January 10, 2021


Summary

Large-scale events, world events, weigh on us, even when we were not directly affected by them. This is especially true when they were unexpected and rather traumatic.

Normally these events are short. Presently we are working through a rather long world event as a global society.

The way for us to process such events is to meet others in the same situation with empathy and share how we are feeling about the event. We listen to each other and support each other.

More and more organisations embrace the importance of mental wellbeing. This is something I am touched by. Naturally, professional coaches are in a strong position to support people in their processing of world events. Offering coaching is one such way for organisations to support staff.

Finally, there are exercises that help to accelerate the processing of world events. One such exercise I share in this episode.




Full Transcript

“World events are affecting us quite deeply. And in this video I would like to cover some reflections on what I've seen we can do in the world of work and what organizations can do to help us process these world events together coming right up. 

Hi, my name is George. I am a coach and this video is coming from some realizations that I have been processing over these last few weeks and months and actually I've been having a hard time coming to choose this topic for today's live stream. 

Originally I wanted to cover the sprint goal, an exciting topic for sure, but when I dug a little deeper, I realized that because of today's states, I wanted to stay with something safe. And if I had covered the sprint goal, I wouldn't even have mentioned the date of this live stream being the 11th of September. And once I realized that I leaned into that sensation a little bit and thought it would actually be better for me and hopefully also for you watching this, if I was to cover a little bit about world events and how they're impacting us as human beings and how we're carrying that impact into our experience in the world of work. 


So in 2001 on the 11th of September, a terrorist attack happened, you will probably be very well aware of that. 

And if I was to ask you, what did you do when it happened? Where were you? Most likely you will remember exactly where you were that day. For me, I visited a friend in order to help her assemble a PC. And she put on the news as I started to lay out all the kits and made sure we have everything before getting started. And she went to the news channel and all of a sudden we saw it happen and we were in disbelief at first. And our attention was focused on seeing this tragic event unfold in the United States. 

Now it is 2020, and it is 19 years later, and I'm still feeling for all the loss that happened and the tragic of this event back then. But now we are experiencing another world event together, something unprecedented in most of our lifetimes. I mean the closest thing to this was the Spanish flu in 1918. And in our lifetime, certainly in my lifetime, we haven't had anything like this global pandemic. So over the last few months, we've all been through lockdown. 


Many of us have been through quarantine, myself included, and I personally have been hit quite hard from a mental health point of view by this and I'm still recovering. 

This year on top of last year with a lot of change, we had a baby which in itself is an absolutely joyous event, but also a big change in lifestyle and comes with a lot of sleep deprivation for those of you who haven't experienced parenthood yet. And moving countries also to Portugal, but our apartment wasn't ready so there was some stress with that. 

So those were all big changes for me that I managed, and I think it would have been okay if it hadn't been for COVID-19. So all of this stuff is still carrying and I'm still processing working out of it. And I connect with other people regularly of course as we all try to, and it is very obvious that we're all carrying some weight from all of this and of course the global dynamic is not the only thing that is happening right now. Some weeks ago we had the explosion in Beirut and we are very close in our family with wonderful people from Beirut and we got to experience what they, excuse me, what it all was about, what it's like for them and for the people that they are close with in Beirut. 

So this is a shared experience and whether we're directly affected or whether we're close to people who are directly affected, we are processing all of these events and it is clear that these events are impacting us as we attempt to go and be the best that we can be and serve the people at our place of work and do what we can there. 


Now the question comes, how we can work with this? 

How can we process together what is happening in the world so that we don't attempt to shut off a big part of ourselves as we switch on our next video call and do what we can there? 

I believe it is very important to be supportive when we work together, and yes of course we want to be professional, but professional doesn't have to mean robotic. Professional doesn't have to mean that we're negating the fact that we are people. We are people and we cannot switch off the home persona or the personal persona as we switch on the personal persona. It's not as easy as that. 

If we were to do that, then we're actually leveraging what is in psychology referred to as masking, we're pretending for something to be what it isn't really, or we're pretending for something not to be there, as we are attempting to go about our work. So another way of looking at it is that we want to remain authentic as we go about our work, and as we attempt to collaborate and do wonderful things in order to help to create a bigger positive difference for people or our planet. 

So I've seen a few things that I'd like to share with you that hopefully you have also seen yourself or that you might consider in order to help you and the people around you and your work work through this.

So one is a technique called normalizing from professional coaching that's also used in psychology and therapy, which is to simply speak out the fact that what we're going through is normal and we're not the only ones experiencing what we're experiencing. And the simple act of acknowledging this can provide some relief. 


We're not alone in this, everyone in the world is going through the global pandemic. 

And while on the surface, that is logical, some people tend to brush over the personal impact or mental impact or emotional impact. And I think to some extent, I'm perhaps still doing some of that, although I do my best to continuously work on that balance of being professionally personal if you will. So normalizing is one thing that we can do.

The other thing that I've seen come up more and more in my feed on LinkedIn is people sharing their successful completion of mental health first aid training, which is something that I have yet to do. So this is something that is available, this training is available remotely of course, the first ones I saw were all a in-person workshop based, but of course this has also moved to online. So if this is something that peaks your interest, it should be easy to find out there.


Mental health first aid in my mind is just as important as physical first aid.

We are a person that has something intangible as well as something tangible, a spirit and body if you will, and our mind and our body both need attention. So when we see people who are obviously stressed, who are not in great shape and first step we don't need mental health first aid training in order to offer an open ear and simply listen to them and empathize with what they're going through and perhaps also share if we're experiencing something similar, further to that though mental health first aid would prepare you to support people through panic attacks and things like that. 

So guide them through those experiences in order to help them out there. So that's another thing. The third bigger thing is more related to organizations. And this is where, what I'm about to share is not as concrete necessarily because it is more about principles. And in my mind a good organization is one that appreciates people for what they are.

 

People are not resources, I'm not a resource. I might be resourceful, but I'm not a resource. 

A resource would mean that I am replaceable, there is someone exactly like me, and they can pick up the phone and order another George Fasching, and that's not the case. So we're not mutually exchangeable carbon units is a term that I've come across some years ago, unfortunately I can't remember which genius has mentioned that. 

So looking at our staff as people, and some news have been out there about companies doing this, I believe it was Google and Facebook, have been open about the options with regards to remote working and not forcing people back into offices, which is something else I'm gonna cover on in a little while in this video. But also to experiment with other techniques and giving people more freedom, taking time off to recover from this different experience of doing around our work, some companies have always been remote, Basecamp for example has always been remote and Stream I think the gaming platform company if I'm not mistaken, they've always been fully remote. 

But for many many other companies and your company might be included in this, this is a new thing. So being flexible, trying different things to help people work through this new experience that is there. I also believe coaching sessions and offer of coaching would be a great thing to add if that is not yet available in your organization with trained, qualified, accredited professional coaches who can help people process what is going on there and help themselves establish a plan for creating an even better version of themselves, providing some support here is good, having some agreement with mental health practitioners also would be a good idea. 


Experimenting with things like listening sessions or talking circles. 

If you haven't come across those yet listening sessions are simply pairing up existing staff members and giving them some introduction to active listening and simply providing an open ear. 

This is not about giving advice or telling people what to do, this is simply providing others an opportunity to be heard, to be understood, to be listened to. And that in itself can also provide great relief, and of course these conversations would be subject to complete confidentiality and will be mutual, so the people that come to get in listening sessions take turns, and then the other person listens. And I might link this up in the description below. I've got a few videos with very brief instructions, then includes active listening I'm available so if you want to work out, practice that skill of active listening, you can do that, it's a free online course you can do it in an hour or so, maybe even less. 

So the other thing I mentioned were talking circles. Talking circles are a slightly bigger version of that or remotely I presume, or if you do have people coming back to the office with social distancing in a room, where people take turns and they share their experience, what they're going through and the rest of them listen, that is also something there and that provides connection and also an opportunity to be heard and understood. 


Now I wanted to come back to this thing I mentioned about organizations looking at going back to the office and remote work. 

I've actually received inquiries from work friends, almost reliable once per week, over the last couple of months about what to do about that. I'm very grateful that they considered me for listening to what I'm suggesting on this. And usually it was sprung up by them being with a mid sized to large organization that has declared that the office is going to be reopened and people are expected to come back to be in the office for no less than three out of the five days per week. 

So if it's as high as five days, I would be very concerned with that because people might not feel ultra safe about that. It should be on an optional and voluntary basis and there should be a conversation between organization and staff on what the experience might be like, and also get some feedback on what the organization is considering on how to do that responsibly. So if your organization has been doing a stellar job at that, if you could share this in the comments would be fantastic to get some insight into how that has been done. 

What I've heard from some companies I got a bit of an insight to is that the capacity has been reduced. The public or collective areas are set up in a way where you can be present and you can be together, but still respect your distance. There is a regular cleaning schedule that has also been made public. From one company I've also seen that there are almost shifts available so rather than everyone being in the office at the same time, the presence is shortened, the working day at the office is shortened and then staggered which can also work for some. If an organization demands returned to the office for five days a week my guess is that they are looking at it from a cost point of view, they have a lease signed and they are obligated to pay the commercial rent for that space and they want to get good use of it, but forcing everyone to come back to the office is not the only way to make good use out of that. 


There are many ways of making something useful, with that real estate, you could do something for the greater good. 

You can talk to the health ministry and see whether it has some use for them to you to use a portion of your offices for a popup lab of some sort or whatever it might be. So there are many other uses there too. You could convert some of them to social distance friendly event space for your organization and acknowledge the fact that some things, and this is leading onto what I would suggest to actually do before such decisions are made, to remodel if you will and that can be done in a cost effective way. The office space that you do have for those activities that are truly best done together in the 

same room. So rather than thinking, do we stay with remote working exclusively or do we all come back to the office, which are two extremes? Why don't we collaborate and work out what are the list of key activities that we need to undertake in order to go about our work and which of these activities are best done in which manner? Which can be done remotely, which really should be done better in person? So rather than having a binary response to this question, we are identifying categories of key activities and then choosing either remote work or a hybrid approach or an in person option or something else that you might come up with and do it this way. So this would actually give us more flexibility and also helps us to be more responsive to people's potentially different feelings around staying at home or coming to work. Not everybody who's currently working remotely want to stay working remotely. 

A lot of people really want to come back to the office and I also know a quite amount of people who are very hesitant to go back to the office because they're still concerned about transmission. So I know it would be easier to just say, yeah let's all go back to the office or let's all stay remote working, but we have an opportunity here to redefine what our work experience could look like. So I would suggest we use this as an opportunity to do so. Now these were some of the key thoughts that I've had on the subject, if you have any other ideas or queries or concerns or experiences, please do share them in the comments so we can all learn from each other would be fantastic. And the one last thing that I forgot to mention previously is in our work in teams, linked to what I said as the first point, that is normalization, you can very easily have a session that is dedicated to simply processing what's currently going on. 

We can use a little a technique from professional coaching to help us experience it also, which uses a physical object that we can drape over ourselves to experience what it's like to feel the weight of a world event and externalize what it's like to feel that weight, and then remove the objects from us and place it where we feel like placing it. And remotely this is very comfortable to do because we can all pick something that we can drape ourselves, it could be a towel or a scarf or whatever you might want to use in order to simulate that. In a group session that everybody does it at the same time. 

So place the item on you, it represents the world event you can do the sessions and focused on COVID-19, or you can do it on something else that impacts you where you are as a team and externalize and share, take turns externalizing, sharing what that feels like to feel that world event on you or with you. And then take the item and put it somewhere where you'd like to put it. And then again take turns sharing what it feels like now that that world event is identified and gone. And it doesn't mean that a world event is subjectively gone in the world, of course it is still there, but this is about processing our experience and our relationship with that world event. 


So that's a technique from relationship systems coaching that I found quite helpful processing some experiences in the past.

So hopefully you might consider trying that out if you have, let me know how it goes. I'm glad I didn't forget to mention this one. I remembered to include it. Just checked my notes all covered so far. So once more if you do have any experience with these things, something that your company has been doing really well or has been done really well in your team that helped you process world events, please do kindly share them. 

Also let me know if you found some of these tips useful in the comments and whether you've tried something, how it worked out for you would be great to work through this together. Now it looks like the cadence for these live streams will be three times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in a regular week. Next week I'll be with a client for a few days, so it will only be on a Friday, maybe I'll get one down on Thursday, but yeah so that's it for episode number four. If you do have found something in this video that was inspiring or useful, please kindly let me know by a like. And if you haven't yet, please consider subscribing and hit that notification for updates on new videos. 

And with that, thank you very much. Let's roll the outro. Thank you very much for watching, and I wish you all the best in working through this and processing world events together with your people at work and your team. 

And goodbye until next time."

==end of transcript==

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About the author 

Georg Fasching

A leadership team development specialist, International Coach Federation - Professional Certified Coach, with global product management experience since 2000, employing Agile & Lean since 2010, Georg Fasching guides leadership teams to delighting their clients, fulfil their people, and improve their prosperity.

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