Navigating the Space Between

The space between anxiety and optimism.

Plans to reopen offices are underway but leaders are still anxious about the current state, and at the same time optimistic about REBUILDING the business using lessons learned from the pandemic.

It’s an internal tug-of-war between two mindsets.

Despite that life outside our homes is slowly returning, concerns about our health, jobs, family and businesses will persist for everyone for a while.

All this uncertainty makes it easy to fall into a negative mindset.

But as leaders of people, we can’t stay there because our team will model our behavior.

It helps to be mindful that people aren’t just working from home, they’re trying to work while at home – some home-schooling kids and caring for elderly relatives. They’re looking to us for guidance and inspiration every day.

So on those daily Zoom calls it’s our frame of mind they’re really absorbing right now.

I often say, “If you’re a leader of people you don’t get the luxury of being in a bad mood.”

It has never been more important to lead with optimism than now, during the REBUILDING phase.

Optimistic leaders foster high employee engagement, and highly engaged employees are more productive.

It’s going to take a fully engaged team to rebuild our businesses and we’re in control of how engaged they’ll be. Just a little pressure!

So how do we model a mindset of optimism while living in the space between it and anxiety?

First, know that a good morning routine sets us up for a good day.

Beyond eating well and exercise, one proven way to maintain a positive mindset is to start the day reflecting on what we’re grateful for. It may sound hokey but it’s true. Studies in neuroscience show practicing gratefulness improves mood by engaging the hypothalamus – the regulator of stress in the brain.

Second, cultivate the self-awareness to know when anxiety is winning.

Checking in with ourselves before getting on the phone with the staff can preempt fallout from a bad mood brought on by seeing last week’s numbers. A little positive self-talk can help to reset that negative mindset. Just reminding myself, this too shall pass works for me.

Finally, be mindful that people appreciate empathy, kindness, and patience right now more than ever.

If a staff member isn’t comfortable working in the office yet, don’t force the issue. Flex schedules around childcare constraints and trust employees to deliver results.

The space between anxiety and optimism is a delicate dance for leaders right now.

Work daily to model a positive mindset to foster loyalty and engagement.

When our staff knows we have their backs, they’ll have ours.


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