In a recent article, my colleagues Fran Cherny and Thierry De Beyssac offered some thoughts on Survivor Syndrome; how the present challenges have the potential to create organizational trauma affecting all the dimensions of business and how to better cope with this. They offer in their article a list of actions to help and support your employees as we move through this time together. The first on the list being: “to put things on the table.” What does it mean to “put things on the table?” What can I do differently to help myself and others around me during this difficult time?
The emotions that are triggered in us by a world in constant “VUCA Reloaded Mode” may put us in a place that oscillates between harmful repression and brutal explosion. Anger, for example, permeates openly or simmers under the surface. As we speak to colleagues, friends or family members, it can almost tele-transport itself across remote devices. I like to say that as long as the emotion “has you,” you have no choice. You will do whatever the emotion does, only to regret it later. You will say things that hurt others, make promises that are impossible to deliver… you name it.
I like to offer to my clients the following concept: “the only way out is through.” In order to put things on the table, you must enter a space of higher wisdom and compassion.
You do that by:
- Taking a few deep breaths of awareness: You separate yourself from the story. It becomes “you have the emotion,” rather than “the emotion has you.” You take perspective of your thoughts. The “I” (the person) that has the thought is NOT the thought. I feel angry, rather than I am angry.
- Accepting the emotion unconditionally: Realize that the emotion makes perfect sense, given the story you are telling yourself.
- Analyzing the story behind the emotion: Every emotion has an archetypal story. For example, anger or frustration has the story: “something bad is happening and it should not be happening.”
- Expressing your thoughts and ideas from a place of tentativeness and humility: As you engage in conversations with your colleagues or leaders about what is going on, you adopt the perspective of good intent from everyone. Even when you don’t understand what is going on, you assume that the people in charge of calling the shots have everyone’s interest at heart.
- Inquiring about the thoughts and ideas of others from a place of wanting to learn, of curiosity: The combination of 4 and 5 creates the conversational dance where any topic can be addressed or put on the table.
Put things on the table
Working through steps 1-3 are paramount if you would like to have a constructive conversation. Taking these steps will set the conditions for the kind of conversation you want to have. The promise is that you will be better able to understand each other. And then make better and informed decisions, for the good of the business, the team and yourself. Being able to address difficult topics in an open, caring and compassionate way is a powerful way to increase connection among your employees in these difficult times.