In Fran Cherny and Thierry De Beyssac’s article, Survivor Syndrome: Overcoming Organizational Trauma in Times of Crisis, they mention “meeting people where they are” as a way of helping your organization navigate this difficult time. What does it mean to “meet people where they are?” Why it is important?
In life, we are all seeking experiences that make us feel good, loved, and give us a sense of belonging. We crave connection. The workplace, in any format, is not the exception. According to Forbes Magazine†, on average, we invest a little less than half our time at work in meetings, interacting with colleagues. There are plenty of opportunities to build connection and strong, trusting relationships, and yet, often we feel disconnected and sense a lack of belonging.
Moreover, during difficult times and crises in an organization, leaders tend to focus all their energy in trying to survive and keep the business going; learning to transform the business while running the business. Relationships are sometimes overlooked, and connection is postponed for “when the right time comes.”
In Axialent, we believe that what we do as leaders shapes our organizational culture and how we choose to respond during crisis is what makes the difference.
Responding to the challenge in a constructive way and supporting people to be at their best will help organizations grow their power of adaptability and resilience: two things we all need desperately, now more than ever.
Building connections and meeting people where they are is a step toward supporting people to be at their best
So, if “meeting people where they are” makes us feel loved and valued and can help us thrive, why do we often experience disconnection or misunderstandings instead?
It turns out we can find it difficult to connect with others:
- It takes work and energy: Empathy is hard work. According to the American Psychological Association‡, people sometimes choose to avoid empathy because of mental effort it requires.
- It can be painful / uncomfortable to see people we love & care for suffer: We want to save people from suffering. We cannot “spare people from living the process.” The only way out is through.
- We get frustrated and anxious for the time it takes to walk the journey: We sometimes feel that talking about what has happened is not the best investment of our time, and it’s frustrating. “Let’s go into solution mode NOW!”
- Knower Energy: We believe we know what needs to be done, what’s best for the other person and what needs to happen. “How can they not see it? It’s so clear!”
- Our own judgment: We experience disappointment when we feel that things or people are not being good enough. We put our own expectations on others.
- It’s challenging to look inward at ourselves to a place where we can connect and resonate with others’ pain and experiences. We are not always willing to do it.
So, how can we increase our connection to build bridges and “meet people where they are?”
- Self-connection: Be aware of your own stories and emotions toward the situation. Clarify your own intentions. How is this situation making me feel? What is the story I am telling myself? How would I like to help others? What would make me feel proud, despite the results?
- Acceptance: Whatever it is, is enough. Let go of any expectations of how things should be or how people should react. We are all in our own journey and the time it takes for each of us to process what is happening is the time each of us need.
- Hold the space for others: Be fully present with your energy, intention, and attention. Create a safe space for people to share their own stories, without fear of negative consequences. Let people know you are in this together.
- See people with kind eyes: Tap into your empathy and compassion. We are all doing our best to deal with our own challenges. It’s ok to feel whatever each of us is feeling. Be at their service, assume good intent, and seek to understand others’ perspectives and beliefs with genuine curiosity.
- Help people get unstuck: The way we see the problem is the problem. Challenge people’s beliefs by offering alternative perspectives and support them in creating new possibilities for their business, their relationships, and their lives.
- Invite people to move forward: Create a compelling and inspiring vision for people to join you and reduce the exit barriers for people wanting to leave.
- Be the change you want to see in the world: Lead your team by example by demonstrating the standards (behaviors) you would like to see in others.
Reaching out and offering our helping hands with the sole intention of supporting each other is the way we, at Axialent, choose to respond.
† “Just Say No: How Your Meeting Habit Is Harming You” Forbes.com, 8 August 2013
‡ “Empathy Often Avoided Because of Mental Effort” apa.org, 22 April 2019