these next few months.

Wishing you the best in these times.



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