COVID-19: Leading Out of the Crisis!

COVID-19 Leadership Tips

Whether you are leading yourself, your family, or your workgroup, here are 5 Tips to improve your leadership abilities.

Remember all of the articles, posts, sermons, and presentations on Vision 20/20 we heard in the last quarter of last year, not to mentions the new year’s messages from presidents to preachers. Who would have thought we would be where we are today!

As we continue to grind through the impact of COVID-19 and begin to see a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, I thought it would be appropriate to talk a little about mental health.

May is National Mental Health Month.   Here are my thoughts about how to be more resilient in these tough and uncertain times.

I believe these thoughts will empower you as a person, and if you are a leader, they will help you provide clear leadership in this time of crisis.

These thoughts originally came from  Dr. George Everly, I have personally found them invaluable in my own life journey. 

1. Structure is an antidote to chaos. One of the challenges I have had since becoming a “Work at Home” specialist has been in maintaining a routine. In my own life, if I fail to focus, my mind will naturally tend to drift towards patterns of worry. And, we know all that worry does is distract and wastes time.

So, what it the antipode to worry? Mindfulness. What is mindfulness? It is the essential human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

Another way of looking at is you cannot control everything in life, you can only control your response to it. That is why it is so important to build structure into your life. Structure minimizes distractions and leads to more positive outcomes.

2. People follow confident people, who display optimism, are forward-thinking and have a plan. So, whether you are leading yourself, your family, or your team, you need to show these qualities. Because the only failure in leadership is the failure to lead.

3. Information is a powerful tool. Why? Because it reduces fear and anxiety and fosters hope and resilience. As a rule, people do not want to be taken care of but want information that will allow them to become more resilient by learning to take care of themselves. If you are a leader and you are not frequent and honest communication with your team, someone else might be. Don’t lose your leadership to someone with faster thumbs and a broader social media outlet.

4. Give and receive support. Dr. George Bonano’s book, The Other Side of Sadness, the most incredible boost to the recovery, and the reinforcement for resilience is feeling supported by family, friends, coworkers, and supervisors. Many researchers have shown the single best predictor of human resilience is to feel supported. Whether it is in your family, a network of friends, or your work team, support is the key ingredient to recovery.  Knowing people have your back and that you have theirs has been proven time and time again to be the single most positive influential factor in overcoming adversity.

5. Maintain and expand your spiritual practices, which may include reading scriptures, meditating, prayer, and worship.

In closing, control what you can, accept, and cope with what you can’t.

The ancient stoic philosopher Epictetus put it this way:

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.

Have you ever read the entire Serenity Prayer, I think it is very appropriate as we gradually begin to move into a new normal. Though attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr, some have traced it back to 500 AD.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

I hope you have a wonderful week.

May you rise to the challenges that you are facing, and in doing so, leave a legacy.

Hey, would love to hear from you, feel free to leave a comment!

John

PVB356

COVID-19: How to Effectively Lead in a Crisis

COVID-19How to lea

Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist
and the ability to communicate it.
Simon Sinek

What is leadership? It is the ability to influence others.

In a review of leadership in high risk, often life and death situations, Thomas Kolditz and Donna Brazil (2005) concluded that authentic leadership is most valuable. Authentic leaders are confident, optimistic leaders who possess high moral character and ethical reasoning. These types of leaders are most likely to create loyalty, obedience, admirations, and respect. These leaders lead by giving purpose, motivation, and providing direction “in extremis” conditions. Authentic leaders exert much of their effectiveness by allaying the fears of and giving hope for those who follow.[i]

In a review of leadership in high risk, often life and death situations, Thomas Kolditz and Donna Brazil (2005) concluded that authentic leadership is most valuable. Authentic leaders are confident, optimistic leaders who possess high moral character and ethical reasoning. These types of leaders are most likely to create loyalty, obedience, admirations, and respect. These leaders lead by giving purpose, motivation, and providing direction “in extremis” conditions. Authentic leaders exert much of their effectiveness by allaying the fears of and giving hope for those who follow.[i]

In a crisis, a leader must possess a general belief in their ability to make a difference and to be successful, regardless of the challenge. Additionally, this sense of confidence should be communicated to all who will follow. The team must perceive the leader as someone who is trusted, someone who possesses strength and competence to lead those who follow to safety and success successfully.

Throughout history, individuals seek out leadership in a time of crisis. The characteristic qualities that most people seek from a leader are competence, benevolence,  an acute awareness of the present, and a visionary eye towards the future. As a result, leaders seem to exert much of their effectiveness by allaying fears, ensuring safety, and providing hope for those whom they lead.

I have observed the way an organization and its leadership respond to a critical incident that will determine a multiplicity of things.

If the response is reactive, unplanned, or uncoordinated, the response will be ineffective.  A chaotic response will waste resources, and might even be counterproductive. Hurricane Katrina still stands as a dire reminder of the consequences of failed leadership and failed coordination of services. More recently, the failure of key players in the government of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in October of 2017. In both cases, failed leadership and the failed coordination of services cause much unnecessary pain, death, and suffering. NOTE: While the logistical challenges supporting Puerto Rico were massive, there was a significant breakdown of distribution by state and local governments.

If, on the other hand, the response is responsive, planned, and coordinated, the outcomes will be much more favorable. In comparison to Hurricane Maria, the response to Hurricane Harvey in South Texas was handled much smoother.

Now in fairness, you could say I am comparing apples to oranges. Still, when you look at how each area’s leadership responded to their events, I think you will observe a chaotic response in Puerto Rico and a prepared response in Texas.

With that in mind, here are some proven practical things that you can do as a leader.

Begin with the Stockdale Paradox, made famous in Jim Collins book, From Good to Great, is attributed to Admiral James Stockdale (Ret.) Viet Nam POW and Medal of Honor Winner.

 “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail at the end …with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current situation.”

With this in mind, let’s turn out attention to how a leader can maximize their impact in troubled times.

My friend and mentor, Bob Vandepol, is a prominent thought leader in the area of Crisis Leadership And Critical Event Management. He is the Executive Director of Pine Rest Mental Health Services, and Employee and Church Assistance Programs. Before his work with Pine Rest, he was the president of the world’s largest provider of critical event response services to the workplace. He has developed a three-step model, which I was first introduced to in the late ’90s and have used it in close to two hundred events.

Here is one of the best tools to use for communication in a crisis – ACT. [ii]

A – Acknowledge the issue and its impact on people.

In this unique situation, it is wise to acknowledge the fact that so much is currently unknown and that widely different opinions exist.

  • Acknowledge that it is also difficult for you to determine the course of action but that you wish to do so according to the best information available and to protect those you lead and their families.
  • Acknowledge also the impact upon your organization’s operations.
  • Use the real words so that there is no sense you are self-protectively minimizing and “sweeping the issue under the rug.”
  • Do so seriously, but avoid sensationalized language. People may already be anxious, and you do not want to incite greater fear.

C – Communicate pertinent information with both competence and compassion.

Use language such as “This is what we know at this time….” and provide access to credible expert sources such as the CDC, which includes situation updates, answers to frequently asked questions, and printable and video resources.

When anxious themselves, leaders tend to polarize toward either competence or compassion. You need to be both simultaneously. Those looking to you must witness someone who is concerned but not panicked and who has the strength to learn and implement best practices specific to this threat.

This issue is highly personal as people will be visualizing risks to their loved ones, so make sure also to be compassionate. You want people to experience your presence as “My leader knows her/his stuff, is tough enough to handle it, and cares about me as a person.

T —Transition to a future focus.

Do not just share information without outlining the immediate next steps. Immediate next steps. Do we resume operations now? Cancel events and travel? Work from home? How will internal updates be communicated? How and what do we communicate with all external stakeholders? Who are those external stakeholders, and what specific information needs to go to each? 

Also, the ACT Model that is have proven its effectiveness over the years, five proven strategies will help you provide the leadership your team will need, and you move forward.

  1.  Embrace and seize the moment.
  2. Follow the ACT Communication Model

3.  Stay present. Your team needs to see you as a caring, visible, and engaged leader. Influential leaders come out when there is a crisis. There is positive, dynamic energy when the leader leads from the front in both a positive, yet realistic way. (Refer back to the Stockdale Paradox) 

4.  When it’s time to address the media, be sure to plan for every question and eventuality. There is a tendency for CEOs to want to go on camera without thorough preparation because they are used to speaking publicly and know the organization very well. Avoid this temptation and list all possible questions, answers, follow-ups, and counters. Train on camera, relentlessly. An eight to fifteen-second sound bite can ruin your reputation and career. 

5.  Plan your work, work your plan, stay on course, but also stay flexible.

6. Practice Self-Compassion, Self-Care. [iii]

7. Have a consultant or counselor for yourself. 

8. Explore your companies EAP benefit for your organization. These benefits may include counseling, Critical Event Responses, Management Consultations, and Health and Wellness presentation.

In the next few weeks, businesses and ministries will slowly begin moving into an emerging and new routine.

Will you be ready for it?

If not, what do you need to do to prepare for it?

We will get through this!


[i] Everly, George (2008) Psychological Issues in Escape, Rescue, and Survival in the Wake of Disaster; Report Submitted to the National Institute of Occupational Safe and Health, Pittsburg Research Laboratory, Accessed, February 25, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docket/archive/pdfs/NIOSH-154/0154-010108-everly.pdf

[ii] Vandepol, Bob (2020) Effective Crisis Leadership During COVID-19.  Accessed April 20, 2020, https://www.pinerest.org/effective-crisis-leadership-during-covid-19-blog/

[iii] Lynn, Andrea (2017); 5 Strategies for Successful Crisis Leadership. Accessed April 23, 2020; https://www.fallstongroup.com/blog/5-crisis-strategies/

Easter, COVID-19, and New Beginnings

Easter, COVID-19, and New Beginnings
Empty Tomb (c) 2014 John Thurman

I hope your Easter Celebration went well.

It was one memorable experience for millions of believers around the world as we celebrated this most critical day in Christianity while living in the shadow of COVID-19.

Over the weekend, I chose to reflect on the oldest Creed in the Church. The early church leaders developed The Apostle’s Creed, otherwise known as the Nicene Creed. It was a brief and basic statement that covered the import truths of the Lord Jesus and could be easily taught and recited, as most of the population were illiterate.

I believe in God,

the Father almighty,

Creator of heaven and earth,

and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died and was buried;

he descended into hell;

on the third day, he rose again from the dead;

he ascended into heaven,

and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;

from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and life everlasting. Amen.

From a hut in African to the crowded high rises in Dubai, believers spend a part of the day reflecting on these truths. People from around the globe reflected on the fact that Jesus suffered, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day, he rose again from the dead.

How did you celebrate yours?

We watched several services today from Franklin Graham and Michael W. Smith in Central Park in front of the Samaritan’s Purse Field Hospital to viewing an Anglican friend, provide his homily, and enjoying my Church’s live stream.

At lunch, our son, daughter in law, grandson, and my daughter in law’s mom came over for lunch. We did elbow bumps, washed our hands, and gave thanks. My daughter-in-law’s family is from Armenia, and one of the dishes that she brought today was a rice dish with golden raisins. I asked her about the tradition, and she said that the rice represents the people of this world and that the golden raisins represent the sweet presence of Jesus in our lives, even in troubling times.

Wow, what a sermon in a simple dish.

No doubt this, Easter will be one that we will remember for the rest of our lives on this earth.

We have been in a time of loss and death over the past several weeks. Not just those individuals and families who have been directly impacted by COVID-19, but our society has been forced to hit a life-changing pause button. Our movements are limited, many businesses closed, and life as we have known it has come to an abrupt halt.

So, what’s next? 

Well, many of you know that I am an optimist.

I do not believe that we will pick up where we left off. I don’t think that we will ever be able to go back to the way things were. Hopefully, during this externally forced pause, you and I have had a chance to recalibrate and to do some soul searching. 

So what will be different?

Our ways of socializing will have to jump through some hoops as we begin to reintegrate in our places of work, worship, and gatherings.

Some businesses and churches will adapt and adjust to a new reality. Some will close up shop. 

Some of the most exciting things we will see as the country reopens for business are that we will see young and old entrepreneurs look for opportunities.  I also believe that successful businesses will make the adjustments and expand their opportunities to serve others. Anyone who has caught any news in the past several weeks have heard stories of business leaders and entrepreneurs finding ways to adapt and create systems to deal with the crisis at hand.

In my work as a counselor/coach, and trainer, I am embracing new ways of providing those services with Face Time, Duo, Zoom, and direct telephone services. Besides, I am launching two online learning programs through Thinkific. The two working titles are Tactical Stress Management and How to Effectively Minister in Difficult Times. 

I am genuinely excited about what lies ahead.

How about you?

Entrepreneurial friends, this new reality will either provide you with an opportunity to grow or fail. The decision will be yours.

Did you know that one of the biggest dream killers is fear? A couple of years ago, I wrote The No Fear Entrepreneur, which is based on a survey I did with 1500 primarily faith-based entrepreneurs. The book helps the reader identify those fears and provides the reader with healthy, faith-friendly ways to identify, manage, and overcome those fears that might be holding them back.

I want to hear from you. Whether you are a home-based business operation, a manager at a government agency, or a manager in corporate America, I’d like to know your plan to reboot your business.

I look forward to hearing from you as we launch into this new adventure of restarting commerce.

While we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, also lets hopefully look forward to what lies ahead.

Let’s also come through this unusual cycle of loss to a resurrected economy and fresh ways for doing business and ministry.

I am excited, are you?

Let me hear from you.

Blessings,

John Thurman

PVB356

Resilience at Work

Image of resilience at work
Diagram of Resilience at Work

Have you experienced an increase in workplace stress? Does the notion of Work-Life balance make sense to you or just some weird sort of pipe dream? Do you feel like you can be a success in your chosen field? Or, do you like so many, spend time mining Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat looking for that magic idea that will help them make Six Figures?

So how can a person become successful in their chosen field or in any area? How can you be more resilient at work? The answer may surprise you!

Like so many of my generation and the generations that have followed we were told that that “secret to success” is being smart, talented, and going above and beyond the requirements of the job, taking additional tasks, and maybe even sacrifice your personal time for the good of the organization.

Sounds like the Sirens of the Odyssey, distractions from the digital wasteland beckon us to follow some types of “path to riches.” 

There is no doubt that there is a rapid increase in work-related stress. I know, because I have worked as an Employee Assistance Consultant for several years. A big part of that job is helping both employees and employers find ways to increase productivity and positive outcomes while at the same time, minimizing the effects of stress. This is one reason that the workplace is seeing the rapid growth of Work-Life presentations and training.

Just think about the past 10 years, the workplace has been impacted with furloughs, downsizing, massive technological advances along with monumental shift is the way business is done. The “Amazonification” of the retail work has shaken many traditional business models. Globalization has had an impact on all manner of business from small mom and pop shops, governmental agencies, as well as such well older, established nationally branded companies. On an even deeper level, the rapidly escalating field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be taking us places that we have never imagined.

Whew! That last paragraph made me feel some stress!

With all of these changes, you must learn how to increase your capacity to manage stress and become more resilient.

Resilience is a word that has been thrown around for years but began to become more prominent after 911.

Resilience is the ability to face adversity and work-related challenges and not only bounce back, but to experience personal growth.

The workplace, whether in a manufacturing plant or the corner office or a high-rise offers a broad range of stressors to people. 

From meeting production quotas to dealing with the ever-changing landscape of various service-related business to the work of big business and governmental agencies, we are seeing a dramatic increase in stress-related issues.

So, what does resilience in the workplace look like? Why is it important? Is it possible for a person to become more resilient?

Here is some promising news!

Resilience is both a mindset and a skill that can be strengthened. As with any life skill, resilience can be enhanced with practice.

Resilience is an active, fluid, and dynamic process.

So, what sets a resilient employee apart from everybody else?

Resilient employees have made healthy connections and have a variety of relationships, both on and off the job. The trademark of these supportive relationships is that there is a history of excellent, two-way communication.

Resilient workers will do what they can do to help others, they are consistent team players.

Another quality of resilient workers that they understand the importance of social support at work, home, and in the community.

They understand the benefits of developing both personal and professional networks, which can be a significant source of guidance, support, and accountability at all times, whether gold or bad.

Some additional qualities of resilient workers are that they habitually demonstrate the ability to build trust with others. One of the unique findings in the research was that resilient team members don’t take work too seriously. They generally tend to be “playful” at times[i], which increases the overall sense of positivity in the workplace.

The modern workplace is stressful. Technology, the rapid & immense shifts in the way we do business, can be a constant source of stress. Rare is the individual who starts a career in one place and stays there until they are retirement eligible unless they are government workers or military.

Employees who are resilient have an ability to managing stress effectively and to keep pressure from becoming detrimental and overwhelming. They are more likely to focus on self-care, after a stressful event. In other words, they take kinetic and focused measures to avoid compassion fatigue and, worse, burnout.

A final characteristic of a resilient employee is they are authentic and strive to behave in a way that is consistent with their core values. They practice what they preach.

They have grit!

Have you ever wondered what grit is? It goes hand in hand with be resilient.

According to the research of psychologist Susan Kobasa, three elements appear to be essential when we look at grit to exist: challenge, personal control, and commitment. Kobasa called these the three ‘Cs.’[ii]

Commitment.  They have a sense of purpose in their life.  They are committed to their dreams and tackle challenges head-on. Part of the reason hardy people can stay in the game and persist in their coping efforts is that as a group, they are committed to an active, engaged stance towards life. They feel that their life has a purpose (whatever shape that may be). That purpose motivates them to actively attempt to influence their surroundings and to persevere even when their attempts to influence their surroundings don’t appear to be working out. A person who has no purpose in life –no motivation and no commitment –will not be able to lead a resilient life. On the other hand, resilient people find meaning in their activities even when faced with significant adversity precisely because they are committed to taking an active, problem-solving approach to life.

Challenge. Individuals with grit have a sense of purpose in life see problems as challenges, and they devote time, effort and energy into solving them

They are connected to their dreams and their mission. They tackle things head-on.  People with grit remain involved in an endeavor despite stressful circumstances such as changes in the marketplace, business systems, and the economy. People lacking grit tend to pull back from their dream or opportunity and drift into isolation or alienation.  People with grit view stress as a challenge that they can potentially overcome when they can understand it correctly. Their habit of looking at problems to be overcome motivates them to address the causes of their stress in positive ways.

I remember one of my early mentors who used to continually say things like, “We don’t have problems, we have opportunities to grow, excel, and learn.

This active approach to life challenges may be contrasted with the more common approach, where stress and problems are viewed as an unfortunate, overwhelming, or even paralyzing force that overwhelms rather than motivates.

Personal Control.  Gritty people believe they are in charge of and responsible for their lives and that they have the power to change it. They understand that they cannot control what happens to them. They can only control their response to it. If they don’t have the skill sets to do something, they will go out of their way to get them.

As a group, people with grit people, people who are resilient tend to accept challenges and to work to overcome and master them. Even when true mastery of a challenge is not possible (e.g., when a situation is not possible to control), gritty people work to find what possibilities do exist for mastery and pursue them. When faced with the loss of employment, a hardy, or resilient person would seize upon opportunities for exploring new employment options rather than become depressed and demoralized.

How about you? Do you consider yourself a person with grit, are you someone who exemplifies hardiness? In your work and personal life, are you resilient?

In my next post, I will share the seven secrets to building resilience in your day to day life.



[i] Kobasa, S. C. (1979). Stressful life events, personality, and health: An inquiry into hardinessJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(1), 1-11. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.37.1.1 [http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1980-21134-001]

Coronavirus & Telework

Coronavirus and telework

Preparing for Telework

Some proven practices from resilient teleworkers.

The Coronavirus news is penetrating every aspect of our culture from the ancient liturgical customs of the common cup of communion to avoiding crowds. I tend to agree with the medical professionals who are realistic but calm. To be resilient citizens and workers, we need to do the things we can to control the spread of this virus. As a life-saving measure, your company or agency may choose to allow teleworking.

So with the numbers increasing every day, there is a reasonably good chance, at least in some parts of the country that businesses and governmental agencies will move to more teleworking, at least for some time.

With that in mind, I took some time to do some research on good teleworking habits. My goal is to help you become a more resilient worker and manager.

These are from multiple sources as well as from my own work as a Worklife Consultant with numerous governmental agencies.

This article will focus on both employees and managers.

12 TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE TELEWORKING

  1. Dress for work. This helps you get prepared for your regular business hours physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  2. Set normal business hours. Be clear with family and friends that you have certain periods during the day that you cannot be disturbed. One friend actually has a home office in an open space in her home has a homemade sign that says, “DO NOT DISTURB!’ And on the other side, “COME ON IN!” This helps her be able to focus and get work tasks done.
  3. Try “Chunking!” Our human brain works best when we break up a task or day by chunking. Chunking is a process where you take 25 minutes and drill in and focus on your task or project and then walkway for five minutes. This system helps you lower your distraction and really dig into the task at hand, and it has a built-in break of 5 minutes every half an hour. Now you may be tempted to go for fifty minutes and take a ten-minute break. Still, many time management experts feel that the break every thirty minutes actually makes you more productive and increases your personal sense of accomplishment. 
  4. Zone In and focus on the tasks at hand. For me, that sometimes means turning off my iPhone and turning off any notifications for messages and emails. It is amazing, when I do this, I can get tasks done quickly and usually ahead of schedule.
  5. Maximize your use of technology. If this is an area that needs improvement, teleworking is a great way to enhance your skills and use of technology. Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and other virtual meeting places can keep you and your coworkers both connected and on task.
  6. Stay out of the kitchen, laundry room, and bedroom. Work in your home office, or designated space. Who knows, you can do chores if you finish early.
  7. Purchase some inexpensive noise-canceling headphones, if you are easily distracted by noise.
  8. Manage your workload. Many times, we can complete tasks in a more timely manner when we telework because of fewer work-related distractions.
  9. Be intentional about staying in touch with your manager/supervisor and coworkers.
  10. Avoid going to non-work appointments during working hours. 
  11. This one is a little weird, but I have been told it works. Take the time that it usually takes you to get to work, and use that time to help you prepare for your teleworking. For example, if you leave the house at 7:30 and arrive at work at 8:00, use that time to prepare yourself for work. Try not to use if for chores.
  12. Move around when you take your breaks.

5 Tips for Leaders and Managers

  1. Use NATO for a way of leading team meetings. Nature, Agenda, Time, and Outcomes. This helps you stay on time, keep your focus, and helps all participants feel that the meeting was timely and productive.
  2. When holding team meetings, rotate facilitators. This not only maintains individual and group accountability but gives everybody’s voice a chance to be heard and is an excellent way for emerging leaders to develop.
  3. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings, This is a great way to have direct, personal contact with your team members.
  4. Be creative in finding ways for team members to connect, while teleworking. If feasible and practical, try to have some gathering while teleworking. That is if it is safe and appropriate.
  5. Don’t forget the importance of appropriate praise and recognition for the team. Whether texting, messaging, or on team calls, make sure you acknowledge the work of your organization. This is an excellent way towards building morale and can go a long way in keeping the team connected and concerned for each other.

For the latest CDC Reports on Coronavirus

Resilient Leadership Wins, Part 1

“You must manage yourself before you can lead others.” Zig Ziglar

Your true leadership abilities or lack of them will reveal themselves in a crisis. 

At that moment when the crap hits the fan, you will either rise to the occasion or crash and burn. You will either be a resilient leader, or you will cower to the pressure.

I know this from personal experience as a Certified Corporate Response Specialist.

Over the past 12 years, I have responded to over 150 disruptive workplace events ranging from layoffs to mass shootings, and I have personally observed both exceptional and impotent leadership

In this article, I will give you some of the best researched and most up-to-date strategies for being ready for whatever crisis comes your way. You have both the joy and the responsibility to be a resilient leader to those you are responsible for. Why? Because resilient leaders make things happen in both their personal life and in the business world.

When you implement these principles, you will be able to be a compassionate, clear-headed leader, even on your worst day.

Preparing for “bad days” really means becoming more resilient both before, during, and after an adverse event, even natural human-made disasters. Being ready can be one of the most valuable things you can ever do, especially when facing potentially life-changing circumstances (Everly 2019).

In reviewing people and companies who have overcome adversity, there seem to be five core psychological/behavioral factors that leaders have to take their organization through tough times. Here they are:

  1. Active Optimism – the deep belief and conviction that life events will turn out well, primarily because one believes she/he can contribute and assist in making things turn out well. Active Optimism is much more than just a belief. It is a mandate for change. It is a gut reaction to move forward when others are retreating.
  2. Decisiveness – the ability to overcome the “paralysis by analysis and make difficult decisions. You must be decisive and act to move forward. You have to acquire the courage to make difficult decisions. Making these decisions is easier when you are rooted in your…
  3. Moral Compass – the ability to evaluate one’s actions against the gold standard of honor, integrity, fidelity, and ethical behavior. Once you make your decision/you will need to employ…
  4. Relentless Tenacity, Determination, and Grit. A key ingredient in being tenacious is knowing when to pursue a course of action, and when to quit. To discover hidden opportunities, build your resilience, and boost physical, spiritual, and psychological energy, you will need to rely on…
  5. Interpersonal Support – Who has your six o’clock, your back. While we are more connected than every before, research tells us that we are more lonely than any time in history. To be effective, you have to have to be connected to others.

Of these five, there are two that stood out as the most influential, and they were Active Optimism and Self Efficacy.

Active Optimism

The first trait of a resilient person has engaged Optimism. The core belief that life events will turn out well, mainly because one believes she/he possess the ability to assist in making things turn out well. For the Christian, it may sound like the Apostle Paul’s reminder in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

One of the keys to understanding active Optimism is to realize it is not some “pie in the sky, and the world is all rainbows and lollipops.”Dynamic Optimism is based on having realistic expectations.

Another key to understanding dynamic Optimism is to understand the term self-efficacy. This term coined by Dr. Albert Bandura (1977; 1997) and means “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments.” Another definition is the person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a given situation. (Thurman 2017)

My question is; Why do so many Christian businessmen and women, ministry leaders, and others struggle with this idea.
I think it is because of our mindset. I do not believe it is a matter of faith, but more about our mindset.

So John, what are some things I can do to increase my Optimism?

Part of developing active Optimism has the right mindset.

Dr. Carolyn Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success looks into this matter with great skill and practical insights.
Here is an excerpt from one of my blogs from a couple of years ago.

First, choose to shift into a “growth mindset.”Dr. Carol Dweck, the author of mindset, spent her life researching the origins of mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. Her findings give us two options, a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. (Thurman 2017)

A “fixed mindset” is one in which you believe you are born with a particular set of talents, abilities, and intelligence—all of which are unchangeable. Some people with a fixed mindset may find it harder to experience life change and growth. As a result, a fixed-mindset person fails to develop his abilities and is more likely to give up or become distracted and feel depressed when he fails to make the grade in his own eyes. I believe this is where so many fruitless Christians are stuck; they think they have no power to change, which is a lie from the pit of hell. In my first book Get a Grip on Depression, I reveal six of the most common, fixed mindsets, or “stinking thinking”patterns that can hold us back. Why not order a copy today.

A person with a growth mindset begins in a different place. When you have a growth mindset, you see yourself and others as more flexible, adaptable, and hopeful. Way down inside, you know the potential for growth and development. With faith, the proper motivation, effort, moral compass, and concentration, you can make the changes you need to make. A person who has a growth mindset does not take failure so personally. That individual tends to see failure as an opportunity for growth. If one path does not work, then the person will try another.

As a Christian therapist, I believe the Bible continually teaches the benefit of being growth-minded. I believe God is active in time, space, and history, and He has a vibrant, life-fulfilling plan for each of us. The Bible gives us truth, hope, and stories of those who have gone before us and have found such purpose.

From my struggle in this area, I know working toward a growth mindset in the middle of depression may seem close to impossible. However, the truth found in the Bible is, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”(Philippians 4:13 NLT). This confidence is not some magical incantation or mystical, spiritual event, but it is a process or a journey.

In addition to checking out your mindset, here are four more ways to increase Active Optimism. (Thurman 2017)

1.Being successful at something. Actual success builds the belief that one can be successful in the future. Past achievements, no matter how small, are the building blocks for future achievements.

2. Vicarious experiences (observational learning, modeling, imitation) increase the overall confidence of people observe the actions of others. For example, my wife is a Senior Leader in Premier Designs Jewelry; she has been involved with this outstanding company for the past 25 years. Over these years, she has shared her story of abuse, recurrent major depression, and suffering a Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury and how she built her business in spite of those challenges. Her hope is by sharing her story; she will inspire her audiences to embrace their problems with a growth mindset and trust the Lord to bless.

3.Verbal persuasion and encouragement from others enhance self-esteem and resilience. Parents, leaders, coaches, co-workers, and teammates have a positive impact on self-efficacy. These various sources of support help set the stage for success. Finding a supportive and encouraging mentor can mean the difference between failure and success in nearly every area of one’s life.

4. Learning to control one’s impulses, emotions, and reactivity under stress and adversity can convey confidence, which translates into proactive resilience.

So, what do you want to do? Are you happy where you are? Alternatively, do you want to work on a reset, moving towards a growth mindset, and a more optimistic world view? The Lord put you on this earth to have an impact! One of the ways you can move out of the shadows and into the light is to open your mind to the things the Lord wants to show you and have the courage to live with an optimistic world view.

I do provide private leadership coaching, if you ae interested in a free 30 minute consultation email me john@johnthurman.net. Type Free Consultation in the Subject Line.

Blessings.

Crisis Leadership & Mass Shootings

To me, this image is the most powerful photo from the high school shootings in Florida, a mom, most likely a Roman Catholic who received her ashes earlier in the day is shown both terrified and comforting as she and others attempt to grasp what is unfolding.

How many of you asked yourself something like, “What would I do in a situation like that?” Here are some tips that I have learned over the years in my work as an International Crisis Response Specialist.

Crisis leadership is more about who you are than what you know.

I am deeply saddened and angry over the shooting that occurred yesterday in Florida. In my work as a Crisis Response Specialist, I have been involved in helping people directly impacted by school shootings, workplace violence, and natural disasters. Having lived in my adopted home state of New Mexico, I have seen, smelled, and have sat with victims, survivors, and first responders as they have shared their stories with me. In the days and weeks ahead many of my friends and coworkers in this unique line of work will be doing the same with victims, survivors, families, firemen, law enforcement and other individuals impacted by the horrific event. I would ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers also.

Over the next several days, let’s not get caught up in all of the political frenzies of this shooting, instead, let’s talk and listen to each other. Let’s comfort one another, pray with and for each other, and grieve this loss together.

The next portion is part of a training program that I provide business leaders regarding Disruptive Workplace Events. I hope you will take a moment to absorb it, and apply it where you need to.

Strategic Leadership

Strategic crisis leadership involves high-leverage skills that are vital to corporate recovery in the midst of a crisis of any sort. To be a crisis leader, you need to have the following skills:

  • Define the event beyond the obvious
  • Anticipate the impact on stakeholders
  • Assess the effect on core assets
  • Forecast the intended and unintended consequences of decisions
  • Follow the values and guiding principles of the organization and your ethical standards

Basic Components of Crisis Leadership

Three necessary components of leadership:

Be is all about who you are.

Be caring.

Be calmly assertive – when calmness is not maintained in the fast moving a chaotic of a crisis, a combination of frustration and a need to either dominate or avoid will tend to show up.

Know is about the skills and knowledge you have to acquire.

You must have a vision and know the values of your organization for crisis resolution. It is essential to understand your vision, values, and guiding principles of your organization who you are making decisions.

Do is about the actions you take.

With the core vision, values, ethics, and guiding principles of your organization act in a timely and decisive manner.

Keep communication channels open. Listen carefully and accurately, communicate, accurately, and in a timely fashion.

Five Principles of Crisis Leadership

  1. The well being of people first, with care and compassion.
  2. Assume appropriate responsibility for managing the crisis.
  3. Address needs and concerns of all of the stakeholders. (Know who they are)
  4. Make all decisions and actions on honest, ethical and legal guidelines.
  5. Be available, timely, in communication with all parties.

In a nutshell, an effective crisis leader must act deliberately, quickly, efficiently, and ethically with correct and high moral values.

How can you do this? Have a CIA mindset

C – Core assets-people, reputation, finances

I – involved stakeholders – all stakeholders who could be harmed (real and perceived)

A – anticipation – pray it never happens, but prepare as it will

Four ways you will get the news

  • Personally involved
  • Near but not on site
  • Remote from the incident
  • Social Media, which is becoming the new, unfiltered prime source

Four Questions you have to ask as an event unfolds.

  1. What happen?
  2. How bad is it?
  3. What is being done?
  4. What is the potential for escalation?

Psychological First Aid for leaders

  • Account for everyone and assess immediate needs
  • Establish calm and order and minimize confusion
  • Protect personnel from further exposure to traumatic sights and experiences.
  • Make contact with victims, witnesses, and others that might be experiencing traumatic stress reactions. Listen to and assist with their concerns.
  • Help meet needs during the event and the early aftermath-from contacting loves ones to finding lost phones.
  • Maintain timely and open communication.
  • Have a buddy system in place for your leadership team.
  • Your Employee Assistance Team in as your Grief Counselors, they have the training and experience.

Lessons from Church and School-Based Incidents

  1. Police will arrive first, make sure you and your team remember that the police will not know who the good guys or the bad guys are. If you have a weapon, put it down, and make sure your hands are visible and your movements are slow.
  2. Media will be right behind the police. As a good rule of thumb, in the immediate aftermath of an event, say nothing to the reporters, and encouraged those involved in the incident to do the same. As a leader, what you say to the press and the police could be used as evidence in any future legal proceedings. It is wise to have an attorney present during all questioning, both in there immediate aftermath of the event as well as during any later follow up. Only when such legal advice is present should statements be made.
  3. You will be inundated with spectators, media, and family members.
  4. Police and first responders, including trained chaplains will be on the scene relatively quickly. Many states and large hospital teams may be available to help with the immediate crisis. There are also some national ministries and agencies that can provide help.
  5. Media will want “exclusives.”
  6. Way too many helpers will show up. Some who will be appropriate, some who are well-intentioned, and some with hidden agendas, or for personal gain. I have seen all of these in my deployments as a Professional Crisis Response Specialist.
  7. Messages should be timely, factual, strength-based and forward-looking.

I have written this post hoping that you will find it helpful and informative, but praying that you will never need to implement any of it.

Action Plan: Check out these two articles. Putting on Your Psychological Body Armor. 

Healing from the Las Vegas Shootings.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

Use Active Optimism to Push Back Fear & Doubt!

What makes people move through tough times?

In my last post, I talked about resilience and its importance in being an overcome in life. Resilient, tenacious people make things happen.

My friend and mentor, Dr. George Evelry has made it his life mission to understand resilience and the impact it has on people. In his first book Resilient Child (2009), he looked at factors which influenced children on the road to resilience. In 2012, his book Resilient Leadership (Everly, Strouse,& Everly), he was able to identify and explain leadership factors which build resilience in their teams and organizations. The undaunted researcher continued his studies and released the book Stronger (Everly, Strouse, & McCormack, 2015). In this resource, he looked into the psychological and behavioral factors present in professional athletes, U.S. Navy Seals, as well as those civilians and wounded service members who recovered from catastrophic injury.
What I find most exciting about his research is his discoveries can enable us to understand ourselves as we seek to have an impact on our families, ministries, and work.

Active Optimism

The first trait of a resilient person has engaged optimism. The core belief that life events will turn out well, mainly because one believes she/he possess the ability to assist in making things turn out well. For the Christian, it may sound like the Apostle Pauls reminder in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

One of the keys to understanding active optimism is to realize it is not some “pie in the sky, the world is all rainbows and lollipops.” Dynamic optimism is based on having realistic expectations.

Another key to understanding dynamic optimism is to understand the term self-efficacy. This term was coined by Dr. Albert Bandura (1977; 1997) and means “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments.” Another definition is the person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a given situation.
My question is; Why do so many Christian businessmen and women, ministry leaders, and others struggle with this idea.
I think it is because of our mindset.  I do not believe it is a matter or faith, but more about our mindset.

So John, what are some things I can do to increase my optimism?

Part of developing active optimism has the right mindset.

Dr. Carolyn Dweck’s book Mindset: The new Psychology of Success looks into this matter with great skill and practical insights.
Here is an excerpt from one of my blogs from a couple of years ago.

First, choose to shift into a “growth mindset.”Dr. Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, spent her life researching the origins of mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. Her findings give us two options, a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.

A “fixed mindset” is one in which you believe you are born with a particular set of talents, abilities, and intelligence—all of which are unchangeable. Some people with a fixed mindset may find it harder to experience life change and growth. As a result, a fixed-mindset person fails to develop his abilities and is more likely to give up or become distracted and feel depressed when he fails to make the grade in his own eyes. I believe this is where so many fruitless Christians are stuck; they believe they have no power to change, which is a lie from the pit of hell. In my first book Get a Grip on Depression, I reveal six of the most common, fixed mindsets, or “stinking thinking” patterns that can hold us back. Why not order a copy today.

A person with a growth mindset begins in a different place. When you have a growth mindset, you see yourself and others as more flexible, adaptable, and hopeful. Way down inside, you know the potential for growth and development. With faith, the proper motivation, effort, moral compass, and concentration you have the ability to make the changes you need to make. A person who has a growth mindset does not take failure so personally. That individual tends to see failure as an opportunity for growth. If one path does not work, then the person will try another.

As a Christian therapist, I believe the Bible continually teaches the benefit of being growth-minded. I believe God is active in time, space, and history and He has an active, life-fulfilling plan for each of us. The Bible gives us truth, hope, and stories of those who have gone before us and have found such purpose.
 
From my struggle in this area, I know working toward a growth mindset in the middle of depression may seem close to impossible. However, the truth found in the Bible is, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”(Philippians 4:13 NLT). This confidence is not some magical incantation or mystical, spiritual event, but it is a process or a journey.

In addition to checking out your mindset here are four more ways to increase active optimism.

1.Being successful at something. Actual success builds the belief that one can be successful in the future. Past successes, no matter how small are the building blocks for future successes.

2.Vicarious experiences (observational learning, modeling, imitation) increase the overall confidence of people observes the actions of others. For example, my wife is a Senior Leader in Premier Designs Jewelry; she has been involved with this outstanding company for the past 25 years. Over these two and a quarter decades she has shared her story of abuse, recurrent major depression and suffering a Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury and how she built her business in spite of those challenges. Her hope is by sharing her story; she will inspire her audiences to embrace their challenges with a growth mindset and trust the Lord to bless.

3.Verbal persuasion and encouragement from others enhance self-esteem and resilience. Parents, leaders, coaches, co-workers and teammates have a positive impact on self-efficacy. These various sources of support help set the stage for success. Finding a supportive and encouraging mentor can mean the difference between failure and success in nearly every area of one’s life.

4. Learning to control one’s impulses, emotions, and reactivity under stress and adversity can convey a confidence which translates into proactive resilience.

So what do you want to do? Are you happy where you are? Alternatively, do you want to work on a reset, moving towards a growth mindset, and a more optimistic world view? The Lord put you on this earth to have an impact! One of the ways you can move out of the shadows and into the light is to open your mind to the things the Lord wants to show you and have the courage to live with an optimistic world view.
 
I’d love to hear what you think. Feel free to leave a comment.

(c) 2017 John Thurman All rights reserved.

10 Steps for Surving a Rough and Tumble World: Part #3

This is the third and final blog of the 10 steps for Surviving a Rough and Tumble world. Here is a quick review of the first seven.

1. Practice optimism.
2. Find a resiliency model.
3. Develop a moral compass and unbreakable beliefs.
4. Practice generosity and kindness.
5. Develop acceptance and cognitive flexibility.
6. Face your fears and learn to control negative emotions.
7. Build an ever-expanding tool chest of active coping skills to manage stress

8. Establish and maintain a supportive social network to help you.

Dr. George Bonanno’s research, in his book The Other Side of Sadness, points out one of the ways that people and cultures move beyond trauma, depression and other life events is through community, family, and other networks of people that give us courage, motivation, and shared history to move forward. His research also reveal how important family, friends, and community are in dealing with depression. Learn more about this is my book, Get a Grip on Depression. 

Hebrews 10:23-25 – “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now…(NLT)

9.  Stay physically fit. One I need to work on. Dr. Oz suggests starting out with walking 30 minutes a day. It is a start.

1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20 – “Don’t you realize that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (NLT)

10.  Laugh deep and often

Whether it be some “Old School Comedy” like the Three Stooges or more modern comedians like Steve Harvey or Robin Williams, be sure to find something or someone that can help you keep life on the light side. 

As sad as the loss of Robin Williams is, his humor and zany impressions, and his care for people will live on through the volume of work that he created over his life. 

Proverbs 17:22 – “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (NLT)

Author Ben Sherwood, The Survivors Club, was surprised when Dr. Charney shared the most-surprising insight of his career is “the hidden capacity most people to rebound from adversity.” 

One ancient Latin phrase says it best, Plus estem voius.” There is more in you than you know. Lean into life today.

My next three part series will include some thoughts about depression in men, Robin Williams, and practical things you can do to help someone who is struggling with depression.

10 Steps for Surviving a Rough and Tumble World: Part # 2

Picture

(c) 2014 John Thurman
As I begin this installment of 10 Steps, I wanted to let you know that on I will send out the third installment of 10 Steps Thursday evening and the next three to four blogs will be be very focused on depression, and things you can do to help yourself and others get better. Growing up watching  Robin Williams, I am 62 and he was 63, it was very sad to hear about his suicide. While I strongly disagree with how some media outlets went into the gory details of his death. This sad story reminds us of the power of depression. The blogs will not be negative, but will contain principles out of my book, Get a Grip on Depression and out of 35 years of counseling.

Now back to the 10- Steps for surviving, which by the way, are key to pushing back depression and moving forward in life.

4.  Practice generosity and kindness – unselfish concern for others, being kind-hearted, philanthropic.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (NLT)

5.  Develop acceptance and cognitive flexibility, meaning the ability to learn and adapt your knowledge and thinking to new situations.

The Apostle Paul illustrated the importance of this principle in Romans 8:38-39.
“I’m convinced that nothing-living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable-absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (The Message)

6.  Face your fears and learn to control negative emotions.

2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (NLT)

Philippians 4:6-8 – “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus…Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT)

7.  Build an ever-expanding tool chest of active coping skills to manage stress.

2 Peter 1:5-7 – “So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, and no day will pass without its reward as you mature in the experience of our Master Jesus.” (The Message)

I’d love to hear what you think. Feel free to comment.