The beginning of this story started late summer, 2020, a request came in from a client asking for support for their Senior Leadership Team with a series of short learning bites, entitled ‘Time To…..’ .  These sessions were to be no more than hour encompassing an expert view with some guided reflection.

The next chapter of this story is about the topic I was asked to cover, which was focussed on, ‘things I know now, I wish I’d known then’.  The ‘then’ being part of the HR Leadership team at Andersen during the Enron scandal and then working through the transition and harmonisation period of joining Deloitte.  On June 15, 2002, Andersen was convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding documents related to its audit of Enron, resulting in the Enron scandal. The Andersen brand derailed, and the firm imploded.  It was an extremely distressing time for everyone.  Thousands lost their employment, and many lost their sense of identity.  It was a time of extreme change, emotional upset, and loss.

When I was asked to run the ‘Time to Prepare’ session to help individuals prepare for the months ahead which included significant change, loss, and the threat of COVID-19 my thoughts turned to those times in Andersen and the things, I wished I’d known then that I know now.  Particularly these three:

  1. I wish I had been better emotionally prepared
  2. I needed a different perspective on change
  3. I would have benefited from knowing my Values, so the days I went home feeling like someone had kicked me was not about working long hours or demanding deadlines – I was used to that. It was something else.

I started the session by sharing an emotional resilience model which I often use in my coaching.  Our emotions are always with us – there waiting in the background ready for a situation to stimulate them.  If we understand and look after our emotional resilience reserves, we can better respond in situations where our emotions are stimulated.  The Centre for Creative Leadership sees emotional resilience as important in leading through change and eliciting trust.

The constant in our lives is change, to survive these times as in other crises we need to adapt and change.  During my years of corporate life the general rule was, when going through a change programme (and there were many), keep people informed – so we bombarded people with information.  Did this help? Somewhat. The missing element was focussing on how people feel about the change.  In the time we had during the ‘Time to Prepare’ session we discussed and reflected on a quite different model for interpreting change, one that incorporates both the analytical and emotional side. It landed well.

The other day I listened to a webinar by Nipun Mehta, honoured by the Dalai Lama as an “unsung hero of compassion” and appointed by President Obama to a special council addressing poverty and inequality.  The most striking thing about him is his heart-warming approach to life.  When asked for his thoughts on the Pandemic, he responded – ‘Is this a war or a love story? Is this an emergency where you have to take action or is it about emergence where you have to trust in what will happen next?’  I thought about the many acts of compassion and human kindness that have arisen over the last year.  And yes, we have had to act, but many good things have emerged out of the crisis and there will be more to come.  He went on to say… ‘Don’t lose touch with emergence…  Don’t get lost in the fear of emergency where we can become entrenched in fear.  We need to find the good stories.’

Self-care is important at this time – you can’t pour from an empty cup.  Find the good stories and re-tell them to and about your people.  We need to have compassion for others and ourselves and be open to what might emerge as ‘the story’ continues.

 

Valerie Stevenson is a Senior Practitioner Coach accredited with the European Mentoring & Coaching Council and has 16 years and over 3000  hours coaching experience.   Val creates a space for curiosity, discovery and reflection in today’s complex, ever-changing world, drawing on a ’toolkit’ of resources based on my own research and experience. Coaching often involves working with people who have achieved success in their careers but whose future requires them to shift perspective, to develop self-awareness and emotional resilience.