Awareness: The First Step in Conscious Leadership

Learning about ourselves and how we relate to others

Imagine being able to share your thoughts regardless of who you’re speaking with or your expertise in a field. Imagine being able to empower your team to do the same. Is it possible for a workplace to openly communicate regardless of title or hierarchy? How do you get to the root of how your team is feeling and empower them to share openly and honestly with you? This is where Conscious Leadership comes in.

A Conscious Leader embraces their whole self with total awareness of their leadership impact.

They are able to listen and understand how they relate to others in a way which allows them to continue to grow, adapt and lead their team more effectively.  In order to become a more Conscious Leader, one must make a shift into a more conscious mindset. Effective leadership begins with Awareness and is the first step in the Four A’s of Conscious Leadership.

What is awareness and why is it important?

Awareness is defined as the “quality or state of being aware.” You might be wondering “what does this truly mean” or “how does this relate to leadership?” 


Daniel Goleman, who popularized Emotional Intelligence, considers self-awareness to be the most crucial competency associated with workplace emotional intelligence. His studies suggest that people who are aware of their emotions are more effective in their jobs. They recognize and understand their moods, emotions and needs and are able to perceive and anticipate how their actions affect other people. 


They are also open to feedback from others on how to continuously improve and make sound decisions despite uncertainties and pressures. As a result, they are more trusted leaders and create more productive workplaces.

When we learn to tune-in to ourselves, we create choices of how we move forward and engage.

Self-awareness is about being “in-tune” with yourself in relation to others. It plays a critical role in:

  1. How we understand ourselves
  2. How we relate to others 
  3. How we connect to the world around us

When we tune-in, we can learn about our inner resources, abilities and limits. We begin to understand our strengths and weaknesses and become open to receiving candid feedback. This allows us to see new perspectives and continue down our path of learning and self-development. 

What are the blind spots?

“I don’t know that I don’t know something.”

The challenge in self-awareness is we all have blind spots. 


Blind spots: (noun) Things we may not be aware of about ourselves or in relation to others. 

Blind spots are created due to either a  lack of a skill or competency or the inability to see  how our stories, beliefs, mindset, feelings or past experiences impact our behaviors. This is called unconscious incompetence, simply put

I don’t know that I don’t know something. Below are the steps that people go through learning new skills as outlined in a model that was developed by Noel Burch in 1970, called the four stages of competence. The model highlights two factors that affect our thinking as we learn a new skill: consciousness (awareness) and skill level (competence). 

Our blind spots have control over us and our actions. Yet, when we understand the underlying unconscious mechanism that drives our thinking and actions, we have the ability to choose our next steps.

We can use awareness to move to the next step on the ladder, from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. This is the act of moving from “I don’t know that I don’t know something” to “I know that I don’t know something.” Once we are aware of what we don’t know, we have choices available to us. 

A case study: building awareness in a senior leader

In my work with senior leaders, increasing awareness is one of the first areas I work on. One of my favorite examples is a client who was completely unaware of the impact his communication style had on others. As a senior leader he was a strong problem solver and was driven to achieve results in a very timely manner. However, his approach was not getting the best out of the people around him. This was his unconscious incompetence.  

After completing Leadership Circle 360 Assessment, he received feedback on how others perceived him. They saw him as driven, but his direct style was perceived as not collaborative. As a result people did not feel motivated to work with him. At meetings, he dominated conversations and didn’t give space for others. In reviewing his results, he went from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. This information gave him the choice
to then  acknowledge his behavior and move into action, the next steps in the conscious leadership framework. 

Increase our awareness through feedback from others


One of the best ways to become more self-aware is through asking for feedback from others. 

Self-Awareness Tip #1: I often suggest that leaders find people who they trust to tell them one thing they can do going forward to be a more effective leader. This is what Marshall Goldsmith refers to as Feedforward as a way to focus on the future and not the past. 


Self-Awareness Tip #2: I also advise that leaders listen to feedback with curiosity and without attaching to the feelings that come up. There are also more formal instruments available to seek feedback from others such as the 360 assessment or 360 interviews. Both are valuable methods to increase awareness through feedback from others. 

Increase our awareness through self-inquiry


Equally important, is becoming more aware through self-inquiry. This means questioning, exploring, examining and investigating anything regarding oneself.

 Self-Awareness Tip #3: Psychometric instruments such as DISC and EQ provides a lens to better examine our individual attributes. These assessments help us better understand ourselves and the impact we have on others. 


Self-Awareness Tip #4: Self-inquiry also requires reflection about what emotional stimuli or events have impacted you. It is important to maintain daily practices to assist in this journey. Remember, you are not your thoughts and feelings. You are merely observing your responses and reactions in order to better understand who you are and how you impact those around you.

These self-awareness tips may seem easy enough, but in practice self-awareness is a process of constant learning. Therefore, ORCA and WithPause have put together a detailed guidebook that you can use throughout your day for self-inquiry: 7 Daily Micro-Practices to Shift Your Experience.

Awareness is the first step to Conscious Leadership...

Awareness is about our ability to be fully present in the moment and to choose our next steps in an informed and conscious way. Once we are able to increase our awareness, we can move forward to the next phases of acknowledgment, action and adaptation. 


Do you need advice or support in your journey to increase awareness for you or your team? Download our resource 7 Daily Micro-Practices to Shift Your Experience.


Stay tuned for the next part of our Conscious Leadership series which covers the second step of the 4 A’s of Conscious Leadership: Acknowledgement. If you want to keep up to date, join our newsletter for a monthly dose of conscious leadership.


Feedback Culture—and How to Build It in Your Organization

Great leaders know it feels good to be recognized for our accomplishments—and even better when “constructive criticism” is actually constructive, without the criticism. 

The mere mention of feedback in some organizations can put people in a defensive state. However, if organizations can create a culture of feedback – understanding how others experience us provides valuable opportunities to learn and grow as leaders. 

So what is feedback culture? And why do leaders need to create it? 

Feedback Culture: Rooted in Candid Communication

Having a feedback culture in your organization rests on a very important foundation: frequent, two-way, honest and candid communication.

When a regular cadence of authentic and honest feedback is implemented, employees are empowered to give feedback, regardless of organizational hierarchy.

So why does it often prove so hard?

The Feedback Struggle is Real

Organizations and managers struggle with feedback for a variety of reasons; but the ones we see most often include:

  • Ambiguity On Feedback Outcomes: The result of giving feedback is potentially scary or uncertain and, therefore, leaders, employees and managers avoid it altogether.
  • Lack of Structure or Resources: There is no formal process for collecting or garnering feedback, making it difficult to know when and where feedback is appropriate.

Leaders Set the Tone

Feedback also improves employee engagement, a huge indicator of how vital a company’s culture—and future success—will be. High employee engagement means higher morale and therefore productivity and achievement. Everyone wins.

In fact, 88 percent of employees believe a strong company culture is what will make the business successful. And 94 percent of executives agree.*

Leaders set the tone for how feedback is given and received and must show a level of compassion and vulnerability in communication throughout the organization.

The First Step is Asking for Help

We love to help leaders lead—and implementing an open environment of candid communication and collaboration, where two-way feedback is welcomed, is an important step.

The second step is having critical conversations in a timely manner, meaning, before there is a problem. 

The third and most important step is scaling the skills and tools across the organization to successfully have ongoing feedback conversations.

ORCA’s Engagement Report from TTI helps leaders understand themselves, and others, and make the most of the relationships that affect them in the workplace. It gives people a language for having difficult conversations, greater awareness of themselves, and a structured opportunity to give and receive feedback.

We are providing a shortened 4-page version of the new Engagement Report as a complimentary resource for leaders. You can take the assessment and get your complimentary report through the link below.  

Want a customized solution for implementing feedback culture in your organization and give people the skills to have healthy conversation?  Contact us today. 

The Rise of Employee Burnout and How ORCA’s New Engagement Report Can Help

In the new year, many of us have a renewed sense of hope and purpose, even though we still face challenges. 

As we talk to more and more leaders in the technology space, such as CHROs and Chief People Officers, their primary concern is the rise in employee burnout. 

What many of these leaders don’t know is that the risk of employee burnout is not just about working long hours. 

According to Gallup, when employees are inspired, motivated, and supported, they do more work with less stress. 

The question then becomes how do we keep employees inspired, motivated, and supported?

What is the cause of employee burnout? 

I’m sure each of us could name a laundry list of reasons, especially in a post-COVID world. We aren’t taking time off to get a needed reboot; there are home, work and social stressors; and communication can be more difficult in a remote environment. 

However, according to a recent study1, there are six main stressors that lead to burnout:

  • Overwhelming external shocks, compounded by workload. 
  • Feelings of isolation and lack of psychological safety. 
  • Unsupportive workplace culture. 
  • Existential crises and a lack of purpose.
  • Over-invested identity.
  • Gender-, racial- and age-based discrimination.

The cost of burnout for organizations represent significant loss in revenue, increased rate of talent attrition and loss of team and workplace culture. 

What can leaders do?

Communication and engagement are positively correlated, and can help create a stress-free environment. As a leader within your organization, you have the power to better engage your employees (and yourself) at work. Yet, just as the stressors that cause burnout are different for each employee, the way we engage employees is based on their unique style and personality. Therefore, how we inspire, motivate and support are different for each person, making blanket solutions difficult. 

TTI Engagement ReportWhat is the Engagement Report? 

This is where TTI Success Insights new Engagement Report can help. The assessment is meant to understand how to engage and reboard your employees and leaders, increasing employee wellness. The report combines DISC and the 12 Driving Forces to reveal the “how” and “why” of human behavior.  

The most exciting feature in TTI’s new Engagement Report is its easy-to-understand and shareable nature. The report now has updated statements, new words for each behavior in DISC, and new descriptors to increase understanding. My favorite page of the full 8-page report is the Communication Do’s and Don’ts which can be shared with your colleagues, teams, managers and leaders so they know how to best connect with you.  

(In order to provide important resources to leaders, we are providing a shortened 4-page engagement report to all those who are interested! Try it out here.) 

What are the benefits?

As an HR leader, the assessment can help to:

  1. Increase self-awareness in employees 
  2. Open the channel of communication and feedback between employees and managers 
  3. Give you the opportunity to reboard (and reboot) your staff 
  4. Better understand what engagement initiatives would work best in your organization  

The Engagement Report is just the beginning. Once you understand how your employees, teams and leaders need to be motivated, supported, and inspired, it’s time to get to work through leadership programs and initiatives. 

Take the first step and try out a shortened version of TTI’s new Engagement Report, as a complimentary resource from ORCA HR. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the Engagement Report, check out this blog from TTI Success Insights.

Need help finding customized solutions for your leadership needs? Contact us today for a free consultation. 


 1Study by Jonny Miller (Curious Humans) & Jan Chipchase (Studio D) 

How Remote Tech Companies Can Foster Collaboration

Presently, the world is fully connected, and information flows peer to peer at light speed. The pandemic expedited the adoption of online collaboration tools, making it easier than ever for scaling organizations to work together on different projects with multiple people from many locations. There is little doubt that collaboration is key to the success of organizations in the marketplace. 

Apple’s Success Story

An excellent example of the benefits of collaboration involves the launch of Apple’s iPod challenging the Sony Walkman. Sony had invented a small portable music player and had dominated the market since the Walkman’s introduction in 1979. By the time Apple introduced its iPod in 2003, Sony owned the Walkman and VAIO personal computer divisions, Sony Music and Sony Electronics. Most importantly, they held a vast music database. However, what Sony didn’t have was the collaborative culture that Apple had succeeded in building. 

Sony divisions worked in siloes, which hindered their research, marketing, and go-to-market strategies. At the time, they believed that decentralization would make them more agile but what they didn’t realize is that it came at the expense of communication and collaboration. According to Jeff Robins from the iTunes division, “It was just an incredible team project. There were no boundaries. The software guys, the hardware guys, the firmware guys, everybody worked together.” Apple’s marketing triumph illustrates the benefits of collaboration when well executed. 

The Key to Effective Collaboration

If you are leading an organization where remote teams are the norm (or the new norm), you will have more diversity in communication styles and perspectives versus working in an office. This requires people to respect and more readily adapt to each other’s styles. Identifying interpersonal efficiencies and styles is essential in understanding how to collaborate effectively. Discovering each others’ communication styles and preferences and adapting to communicate effectively is possible, however, it requires that you know yourself quite well. 

Remote Teams Need New Tools

Using DISC assessments, which measure behavioral and communication preferences based on the theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston, remote teams can create a common language for communication and behavioral preferences among staff. Furthermore, DISC helps to support team members to:

  • Better understand themselves and others 
  • Open up and share candidly
  • Communicate effectively 
  • Increase awareness and new perspectives
  • Connect in a valuable and meaningful way
  • Adapt to work more productively with one another 

Successful team collaboration is an ongoing process, with real and measurable results. It’s not a set of tactics or strategies you put into place once and forget. It’s an intentional, dynamic process that needs a long-term orchestrated effort. The DISC tool is a great baseline to start the process and help your remote team along the journey.

Take our free Personalized Work from Home Report to gauge your remote work style. Or if you’re ready to learn more about DISC for your team, contact us today. 

The Power of Self-Awareness


A leader’s performance is more than their academic background and business experience. Instead, there is an entire package that includes soft skills, and most importantly, self-awareness. Thankfully, the power of self-awareness is a skill that can be taught through researched-based tools, resources, feedback, and reflection. 

Benefits of Self Awareness
Self-awareness allows us to know who we are and how others perceive our actions. To challenge our assumptions, it is paramount that we become aware of the internal dialogue that guides our choices. Awareness of why we do what we do allows us to understand how we impact our world, organization, peers, team members, and partners. Being conscious of how we see ourselves and how others see us is at the core of any good manager, leader, or team. 

Building Better Teams 
The first step is for leaders to better understand themselves. The second step is for leaders to better understand their teams. An effective leader sets the context, creates a vision, inspires the team, and provides clarity. By doing this, their team will embrace the organization’s vision and recognize the impact of their work which leads to greater job satisfaction. However, in order to inspire a team, leaders must not only be aware of their own actions but must learn about their team’s inner world, perspectives, communication style, and motivators. Through this understanding, leaders can effectively build the bridge between vision and inspiration.

The Bottom Line
The third step is for individual team members to develop self-awareness. Research shows a direct correlation between high self-awareness and better team performance. (Source: Erich C.Dierdorff and Robert S.Rubin, published on HBR in March 2015). When there was a large difference between how an individual team member perceives their contribution to a team versus how their teammates perceive it, performance is greatly hindered. Therefore, investing in the development of self-awareness for leaders and teams alike is pertinent to the profitability of any organization. 

It Starts With You
As leaders in our organizations, the path to success starts with us. Adopting the habit of observing our behaviors, instead of acting and reacting using our unconscious mind, is the first step. The advantages of becoming more self-aware include:
·   Uncovering blind spots 
·   Improving communication efficiency
·   Adapting to difficult situations faster

Developing this skill in our leaders will instill a culture of self-awareness in the rest of the organization. 

Using DISC as a Tool for Self-Awareness
Thankfully, there are useful instruments to help leaders and teams develop self-awareness. One such tool we recommend at ORCA HR is DISC, a 4-color framework based on observable behavior: Dominance (challenge), Influence (contacts), Steadiness (consistency), and Compliance (constraints). 
The DISC framework evolved from Carl Jung’s study on Psychological Types, where he identified four types oriented by thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. Following Jung, William Marston published Emotions of Normal People in 1928, where he identifies four categories: Dominance (challenge), Influence (contacts), Steadiness (consistency), and Compliance (constraints). In 1948, Walter Clarke launched the first version of a professional assessment that later would evolve into DISC. 

Used By Millions
Today, the DISC study is sophisticated and enriched by a database of millions of completed assessments, allowing executives to understand their behavior, learn how to observe others’ behaviors, and build efficient communication bridges. The result will be a success at the job and in society at large.
At ORCA HR Solutions, we apply, debrief, and certify professionals and organizations in the language of DISC. Contact us to further understand how DISC can impact your organization.

Ready to try DISC? Take your Free and Personalized Working From Home Report to experience DISC first hand and learn the best way to adapt to working from home. 


Diversity and Inclusion Are Not Enough

The past decade saw an increasing focus on diversity and inclusion in the corporate world. I remember the first training I did on unconscious bias in the early 2000s and seeing the defensive faces around the table was intriguing. At first, we were probably ashamed to realize our bias and how they played a role in the way we hired, managed, and evaluated our teams. Years later, studies proved the effectiveness of diverse groups, and quickly there was a surge of targets for diversity in the top organizations.  

Since then, diversity and inclusion became a metric to evaluate team effectiveness. Multigeneration workplaces, cultural variety, and complimentary soft skills are also components of a successfully diverse organization. However, before I continue recapping the rise of D&I, let me share some impressive numbers. 

According to a research published on Fast Company magazine, a higher representation of women in C-suite level positions results in 34% greater returns. Still, when we look at the Fortune 1000 companies, in 2019, women representation was at 25%, merely 1% up from 2018. Another study, conducted by Korn Ferry in 2019, breaks down women’s presence in the C-Suite, showing only 6% of representation at the top of the pyramid. 

When considering gender, age, ethnicity, veteran status, disability, and LGBTQIA+, results show that a diverse corporate talent pool increases innovation and helps organizations attract and retain talents, generating a virtuous cycle for organizations. In 2015, a report from Delloite showed that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity had 2.3 times more cash flow. Interestingly, the graph below still shows underrepresentation at every level of corporate America.

If all those results showing the benefits of diversity are not sufficient, we may think that movements like #MeToo would be an extra help. Well, there is evidence suggesting that it is more difficult for women to advance their careers in the past three years. A 2019 survey conducted by and SurveyMonkey found that 60% of male managers are uncomfortable performing everyday workplace activities such as mentoring, working one-on-one, or socializing with women, representing a 32% increase over 2018. That makes me think about how the current Black Lives Matter protests may influence behavior towards people of color in the workplace.
We need to take a firmer instance and be proactive. An interview, where Sweet Livity’s founder Diana Marie Lee talked about Restorative HR, inspired me. She defined the concept as a strategic approach for improving workplace culture and worker well-being. According to her, the goal is to build capacity in the organization, teaching employees, at all levels, to hold space for courageous conversations and restorative work. The approach is inclusive and intends to provide tools for each team member to self-manage future issues. In my opinion, the merit of this approach is to create a safe space for both managers and team members.
In summary, there is a need for organizations to build a foundation of trust that allows collaborators to be vulnerable and show up as their real selves. Secondly, we need to retake our unconscious bias training and demystify themes such as racism, gender inequality, age, and other bias triggers. Thirdly, and lastly, there is a necessity to be tolerant during a period of intense education and learning. It is unlikely that we will succeed if we do not act. It is even more doubtful that we will get results and progress if we have fear instead of trust.

Boredom. Busy mother working in kitchen at home, her daughter upset with lack of attention, panorama

10 Tips for Successfully Working from Home with Your New “Colleagues”

Most of us are working at home with a new set of colleagues. My newest work colleague is a teenager, who has lost the normal daily structures of High School. He is not very happy with this or this new working environment. This provides its own set of challenges as we learn to work together.

Others of you might have a younger set of new colleagues who are even more demanding, and less understanding of the new working arrangements. You might also be competing for workspace with a partner who is now your new work colleague.


1.     Have a routine and structure for your day while still being flexible with this new environment/situation.

2.     Set clear boundaries with friends, family, and even pets to avoid possibly procrastinating tough challenges.

3.     If you are at home with children, find time to connect! It is different when they are in school given the distance and out of sight out of mind, but now that everyone is in the same space, new norms need to be established. Spending 10-20-30 quality minutes during the day will pay dividends.

4.     It is easy to get distracted or be tempted to log more hours from a remote location in the support of the team — remember to manage your own energy and take some time for yourself.

5.     Set expectations around the time you will be working – a clear beginning and end time?

6.     If you are having a challenge, ensure you communicate with your leader or a peer to seek solutions. Ask questions on things you are unsure about via online chat or email.

7.     Move regularly throughout your day. Don’t forget to stand up and make sure you add regular breaks into your normal daily routine.

8.     Communicate with family and friends using an online chat tool with your colleagues more frequently than normal to avoid a feeling of isolation. We need people more than ever right now.

9.     Don’t shy away from challenging assignments; simply ask for help if you need it.

10.   Be aware that living in these uncertain times can create uncertainty and anxiety, (See our LinkedIn post)

If you’re having a hard time transitioning to #WorkingFromHomeLife, you’re not alone. The good news is that we have great tool to share with you and your colleagues to make communication easier. Please take advantage of our gift from TTI and ORCA HR Solutions of a Free Working from Home Report .  This is based on our most popular DISC Behavioral Report. This takes no more than 10 minutes complete and will give you insights into your own behaviors and some tips of how to work with your family and colleagues.

Portrait of modern mixed race man speaking by phone while working from home in cozy interior, copy space

Engage your People with Caring Conversations

As I reflect on my previous role as a Microsoft Global HR leader. I have been wondering how I would have navigated a similar moment in history and what challenges I would have faced in that role. What support could I offer my teams as an HR leader and as a business leader as we enter an unprecedented period of uncertainty and upheaval?

Over 80% of the U.S. is being asked to stay at home and some countries, like Italy, are in 100% lock-down. I want to pay my respects and gratitude to people working in essential roles, especially the medical teams on the front lines of support for COVID-19 patients. 

 Since so many are working from home, I have received dozens of emails about virtual meetings and information on how to use technology to support people during crisis. A range of technologies help us communicate when we are physically distanced; however, we need to ensure that our people feel supported through genuine human connection. 

What conversations are you having that connect personally to each of your employees at this time?  How do you show you care?

We must reach out with compassion and empathy. How do you empathize and “step outside your emotions to view something from the perspective of the other person”? To help you gain a wider perspective on what your teams are feeling and experiencing, consider the following questions/tactics:  

  • Reach out to listen with empathy about what is going on in their lives at this moment and how can you provide support 
  •  Ask them what transitions are they going through personally and how can you support them through this. Some people will be feeling a sense of grief from intense change.  
  • Let them know we are all in this together and you don’t have all the answers  
  • Ensure they feel empowered and trusted to take care of their work and schedules 
  • Engage them in conversations, creating the space to come up with innovative ideas 
  • Ask how you can help them move forward through uncertainty 
  • Ask how you can set up a great virtual environment, and provide them with some best practices? 
  •  Be transparent about the work situation and what you know and don’t know 

In the past few weeks, I have read and spoke to a few leaders who are doing great things to support their people. Others have not yet taking action. Where do you stand?  

Some leaders are intentional in their support and some are innovative, offering virtual beer afternoons, coffee breaks online, mental health breaks, mindfulness classes, book clubs from home, reach-outs to help others in need, and many more great ideas. 

I would love to hear from you if you would like to share what are you doing to support your people and what innovative ideas are emerging in your world.    

To help you facilitate support for your teams, we offer a virtual workshop and webinar. 

“Leading in Times of Anxiety and Uncertainty Virtual Workshop”  

  • Helping my myself to help others:  Using Emotional Intelligence tools to understand what is happening to me in times of uncertainty.
  • Empathy and Conversations that build connections :  How I can understand what others are feeling and experiencing. How I can create conversations that build trust and strengthen relationships
  • Supporting my people through turbulent times:  Practical exercises and frameworks that I can use to support myself and my teams 

Contact us at

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Leading in Times of Anxiety and Uncertainty

To support their teams through uncertain times, effective leaders reflect first on their internal world and personal awareness. By understanding themselves better, leaders can apply that knowledge to navigate the external world and offer relevant guidance and aid to others.

Facing uncertainty, we may find that our bodies feel tense and we cannot channel our energies on forward movement. We are frozen by the fear and anxiety surrounding us. On an instinctual level, our brains first stop and assess our environment for safety and danger. This reaction is perfectly normal as our nervous system has entered a “threat state”. To read more information about this natural neurological reaction, see the footnote below describing the SCARF model*.

Reacting to threatening experiences, our bodies release cortisol, the fear hormone, with dire long-term consequences for our health. Positive experiences trigger the release of dopamine, a hormone that contributes to confidence and higher performance.

An average of three positive experiences dilutes one comparable negative experience because cortisol is three times more powerful than dopamine. To reduce your stress level, engage in as many positive experiences as you can to boost your beneficial dopamine levels.

As a leader, proactively taking steps to support your people  creates more positive experiences in this time of high anxiety and uncertainty.

  1. Start with yourself and be aware of how you are feeling about the current situation.
  2. Practice self-regulation in moments of high stress.
  3. Reach out to others. Ask people how they are feeling. Actively listen. Connect. Everyone needs more support and social connection at this time.
  4. Set up a meeting with your team with no agenda. Gather your team and ask each person to share what is happening if they would like.
  5. Ask your team regularly about how you can best support them as circumstances change rapidly.
  6. Share these 10 steps with your group.

Below is a checklist of 10 immediate actions to take yourself, and share with your team to increase their positive experiences and decrease their stress.

  1. Be mindful – Recognize and acknowledge your thoughts and emotions at this moment. Be aware of tension in your body. Name your feelings. To improve your self-awareness, you can ask yourself:
    1. What am I experiencing right now? How am I experiencing that in my body? Be specific about naming thoughts and feelings. My mind fills with fearful thoughts. My throat feels tight. Pressure weighs on my chest. My jaw clenches when I’m anxious.
      • Name your emotions specifically – e.g fear, sadness, guilt, anger or frustration?
      • Why am I experiencing these emotions? Validate what you’re feeling as useful information to move forward.
    2. What are some of the reasons I feel this way? What can I control? What is out of my hands?
    3. How do these emotions impact me and my ability to perform or move forward?
    4. What small step can I take to improve the situation?
  2. Take action today on what you can control: Prioritize action on what moves you forward rather than focus on all the things you cannot control.
  3. Connect with others: We are social beings; our community helps us feel safe. Reach out to people by phone or video, connect with friends and family, following social distance guidelines.
  4. Engage in what refuels you; What can you do to refuel or recharge your energy? Practicing mindfulness or meditation can be very helpful in these uncertain times.
  5. Move your body: Exercise to relax, and stimulate your brain’s production of endorphins, the chemicals that act as the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.
  6. Experience nature:  Evidence shows that spending time in nature creates many measurable beneficial changes in the body and the mind.
  7. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about how you are feeling. Talking out loud about your fears and anxieties can reduce your stress level. If you’re feeling really stuck, talk to a mental health professional or coach.
  8. Create a routine for your day: Since many of us are working from home, without the predictable structure of the work environment, it is normal to feel a bit lost, or out of sorts. Build a daily structure that supports you and helps you deal with the uncertainty still to come.
  9. Pause: If possible, slow down on making major decisions. Be aware that emotions precede actions and you may not make the best decision when you’re feeling stressed. Fear and anxiety can have a deep subconscious effect on our ultimate decision in a given situation. A negative emotional reaction may cause a disregard of facts or data that that logically support a certain decision. Pause and revisit the decision when your mind and body are in a less threatened state.
  10. Help others: Reach out to people who may need support. There is scientific evidence that when we focus on doing something good for others, the act of kindness causes our brain to release dopamine, increasing own our happiness and calming our minds. If you can activate yourself or your community without putting yourself at risk, do so.

If you need support putting these steps into action, please contact us for a free 15-minute consultation. We have tools and methodologies to support you through these uncertain times.

Additional Information

*David Rock, NeuroLeadership Institute, refers to the SCARF Model*that describes the five domains of human social experience: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.

  • Status defines relative importance to others.
  • Certainty concerns our ability to predict the future
  • Autonomy provides a sense of control over event
  • Relatedness describes our sense of safety with others. Friend or foe?
  • Fairness depicts the perception of open-minded exchanges between people.

These five domains activate either the ‘primary reward’ or ‘primary threat’ circuitry (and associated networks) of the brain. A perceived threat to one’s status activates similar brain networks that respond to a threat to one’s life. In the same way, a perceived increase in fairness activates the same reward circuitry as receiving a monetary reward.

The model enables people to more easily remember, recognize, and potentially modify the core social domains that drive human behavior. In normal circumstances, the brain assesses our environment for safety and danger. However, in the current state of the world with the Covid19 crisis, we are experiencing additional stress:

  • We cannot personally control the global reaction to the Coronavirus
  • There is uncertainty about how and when the situation will resolve
  • In the immediate future, our autonomy as an individual has been severely impacted.

In addition to this our need for personal connection to others and relationships are being impacted. We respond neurologically to these challenging situations as if there has been a threat to our life. Frightening experiences produce more stress hormones, like cortisol over time. If we can’t reduce our stress levels, the following can occur:

  • Decreased cognitive performance
  • Decreased oxygen available for critical brain functions
  • Tendency to overgeneralize
  • Defensive responses
  • Exaggerated reactions to small stressors
  • Heightened agitation
  • The tendency to dwell on previous negative experiences
  • Struggle to get along with others