I have been working this week with Ukrainian friends and colleagues who have to flee their country leaving their businesses, loved ones, and lives, and helping them gain meaningful employment in the UK. In this Vortex of Change, we expected to not just perform, but adapt: to respond to changing consumer needs and market fluctuations, all whilst implementing new ways of working together and balancing challenges at home.
In addition to my experiences during SARS in Asia, 9/11 in New York, and the recent pandemic, I found this piece very helpful in helping me reframe my support and leadership approaches in such distressing times. I am inspired by the passionate leadership of Volodymyr Zelensky, which we all learned from in the last weeks.
1. Assess your own state of mind. The hardest role of leaders is to meet our teams where they are. Think about your presence and how you want to show up as a leader.
2. Recognise that everyone is having a radically different experience. Some of your colleagues might be Ukrainian or have direct ties to the region; others may be distracted and dispirited by the news. Simply wanting them to care about the things you care about will backfire, so seek to empathize and support their needs to the best of your ability.
3. Acknowledge grief, particularly loss of control. Every change involves loss. In the workplace, this tends to manifest as a loss of control or loss of narrative: what can anyone individual do in the face of such complex, overwhelming events? Find ways to give your employees some sense of choice or empowerment.
4. Assess the team’s capacity for reflection. Historically, many organizations have adopted a policy of “business as usual,” keeping discussions of current events outside the meeting room. While this may have been initiated with the best of intentions, blocking discussion can actually create more tension.
5. Look for opportunities to add slack going forward. Realistically, you need to build the capacity to navigate emotionally difficult times like these when your organization has some slack—when you’re not already under pressure. Reduce complexity, budget extra time for activities, and start rebuilding resources to give your team the flexibility and space they need to increase resilience in the long term.
6. Conduct a Sensing Session to identify ripple effects. It’s still unclear how this situation will unfold or how long it will last, creating ongoing uncertainty. Bring your team together to think through how your business may be affected: will energy prices or market fluctuations impact short-term priorities? Have new risks or opportunities emerged in the long term? Then, develop some “if/then” statements to think through what you’ll do in advance.