Coping During a Crisis


How can Success-Minded leaders cope during times of crisis?

In our interviews with hundreds of leaders at the top of their field, it was clear that they shared a common perspective. The key they repeatedly shared with us was the importance of managing their mindset during a crisis.

Today, with the world facing the same crises together: the lingering coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, the worldwide shipping crisis, and the war in Ukraine. Over the past two years, we have witnessed fear and panic spread like never before in our lifetimes.

Similarly, researchers have found that fear in the workplace is contagious. We pick up other people’s reactions and take them on as our own – all without consciously realizing we are doing it. Mindsets, both positive and negative, can spread among employees like viruses. And this has a real potential impact to your organization.

Sigal Barsade, PhD, Management Professor at The Wharton School, has conducted research into how positive and negative mindsets become contagious at work. She shares that leaders can unconsciously spread their negative or positive reactions to their team members, and the impact to the team can be significant. For example, Dr. Barsade’s research found that the impact of the spread of negative emotions impairs employees’ judgement and business decisions.

The good news is that a positive contagion can spread as rapidly as a negative one and the impact is very beneficial. Research demonstrates when a positive, compassionate mindset is adopted, teams display more cooperation, less interpersonal conflict, and perform better on their tasks than groups in which negative emotions were spread by the leader.

As leaders we can impact the spread of psychological contagions, especially during a crisis. Self-leadership is more crucial than ever. Strengthening our innate Success Mindsets of Positive Thinking and Compassion comes down to the decisions we make.

This is beautifully illustrated by the following story.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is negative – he is fear and worry.”

He continued, “The other is positive – compassion and hope.”

The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

As leaders, we are reminded to regularly ask ourselves, which wolf am I feeding?

So, what can you do to encourage positive Success Mindsets in your team that will help you get through a crisis?

  • Engage your employees daily. Even small things like saying “hello” or asking how things are going for them can help your team feel more engaged in the work they are doing and in you as their leader.
  • Improve your empathy. Pay attention to another person’s situation or feelings and how they are affected by it. Listen, ask questions and give someone your undivided attention.
  • Create psychological safety. Psychological safety is allowing people to be themselves without fear of negative consequences to their self-image, status or career. Involve everyone on the team, allow everyone to speak-up, allow reasonable risk-taking, create space for new ideas and encourage productive conflict resolution.

At Success-Minded Leader, our focus is to help leaders build and strengthen their success mindsets. Call us at 425.835.2124 or schedule an exploratory call to discuss your needs, schedule a Miller Success Factor Assessment (MSFA) or learn more about our Becoming a Success-Minded Leader or Fast-Track-to-Success programs that focus on development of the 9 Success Mindsets.

You are invited to join our private Success-Minded Leader Facebook group, where we share articles and discuss what makes a Success-Minded Leader.

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