Facing a difficult situation? Here’s the one question to ask yourself

Jasmina is a senior leader in a large government enterprise. COVID has been challenging, the work feels unrelenting, and now a significant restructure has been announced that may result in job losses. She is holding off overwhelm (only just), and here’s her strategy.

‘When I’m really tense and I’m not sure how well I’m handling the situation I consciously take a step back and ask myself, what do I want my team to be learning from me right now? What do I want them to be noticing from the way I conduct myself? How do I want them to be thinking and feeling in response? That keeps me out of overwhelm and usually helps me to be a better leader for my team.’

What do I want my team to be learning from me right now? What a brilliant question, which shifts Jasmina from an internal response (which she admitted could be close to panic!) to an external focus on her team. When she can model a calm problem-solving mindset, the leaders who report to Jasmina are better able to do that for their teams.

What are your team members learning from you right now?

Are you encouraging people to take a mental health day if they are not feeling good through this lockdown, and yet working through it yourself regardless of your state of mind?

When you can’t solve a problem, are you just working harder and pushing yourself further, running yourself into the ground and losing perspective? Or are your team learning from you the ability to say ‘I’m not being effective right now. Despite this deadline, I am going to take an hour off to walk the dog and come back to this with a fresh mind.’

Are you sending emails all hours of the day and night? Or are your team learning from you the ability to set and maintain boundaries?

Are you blaming other areas of the organisation when things go wrong, or are you working proactively with your peers to find and eliminate the causes?

What would I be learning if I had been watching you over the last day?

Next time you feel like you are heading towards overwhelm, step back and ask yourself ‘What do I want my team to be learning from me right now?’