Thought leader Margaret Wheatley wrote an essay entitled “When Change is Out of Our Control.” She writes: “Uncertainty leads to increased fear. As fear levels rise, it is normal for people to focus on personal security and safety. We tend to withdraw, become more self-serving, and more defensive. We focus on smaller and smaller details, those things we can control. It becomes more difficult to work together, and nearly impossible to focus on the bigger picture.”

Sounds very timely, doesn’t it? Only she wrote the piece in July 2002 when the world was still reeling from the effects of 9-11.

At the time, the terrorist attacks were the greatest disruption that most of us had seen. Whole industries were impacted, the economy took a big hit and 3000 people died. Now we long for that level of outcomes.

But amidst all the gloom, in her signature style, Dr. Wheatly provides a recipe of hope for individuals and organizations: “In order to counter the negative organizational dynamics stimulated by stress and uncertainty, we must give full attention to the quality of our relationships. Nothing else works, no new tools or technical applications, no redesigned organizational chart. The solution is each other. If we can rely on one another, we can cope with almost anything. Without each other, we retreat into fear.”

I thought of her admonition when I had a phone call with my project leader last week. She scheduled it just to chat – no business to conduct and no agenda, just an “I miss you check-in.” It was good for the soul and helped me reconnect to the purpose of what I’m doing for them.

We’re all “COVIDed-out,” but unfortunately, the virus isn’t finished with us. To persist and prevail in these times of uncertainty we need to reach out and nurture our relationships rather than retreat from them. More on her specific strategies tomorrow…

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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