Drowning versus Floating
Leadership Coach, Front of Room Leader and Systemic Change Guide

With the notable exceptions of companies like ZOOM, food deliveries and medical equipment producers, economic survival is the top priority for many companies. We therefore want to share relevant learnings from drowning survivors with leaders and teams who are fighting to stay above water in the current situation.

With lockdowns of uncertain duration and a worsening economic outlook across the world, the understandable temptation for leaders is to focus on getting things done.

Focusing on task helps to mentally and emotionally stay afloat.

It’s easy to ignore that half of the team cannot be as productive as in the office, because they share their “home office” with partners and kids.

It’s tempting to ignore the emotional strain on team members who deal with worries that all demand building and cultivating resilience.

But the lack of time and private space for self-care, the worries about job uncertainty, a recently unemployed partner, a vulnerable family member are all causing acute emotional stress. In addition to that, many people report that their work load has increased since the team has gone remote.

While many leaders drown under the responsibility to steer their teams through our disruptive time, many team members drown in the new remote-office environment.

So how can we all stay afloat together and create from the mess around us?

How can we create the resilience as a team to support each other, including our leaders?

Let’s look at the analogy of drowning in water. Unlike the images we get from movies, drowning people are hard to spot, because rather than crying out for help and frantically splashing water, real drowning victims become still, close their eyes, tilt back their heads and try to … breathe!

When you are swimming confidently, you glide through the water, but when a panic attack hits, your brain says, “I shouldn’t be in the deep end.” Your breathing goes shallow and quick. Your legs drop, your hands push downward, and you fight the water instead of swimming, which in turn increases your feeling of panic. (Here’s a great short article on the history of drowning.)

However, this natural response is the surest way to drown. To stand a chance to live, you have to override it, and focus on bringing up your legs again. This allows you to float in the water.

We need to learn how not to drown AND how to spot others who are drowning silently.

It is important to learn how to respond in the best possible way when we are suddenly realising that we are in deep waters and at risk.

What’s equally important is to train others to understand what a drowning person looks like, so as to be able to spot and rescue those in peril.

For leaders the important questions to explore right now are:

  • What do you need in order not to drown?

  • How can you spot team members who are drowning?

  • How can you as a team member support your fellow team members and your leader so they don’t drown?

  • What tasks will you identify as important, when you allow yourselves to start a crisis meeting by connecting to each other and your shared purpose?

A virtual meeting can be more creative than any team meeting you have had in the office so far, when you first allow everyone to check in with how they are (really) doing.

What really matters always naturally falls out of meetings which start with relationship.

And creating heart-to-heart connection in virtual meetings is not rocket science, even in large groups. It just needs a few structures and the asking of questions that allow everyone to engage and contribute. Solutions that one person cannot come up with, fall out of such gatherings.

We’re here to support you in the move from surviving to thriving in these dizzying times.

We invite you to a 2 hour webinar to explore how to turn your remote team meetings into connected and creative meetings.

For leadership coaching and developement, get in touch

You might also like…

Making Difficult Conversations Easier
Making Difficult Conversations Easier

I was recently working with a group of Senior Researchers, Post-docs and Laboratory Managers from across Europe. The topic: difficult conversations. A popular topic for leaders, new and well seasoned. What makes a conversation difficult? That’s partially individual,...

Stop Downloading – Start Listening
Stop Downloading – Start Listening

I recently wrote about the challenges that leaders face when attempting to listen generatively. We spend too much time downloading (to reconfirm what we already know, i.e. not really listening) or listening factually (to confirm or disconfirm what you already know,...

Vows and Forgiveness
Vows and Forgiveness

David Whyte’s 1996 poem, All the True Vows, from The House of Belonging, calls us forth into the world. Its first line, “All the true vows are secret vows”, poses an inquiry for leaders: What are the secret vows you have sworn? These vows are no idle covenants. They...

Share This