Let’s start by listing some of the more pervasive problems people are dealing with right now:
- The war in Ukraine and the uncertainty it’s creating.
- The ongoing pandemic and the debates around masks, vaccines, and more.
- The so-called freedom convoys and their impact on communities
- Economic uncertainty and the prospect of a major recession on the horizon.
- Another mass murder in the U.S.
- The impact of climate change.
Many, if not all, of these problems, are ladened with very polarizing opinions. Which only serves to make these problems a more significant burden on people.
In fact, I’m sure if I expressed my position on any of these problems, there would be people who would argue with me.
However, I won’t debate our positions regarding the problems. That is the point of this post.
We’re all confronting big problems due to what’s happening in the world around us. And we’re all doing it in our way.
They may not be actively and visibly confronting them in an obvious way. However, rest assured they’re confronting them.
So, how do you think these problems impact people’s ability to do their job? Even if they’re doing an excellent job of putting on a strong front.
Let’s take, for example, people who are in a creative role. What does it take to be at your most creative?
Will someone feeling burdened and weighed down by such problems be their most creative self?
What I know is that creativity requires freedom. Freedom is believing you create, choose, and attract everything in your life. In other words, freedom is an inner feeling.
Feeling free doesn’t mean the problems don’t exist. However, when you feel free, the problems don’t control you.
How are you supposed to feel free, powerful, and at choice when so many problems make you feel quite the opposite?
Too often, I see leaders who deal with such problems through denial. They push through their agendas in hopes of achieving their goals. They don’t allow people to spend time talking about how they’re feeling about these issues.
The message in such actions is that “I don’t care about your feelings or concerns. We have a job to do, and you need to park all those things and get on with it.”
What can leaders do to bring out the best in their people despite such adversity?
Talk about it.
The day after the Uvalde, Texas school shooting, I met with a team I’ve worked with for more than six months.
They are a team that’s usually lively, talkative, and down-to-business. But, they were quiet, reserved, and almost withdrawn on this day.
It didn’t take much to reveal they were weighted down by the events in Texas.
There are two choices when such feelings come to the surface. Put them aside and get on with business. Or, give them space and allow people to talk about them.
Here’s what I know.
If you try to deny them by putting them aside, you’re going to require people to be in denial about them.
Denial won’t fix the problems
On the contrary, denial is only going to make the problems worse.
So, rather than relying on denial, why not give the topic some space to happen. Your meeting might even be the only opportunity people have for that to happen.
Now, you don’t have to be a master in working with emotions to do this. You don’t even have to be comfortable when people talk about their feelings. You only need to let them be expressed.
It’s not hard to do.
First, trust your intuition. Do you know that little voice in your head that says everyone is bothered by what’s going on? It’ll likely leave you feeling very awkward and uneasy.
Listen to that voice. In my experience, it’s almost always right.
Then, articulate what you think might be going on. For example, you might say, “I’m feeling everyone’s quite bothered by what happened .”
I’d even suggest going on to let them know how you’re feeling. You don’t have to spill your guts. Just a simple expression of how it’s bothering you is sufficient.
Finally, get out of the way and let whatever is needed to play itself out.
It might be a short conversation or consume your entire meeting time.
However, whatever happens by giving space to this conversation, people will feel supported and in community. Through this feeling, people will be able to return to their job without the weight of trying to deal with it alone.
“You cannot be with fear and creativity simultaneously.” — Rick Tamlyn
You’ve got this.