Responding to the Unexpected

Enabling People and Organizations in Trying Times

Responding to the Unexpected

In recent days, the global situation has been changing so rapidly that our best efforts are often met with uncertainty. During such a time of crisis, it is important to remember that you have people around you who are also experiencing adversity together. See below for how we can weather through this storm together and emerge resilient by being in touch with reality and bringing broadened awareness into our actions.

Build a Shared Resilient Identity

In the midst of a crisis, individuals and organizations need to constantly adapt to unforeseen scenarios. Being adaptable calls for each of us to embody a flexible identity, and look beyond prescribed roles to cultivate shared resilience. Resilience emerges not only within individuals, but among groups of people. While some groups may try to look away from the adversity, resilient individuals and organizations face it, find meaning, and act with purpose to move forward.1, 2, 3, 8

  • Notice your judgmental thoughts and try replacing them with non-judgmental thoughts (e.g., “why can’t we find a solution” to “we are having a challenge finding a solution”). This simple mindfulness practice brings us closer to the real situation and not our interpretation of reality.
  • Find who you are as a collective by defining your relationship with the crisis as members of an organization (e.g., doctors, nurses, paramedics = we are all helping patients).
  • Find your organizational higher purpose by asking, “what can I/we offer to the greater community right now in the midst of this crisis?”
Think People First

When we are in the middle of a crisis, we are faced with many choices. We may periodically find ourselves doubting our decisions, but one thing is clear: think people first. An organization cannot exist without the people who make it possible. When people are put first in empathetic, compassionate, and genuinely respected ways, those same people are enabled to reach their full potential to contribute positively to something greater than themselves. That upward spiral of human potential can help us overcome the crisis.4,7

  • Offer flexibility for people as much as possible to provide the environment they need to be their best selves (e.g., adjusting schedules, asking their preference for meeting, provide a sense of autonomy for projects).
  • Take a few minutes to silently reflect together. Whether journaling or mind wandering, people need time to process, especially in the midst of a crisis. With a shared understanding that different emotions or thoughts are experienced, providing a dedicated time and psychologically safe space to quietly reflect can be a powerful moment to care for each other.
  • Make practicing compassion a part of daily work by normalizing the increased frequency of personal conversations or check-ins, assuming people’s intention with positive regard, and doing something to allow people to become whole.
Leverage Each Other’s Strengths

When we feel the pressure to respond quickly, it can be easy to feel the urge to involve as few people as possible to keep things moving forward. However, when making a decision on behalf of your team or organization in the time of crisis, intentionally inviting people to become a part of the solution when the organization is most vulnerable can generate a greater sense of mutual trust, collective ownership of the decisions, and innovative solutions rooted in members’ unique strengths.5, 6, 12

  • Communicate as often and honestly as possible by sharing new information as you learn, creating opportunities for members to provide timely feedback, and keeping people updated with shared notes.
  • Decentralize decision-making by bringing more members into the process, take time to actively listen to different perspectives, and make informed decisions together.
  • Enable people to bring out their best by allowing them to utilize their personal strengths beyond organizational roles to support others.
Give and Receive Help

We need each other’s help to weather a crisis. Each of us hold unique qualities that can make a positive difference in people’s lives, and now is the time to leverage our collective capacity to solve this global challenge together. While we may start thinking about what we can do for others, it is important to realize that we also need to ask for help. The act of making a request is a sign of humility and builds trust in the community.9, 10, 11, 13

  • Ask for help by using SMART (specific, meaningful, action, realistic, and time-bound) questions to start the giving-receiving cycle. The Law of Giving and Receiving reveals that those balancing both actions are perceived as generous and able to get the resources they need to move forward.
  • Commit to offering help to someone everyday by actively looking for requests or updates from people in your organization or community. Our collective actions to reach out to support others can create a seismic shift in a positive direction.
  • Utilize technology or communication platforms dedicated to giving and receiving help like Givitas to make it easier for people to make and take requests. Givitas is currently offering a free Givitas community ring to organizations via applications.
References
  1. (Book) Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment in Your Life by Jon Kabatt-Zinn
  2. (Video) “How to Build Resilience and Reduce Stress” by Brianna Caza
  3. (Book) The Economics of Higher Purpose: Eight Counterintuitive Steps for Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization by Robert E. Quinn
  4. (Book) Awakening Compassion at Work: The Quiet Power That Elevates People and Organizations by Monica C. Worline and Jane E. Dutton
  5. (Book) Leading Under Pressure: From Surviving to Thriving Before, During, and After a Crisis by Erika Hayes James and Lynn Perry Wooten
  6. (Essay) “Trying Time Calls for Our Best Selves” by Gretchen Spreitzer
  7. (Essay) “The Intentional Use of Silence at Work” by Chris Marcell Murchison
  8. (Article) “How Resilience Works” from Harvard Business Review
  9. (Video) “Is It Really Better to Give than Receive?” by Wayne Baker
  10. (Book) All You Have to Do Is Ask: How to Master the Most Important Skill for Success by Wayne Baker
  11. (Book) Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant
  12. (Article) “How to Play to Your Strengths” by Laura Morgan Roberts, Gretchen M. Spreitzer, Jane E. Dutton, Robert E. Quinn, Emily D. Heaphy, and Brianna Barker
  13. (Podcast) “The Art of Asking For and Getting Help” by Wayne Baker

Continuing the Conversation

We want to hear about the amazing work individuals, organizations, and researchers are doing to enable people and organizations to thrive during these trying times. To foster the sharing of ideas, we’ve created a public Facebook Group: Enabling People in Trying Times. Join the group and let’s find strength in our shared knowledge.