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Resilient Leadership Development

Bridgette Theurer Discusses Over-functioning

Over Functioning – To think, feel or act for another person in a way that erodes that person’s capacity for ownership or effective action. Watch this short video of Bridgette Theurer as she shares important insights about Over Functioning and learn more about how you can avoid this trap in your life.

Bridgette Theurer Discusses Over-functioning

Over Functioning - To think, feel or act for another person in a way that erodes that person’s capacity for ownership or effective action.

  • How to avoid Over Functioning – A 3 Step Process
    • Step 1: Observe the tendency to Over Functioning in yourself.
    • Step 2: Hit the pause button next time you are triggered by anxiety to “save” someone. Then stop and ask yourself the key question: “How can I be a resource to this person without taking away their initiative and willingness to take action?” Then take action as appropriate.
    • Step 3: Practice Steps 1 and 2 a lot. Over time your capability to spot your tendency to Over Functioning and ask yourself the key question will become second nature. When this happens, you will have a dramatic positive impact on your leadership, on your life and on your relationships.
Understanding the Emotional Systems in Schools

Understanding the Emotional Systems in Schools

There is a hidden dynamic in society that is potent, pervasive, and impacts all aspects of a functionality. This is especially prevalent in our schools. Revealing this hidden world and understanding its impact is key to moving schools forward.

Understanding the Emotional Systems in Schools

Understanding the Emotional Systems in Schools

A Case Study of effective, real-time change in an Ohio High School

There is a hidden dynamic in society that is potent, pervasive, and impacts all aspects of a functionality. This is especially prevalent in our schools. Revealing this hidden world and understanding its impact is key to moving schools forward. What follows are examples of how our school used a conceptual framework known as Resilient Leadership, based on Bowen Family Systems Theory, to help our team better understand this hidden world as we moved forward. Our school needed a framework to help everyone navigate the emotional tumult that inevitability occurs through the process of improvement.

Principal, Jeffrey Hartmann of Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools, in Ohio describes the change his schools underwent under the guidance from Resilient Leadership Development.

According to Hartmann, “Teachers need expressions of personal regard and support as much as anyone else does, it is the intersection of the technical aspects and the emotional systems that is the focal point of Resilient Leadership.”

Resilient Leadership examines the recursive nature of emotional systems response to rational, technical, processes. Much of the literature related to change leadership seem to focus on the technical work of improving organizations through structures, processes, strategies, or vision creation. Other work approaches change as a culture-building enterprise, creating feelings of momentum, celebrating small victories, and embracing positivity and resiliency throughout the firm.

When the school opened 1987, it instantly became the largest high school in our county. There was never a high school-specific, school-wide focus to improve that applied to everyone. The organizational inertia was strong. Hartmann continued, “Our teachers expected to be left alone and teamwork was an anathema.”

“When we ask people to change or improve, we are, in essence, asking them to break their loyalty to the person or place that bestowed that belief set in the first place. Understanding this deep emotional connection was very important for me as a new school principal trying to move a building forward that had not ever experienced change. Collectively and individually, we lacked the skill sets to successfully navigate the emotional tumult associated with change.”

The conceptual models within Resilient Leadership were applied by many with the help of their Resident Leadership coach, who became a crucial guide on their improvement journey. Resilient Leadership is a framework established by Bob Duggan, Jim Moyer, and Bridgette Theurer in their books Resilient Leadership (2010), and Resilient Leadership 2.0 (2017). The goal of Resilient Leadership is to improve a person’s or a system’s emotional differentiation. A basic definition of emotional differentiation is an individual’s ability to separate thinking from feeling.

Hartmann went on to describe some of the key critical elements identified by Resilient Leadership in order to support improvement. “We focused on: the concepts of the rational system and the emotional system, over and under-functioning, being a step-down transformer, and relationship triangles.” With the help of coach John Moyer, “our work began during professional development sessions for our school district.”

John then started to hold book studies and then branched into individual leadership development sessions for other teachers in building. Soon, the district leadership asked John to provide his services district-wide to any interested teacher or administrator. The Resilient Leadership 2.0 book joined other supporting texts to form the “canon” of our school improvement program.

“In so doing, it reduced anxiety because the staff was better able to identify what they were feeling and why.”

Emotional and Rational Systems

Hartmann exclaimed, that, “One of the first instructive experiences I had was understanding that there was a whole world that was invisible but reacted directly with the tangible world in front of me. We term these two worlds as the ‘emotional system’ and ‘rational system,’ respectively Rational world changes include, but are certainly not limited to, policies, procedures, evaluation frameworks, shifting priorities, and the like. These rational world changes often have a direct emotional system reaction both within an individual and within a group.”

The entire Resilient Leadership framework aims to grow the capacity of individuals to reduce their emotional responses, reducing system anxiety regardless of the stressor. The Resilient Leadership authors explain that the internal feeling of being off-balance is considered a form of reactivity. Being able to be thoughtful amid heightened anxiety is known as emotional differentiation. Essentially, emotional differentiation suggests that individuals have more than one method of coping with change, thus keeping their chronic anxiety in a state of balance. Emotionally differentiated individuals can stop, think, and respond in a thoughtful way to a change. Individuals with less emotional differentiation, however, provide an automatic, immediate and less thoughtful, reaction to a change.

Teacher anxiety and stress rates are well-researched, international phenomenon. The multiple, ever-changing policy and practice expectations that educators face take a heavy emotional toll and contribute to high amounts of anxiety and eventual teacher burnout.

We see the deleterious effects of stress with productivity decline and job satisfaction trending downward, resulting in otherwise good teachers feeling forced to leave the field. Conversely, teachers who can regulate emotions and, by extension anxiety, display a higher job satisfaction and positive affect. “Teachers who are calm, positive, and content are likely to be better equipped to treat students warmly and sensitively, even when students behave in challenging ways”. The conceptual frameworks presented in Resilient Leadership assist educators in understanding these multiple stressors and should be given the same priority as pedagogical theory in teacher preparation programs.

Over-and-Under Functioning

Over-functioning is generally regarded as the reciprocal relationship where one person or group is overly responsible while another person or group is irresponsible. “At a meeting with union representatives one afternoon, they provided a list of chronic areas of improvement. The topics had titles like ‘morale is low,’ ‘communication is poor,’ and ‘leadership visibility.’ When I asked for more specifics, the representatives were not able to share anything further. I then asked the representatives to come to the meeting with a few proposed solutions so that, as a team, they could work together to solve problems.”

Hartmann said that it was, “an uncomfortable meeting because the representatives were waiting for me to offer solutions, as had been custom for previous administrators. I declined to provide answers, however.” A few days later, he spoke with some of the members individually and was able to unpack the key elements of the situation. “These impromptu meetings assisted in my understanding of the block to offering solutions.” He continued, “For the better part of a decade, the union vice president worked closely with the building administration, and building representatives were mostly ceremonial. When a changeover in the union vice president position occurred, an elementary-level teacher filled the position. As a result, the high school administration had to work with building representatives who never had to exercise leadership before.” The Resilient Leadership coach orchestrated one-on-one sessions helping build their capacity as leaders so that the roles of the team equalized, and effective collaboration could take place.

To level out the functioning of individuals, we need to engage in new learning experiences to build capacity. This build is not linear, not rapid, and has a significant amount of emotional processing involved. To encourage an under-functioning individual or group to move beyond their current parameters requires a challenge which disrupts the emotional system mentioned earlier.

Step-Down Transfer

During times of organizational stress, interactions among people and groups can become tense as they search for resolutions or determine where to place blame or both. Resilient Leadership speaks of leaders as “step-down transformers,” an analogy to the role of these devices play as part of our power grid. Members of any social network have the power to increase or decrease the anxiety within that social network. When others engage in gossip, raise voices, shout, or display hostile body language, they are adding anxiety to the system. In effect, they are acting as a step-up transformer. Step-down transformers remain calm amid stress, provide thoughtful responses, and ask thoughtful questions.

Hartmann continued, “one morning, one of my leadership colleagues attended a department meeting regarding the emotionally charged topic of final assessments. The department was comprised teachers with a high degree of reactivity amongst the group. During the meeting, teachers lobbed question after question to her while she responded in a thoughtful and calm tone. Internally, her anxiety was rising, but she knew that if she reacted with an equal level of emotion, she could have increased the negative momentum within that network.” The leadership colleague stayed connected by listening and weathered the storm. “Regardless of how much of an emotional crescendo that was taking place, she was determined to explain her thinking calmly, in order to show others how to respond constructively, and not add to the negative momentum.” Understanding one’s emotional state and whether one can act as a step-down transformer is a vital element of self- awareness and a critical skill for all members of a system to exercise.

Triangles

Triangles exist everywhere, and when the system or network is calm, they remain invisible. When under stress, however, triangles are more clearly seen. In his book, Failure of Nerve, Ed Friedman expands on the idea of emotional triangles that form between three individuals or between two individuals and an issue.

Triangles form most often when organizational stress increases, and schools are no exception to that phenomenon.
“One afternoon, one of my assistant principals was working in her office,” Hartman describes, “when a teacher stopped by and out of nowhere, started talking about the person recently placed on administrative leave. She soon realized that the teacher on administrative leave had many friends in the building who were speaking on his behalf and advancing his cause for reinstatement. Being “triangled” is now part of our school-wide lexicon.” We have all been caught in triangles and often realize it after the fact. Having this awareness during the act of “triangling” better guides comments and actions during the conversation.

The Resilient Leadership framework has supported our change initiatives since 2015, bringing people together, focusing our efforts, and guiding us through a hidden world that often thwarts school improvement.

Ohio’s schools are not alone as they face a constant set of changing parameters that impact their work with kids.
American education has become a political football, and American educators unfortunate actors in a constant back-and-forth between the left and right elements of the political spectrum. We see a national reduction of people wanting to enter the field of teaching, with 54% of parents saying they would not want their child to enter the field of education.

Summarizing the effective initiative, Hartmann said, “in our small corner of the country, in suburban Ohio, I believe that the introduction of the Resilient Leadership framework has helped us understand and emotionally process the world around us, while also moving our practice forward, seemingly despite all odds. Change is risky for leaders and terrifying for everyone else.”

When asked about the impact of the Resilient Leadership experience, Hartmann said, “We have found that our use of Resilient Leadership has reduced our fears and provided valuable insight into the hidden world of emotional systems. When asked about the impact of the experience with Resilient Leadership, Hartmann said, “It has helped many of our educators, leaders, and students, and I hope that you also find equal amounts of insight and guidance.”

Here are some resources to help you understand some of these concepts better:

Step Down Transformers (PDF)
Triangles (PDF)
Understanding Reactivity (PDF)
For more information, email JimM@resilientleadershipdevelopment.com

About Jim Moyer...

Jim Moyer

Jim is a founding member of Resilient Leadership, LLC, and is the co-author with Bob Duggan of the book Resilient Leadership. Jim is an Executive Coach and strategic planning and organizational development consultant with over 30 years experience in for-profit, not-for-profit, and government organizations.

Jim has successfully grown his consulting and coaching practice since 1998. Before he began his consulting practice Jim worked for 25 years at Marriott International as a manager, director, and senior executive in Strategy, Organizational Development, Human Resources, Quality and Loss Prevention.

Our Strengths and Vulnerabilities Come Packaged with our Family Ties

Our Strengths and Vulnerabilities Come Packaged with our Family Ties

Each of us has strengths and vulnerabilities that we bring to bear in our role as leaders. Some strengths and vulnerabilities develop as we move through life’s experiences, and others are inherited from our family, most immediately the family we grew up in, but also in a real way from the…

Our Strengths and Vulnerabilities Come Packaged with our Family Ties

Our Strengths and Vulnerabilities Come Packaged with our Family Ties

Fact:

Each of us has strengths and vulnerabilities that we bring to bear in our role as leaders.

Some strengths and vulnerabilities develop as we move through life’s experiences, and others are inherited from our family, most immediately the family we grew up in, but also in a real way from the generations that came before our family of origin. They’re part of the “package” of who we are!

Most of the strengths and vulnerabilities that we inherit are so deeply ingrained in us that they operate beneath our conscious awareness. And because we generally are not consciously aware of them, these ingrained strengths and vulnerabilities drive behaviors that are “automatic”. They just “show up” without our needing to think about them at all! Another characteristic of these automatic patterns is that under stress they tend to show up more vividly and in more extreme forms.

Here are examples of each:

  • Strength: “I am (…) and under stress I am even more (…)”
    • Confident
    • Decisive
    • Adventuresome
  • Vulnerability: “I am (…) and under stress I am even more (…)”
    • Defensive
    • Argumentative
    • Conflict-avoidant

Action:

Be curious about the reactive behaviors within yourself, in others, and in the emotional systems of which you Because our inherited strengths and vulnerabilities are so much a part of who we are, they shape our outlook on life as well as guide our actions. Sometimes our innate strengths act as a wonderful resource we can call upon whenever needed. But other times our vulnerabilities can land us in needless trouble, especially under stress when they tend to push us, unaware, toward extreme behaviors. Becoming more self-aware of both has real benefits. Knowing what we are good at allows us to deploy a strength in a more deliberate and strategic manner. And being aware of a vulnerability can help us to be more thoughtful and less “automatic” when our tendency is toward a risky or even misplaced behavior, especially in stressful situations.

Try It:

 

Observe, Reflect on, and Manage Your Inherited Strengths

  • Ask yourself, “When stressed…”
    • What strengths am I able to call upon in this situation?
    • How can I be very intentional about using these strengths for success?

Observe, Reflect on, and Manage Your Inherited Vulnerabilities

  • Ask yourself, “When stressed…”
    • What vulnerability is most easily triggered?
    • How can I minimize the reactive behaviors that typically surface as part of this vulnerability?

Leaders Hold the Vision with 3 Simple Imperatives

Leaders Hold the Vision with 3 Simple Imperatives

The challenges we are facing across the globe, here in the US, and right in our backyards are more complex, more intense and more immediate than in any recent time.
We need a clear pathway forward, and we need to come together.

Leaders Hold the Vision with 3 Simple Imperatives

Leaders Hold the Vision with 3 Simple Imperatives

Fact:

The challenges we are facing across the globe, here in the US, and right in our backyards are more complex, more intense and more immediate than in any recent time.

We need a clear pathway forward, and we need to come together if we are to move along that pathway successfully.

All of us are leaders.  We lead organizations and teams in industry, in government, in non-profits and in our communities.  We are leaders in our families. We often take the lead in relationships with others, and most especially, every day, we lead ourselves.

Our fundamental job as leaders, in fact, our first priority as leaders, is to “Hold the Vision.” Holding the Vision requires of us a strong commitment to a set of core principles and values as well as clarity regarding the mission to which we are dedicated. Effective leaders Hold the Vision by a sustained observance of three fundamental imperatives. They work to: (1) Stay Calm, (2) Stay Connected and (3) Stay the Course.

Action:

  1. Stay Calm: Be curious about the reactive behaviors within yourself, in others, and in the emotional systems of which you are a part. Find ways to be less anxious than those you lead. But remember that staying calm does not mean staying quiet.
  2. Stay Connected: Maintain a healthy balance in your leadership presence. Work to remain close enough to influence others, yet distant enough to lead them. Remember that maintaining a healthy close-distant relationship with those you lead is an ongoing balancing act. Building and sustaining healthy relationships is the work of a lifetime.
  3. Stay the Course: Act Boldly in the Face of Increased Complexity and Escalating Change. Be brave. Learn how to stand apart and even when to stand alone. In order to Hold the Vision, you must be courageous, determined, and persistent.

Try It:

The challenges that leaders encounter in 2021 will continue to be daunting. Leaders at every level and in every situation will have an opportunity to set and Hold the Vision for something that really matters to them.  The list of opportunities, causes and needs is great.

What will you select that you judge to be worthy of your time and energy?

  • Decide
  • Remember the three imperatives
  • Hold the Vision
  • Lead

 

How to Break the Cycle of Living in a VUCA World

How to Break the Cycle of the Damaging Effects of a VUCA World

In early 2020 we entered the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world big time. These four words, which are borrowed from the description of the world at the end of the Cold War by the US military, certainly apply to today’s highly anxious 24/7 COVID world as well.

How to Break the Cycle of the Damaging Effects of a VUCA World

How to Break the Cycle of Living in a VUCA World

In early 2020 we entered the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world big time. These four words, which are borrowed from the description of the world at the end of the Cold War by the US military, certainly apply to today’s highly anxious 24/7 COVID world as well.

Let’s take a closer look at how we may be perceiving the situation today.

In early 2020 we entered the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world big time. These four words, which are borrowed from the description of the world at the end of the Cold War by the US military, certainly apply to today’s highly anxious 24/7 COVID world as well.

Let’s take a closer look at how we may be perceiving the situation today.

In the research and 2009 published works by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey — Immunity to Change, the concept of the Worry Box is introduced as an image of a foreboding “big assumption” that people often make when confronted with a challenge. Their research revealed the tendency people have to conjure up a terrible scenario when faced with a big challenge where the stakes are high, and outcomes are not assured. The envisioned calamity, which is often a false narrative, arises out of fear initially and without objective thinking can spiral down to the point of irrational behavior driven by both actual and perceived threats. As a person spirals down, they often begin to over-function or under-function.

In our Resilient Leadership (RL) training and coaching programs, we offer a number of resources and tools to help leaders recognize and manage their reactivity. Related to over/under functioning, here are three helpful ideas which help RL practitioners cope by seeing, thinking and leading from a more thoughtful place:

1. SEE: Observe the role that reactivity plays in your own over/under functioning. How you are thinking, feeling or acting in a way that limits the responsible action of others?

2. THINK: Recognize the reciprocal nature of over and under functioning. Who is either under functioning or over functioning as a counterbalance to your own over or under functioning?

3. ACT: Take action to break the cycle of by focusing on your own over or under functioning. What steps can you take to eliminate your own over or under functioning to interrupt the cycle that has been created?

For more information about our full range of Resilient Leadership Training and Coaching course contact JimM@resilientleadershipdevelopment.com

About Jim Moyer...

Jim Moyer

Jim is a founding member of Resilient Leadership, LLC, and is the co-author with Bob Duggan of the book Resilient Leadership. Jim is an Executive Coach and strategic planning and organizational development consultant with over 30 years experience in for-profit, not-for-profit, and government organizations.

Jim has successfully grown his consulting and coaching practice since 1998. Before he began his consulting practice Jim worked for 25 years at Marriott International as a manager, director, and senior executive in Strategy, Organizational Development, Human Resources, Quality and Loss Prevention.

Need a cure for feeling tense? Get Curious!

Need a Cure for Feeling Tense? Get Curious!

Practice of the Month

Need a Cure for Feeling Tense?
Get Curious!

Need a cure for feeling tense? Get Curious!

Fact:

It has been suggested that the human brain is perhaps the most complex structure in the universe. Neuroscience has progressed dramatically in recent decades, especially with emerging technologies that have allowed us to “peek inside” and observe the hidden workings of our brain in real time. As scientists have started to observe and track a tiny portion of the billions of neurons and hundreds of trillions of interactions among them that take place in our brain minute by minute, day in and day out, we are coming to a fuller realization of just how accurate that claim is. The complexity is staggering.

But despite being at the very primitive beginning of a new science, our understanding of the brain’s inner workings is progressing steadily and is gaining both breadth and depth. One insight that neuroscience has provided us is how difficult (perhaps even impossible) it is for our brain to be both curious and highly anxious at the same time. Our brain performs an incalculable number of tasks simultaneously, but it seems that the circuitry involved in being curious and the circuitry involved in being anxious work to defeat one another’s ability to dominate our mood/consciousness at any given moment.

  • Key Take Away: Simply put, the more curious we are, the less psychic room there is for us to be anxious, and vice versa. Consciously choosing to be curious counteracts anxiety the moment it arises and helps us to see possibilities, not just threats.

Action:

Another insight that neuroscience has given us is what is called “neuroplasticity”, which one dictionary defines as “the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience”. It appears that from birth to death, our brain is constantly laying down new neural pathways, making new connections based on previous learning and ongoing experience. Research has proven that focused attention and persistent practice are two keys to this capacity of the brain to “rewire” itself to build new knowledge, skills and behaviors.

  • Key Take Away: The more we deliberately work at strengthening our brain’s curiosity muscle, it appears, the better we get at calming our anxious selves.

The opportunities to put this insight into practice are numerous. For example, the next time you are leading or participating in a meeting where emotions and tensions are running high, and you realize that you are starting to pick up and feel the stress of the group escalating within you, press your inner pause button.

  • Key Take Away: Bring a curious mindset to the anxious moment of life and ask yourself a set of thoughtful questions as suggested below.

Try It:

Come prepared. In your notebook or on your electronic device, have a set of curious, thoughtful questions already formulated that you can turn to and ask yourself. You will want to formulate your own, but here are some suggestions of the kind of questions that are calculated to help you adopt a curious perspective in the midst of a rising tide of anxiety:

  • What was it that first shifted this discussion from a more thoughtful to a more anxious one?
  • What first triggered my own anxiety?
  • How might I best describe the roadblock the group is experiencing at the moment?
  • Is there a goal, a value, an assumption that everyone here can agree on right now?
  • What new direction might we take in this conversation to move us forward together?

Staying Resilient in a Time of Uncertainty

Staying Resilient in a Time of Uncertainty

Bridgette Theurer Presents "Staying Resilient in a Time of Uncertainty"

Resilient Leadership Partner, Bridgette Theurer, recently made a presentation to a group of members at the Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica (HRMAJ). The online conference held in November, 2020 focused on, "Staying Resilient in a Time of Uncertainty."  The content of the presentation is summarized below. Please contact us with any questions.

Resilience has been a popular buzz word for years and a heavily researched topic. In the midst of a global pandemic, resilience is more relevant than ever as we continue to face unprecedented levels of uncertainty and anxiety. In this interactive webinar, we will explore a model of leadership that is based on a systems perspective, one that allows leaders and business owners to cultivate a more thoughtful, less reactive workplace and to sustain their leadership efforts over time.

Some of the lively discussion included:

  • A unique definition of what it means to lead with resilience
  • The three principles of being a Resilient Leader that will help your organization to be more creative and innovative
  • How to avoid Over-functioning, which is the chief cause of burnout
  • Practical ideas for managing anxiety, dealing with uncertainty and sustaining yourself over time

About Bridgette Theurer...

Bridgette Theurer

Bridgette Theurer has over 25 years of experience coaching and training individuals and teams around the world. Her clients have included senior executives, managers, and emerging leaders from a wide variety of organizations including the Marriott Corporation, The Food and Safety Administration, Booz Allen and The University of Maryland, as well as numerous small businesses and startups. In addition to her experience as an executive coach, she has worked extensively in human resources and organizational development, both as a corporate trainer and an independent management consultant. Bridgette has also designed a 6-month Resilient Leadership Development Program for the FDA, and has certified over 100 coaches in this unique model of leadership.

In 2015 she co-authored and published her first book, titled: Missing Conversations: 9 Questions All Leaders Should Ask Themselves. Her newest book, Resilient Leadership 2.0: Leading with Calm, Clarity and Conviction in Anxious Times, was published in January of 2018. She is a partner in Resilient Leadership, LLC and founder of ClearCompass, a corporate coaching business dedicated to helping leaders at all levels to become more inspired, effective and successful.

How to Lead in These VUCA Times? First, Learn to See

How to Lead in These VUCA Times? First, Learn to See.

Practice of the Month

How to Lead in These VUCA Times? First, Learn to See.

How to Lead in These VUCA Times? First, Learn to See

Fact:

Almost everywhere across the globe people are faced with challenges that seem insurmountable in their scope. There are complex and interconnected challenges to our governing institutions, our economic stability, public health on a global scale, and even our personal well-being. To state the obvious, we are dealing with an awfully lot as we head into 2021.  Some refer to these as VUCA days. These are days when the challenges we face are best described as Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

Given this reality, how then are we to SEE our way forward?

Science reminds us that the ability to SEE is located in our brains, not just in the two orbs that peer out at the world. Emerging neuroscience has broadened our understanding of perception as an extremely sophisticated phenomenon that goes well beyond the mechanics of literal eyesight. Perception is shaped in decisive ways by a host of emotional factors that both filter and highlight what and how we “SEE” the world around us.

Action:

In the midst of a VUCA world, practice Resilient Leadership’s “New Way of SEEING” by committing to a regular practice of observing how the emotional dynamics of our nation, our communities, your work or home systems are playing out.

Try It:

Choose a time and place when you can “get on the balcony” and simply observe without judgement. Step away from being so heavily involved in the drama around you that you lose your focus. Watch how your children interact at play or observe the shifting roles that co-workers play in routine meetings. You might even take notes on such things as the subtle reactivity you observe around anxious conversations, the reciprocal patterns that characterize work or home triangles, the Over and Underfunctioning on the part of certain individuals and others with whom they are connected.

It’s always easiest to observe the flow of emotions in others—but don’t fail to include a healthy measure of self-awareness as you grow your observational skills. Regular practice, for 15 or even 5 minutes daily, will strengthen your ability to SEE the workings of the emotional systems to which you belong.

You’ll soon discover that the heightened perception you bring to situations will result in greater clarity as you seek to envision the way forward in a VUCA world.

VUCA Mind

What makes me so anxious in my leadership role these days?

Are you headed for a really challenging moment? Or day? Or year? Are you about to come face-to-face with a potentially volatile situation? A situation filled with uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity? A situation that you have not faced before. Welcome to your VUCA World.

What makes me so anxious in my leadership role these days?

By James Moyer - Resilient Leadership Partner

The level of anxiety we face worldwide here at the end of 2020 is extreme and escalating due to the confluence of many complex issues. As a leader you are look to for clear direction, encouragement and stability. But often these days, it is really hard to envision a successful pathway forward. And now the unrelenting personal and societal anxiety we experience is made even more unsettling because of the COVID pandemic.
VUCA Mind

Things are tough. The depth and context of the challenge we face is so intense that it merits the label — VUCA Challenge. Here is what that means:

Volatility- Fast, unpredictable change without clear patterns or trends.
Uncertainty — Frequent disruptive changes where the past is not a very good predictor of the future.
Complexity — Multiple, complex, intertwined technological, societal, geo-political and ecological transitions and evolutions.
Uncertainty — Little clarity on what is real or true and difficult to predict the impact of action or initiatives.

What is the impact of elevated anxiety on my leadership?

The impact of our elevated anxiety and unsettled sense of well-being is significant to us personally and collectively. As leaders there are three key factors to consider.

  • There is an inverse relationship between anxiety and cognition: The more anxious we become, the less clearly and creatively we think and effectively lead.
  • Anxiety is contagious, and a leader’s anxiety is the most contagious of all.
  • When it becomes chronic, anxiety erodes our health and our well-being.

What can be done? What is the pathway forward?

Begin with a focus on your own functioning. It is what you can control. Figure out how to bring down the level of reactivity and associated reactive behaviors within yourself first. Taking this step will have a significant impact on those you lead and on those that you love.

At the end of each day, ask yourself:

  • What reactive behaviors did I see in myself today?
  • What reactive behaviors did I see in others?
  • What reactive behaviors did I see in my organization, family, team, etc.?

For more information about reactive behaviorVUCA, and resilient leadership, please email Jim Moyer.

Do you want to learn more about your level of self-differentiation, click here.

About the Author...

Jim Moyer

James Moyer is a founding member of Resilient Leadership, LLC, and is the co-author with Bob Duggan of the book Resilient Leadership. Jim is an Executive Coach and strategic planning and organizational development consultant with over 30 years experience in for-profit, not-for-profit, and government organizations.

Resilient Leadership Coach Certification Program

Being Present, Curious, and Open Can Make You a More Effective Leader

Practice of the Month

Being Present, Curious, and Open Can Make You a More Effective Leader

Fact:

Practitioners of Resilient Leadership continually learn about and practice the logic and wisdom of a New Way of SEEING, THINKING and LEADING.

It is helpful to recall that SEEING includes the qualities of being present, curious and open to actions, reactions, interactions, events and even outcomes throughout the day. With practice a person who begins to SEE automatic and reactive patterns in themselves, in others and in the relationship systems around them has more options available for a thoughtful response in any given situation.

Action:

Well-considered THINKING makes it possible to have less-anxious responses. By being present, curious, and open it is much more likely that we will respond in a thoughtful way and thereby lower the reactivity not only in ourselves but also in the emotional systems we are part of.

Try It:

Give it a try. Bring to mind an emotionally unsettled relationship in your life at the moment. Then, being present, curious, and open, consider these three questions:

  • What reactive behaviors do I see in myself or in the other(s) within this relationship?
  • What is going on in the larger system that might be contributing to the reactivity I see?
  • What is the best leadership move (i.e., the most responsible step) for me to take right now to lower the temperature in the relationship?

Asking these three questions is what a New Way of LEADING looks like in practice.