Leadership Reflections for Clarity during COVID-19

Lost in the Cloud of COVID-19?  As efforts to “flatten the curve” of the spread of COVID-19 intensify through “Stay at Home” orders, many are working from home (WFH). Or in my case, I should say Working From Cabin (WFC)!  As I write this, my husband and I are working remotely from our cabin in the middle of North Dakota. I am thankful we have each other, this place, and access to our loved ones and clients through high-speed internet (thank you Zoom!).

I am wondering: how I can make a difference for each of you?  My heart breaks for all people whose businesses have closed or jobs eliminated; whose loved ones are sick or worse; and whose own health is stressed or struck-down, physically and emotionally. These are troubling times. 

Meanwhile, we try to ignore the constant barrage of social media, but like moths we are drawn to the flames.  How do we stay focused in uncertainty? How do we stay connected while separated? How do we see clearly when feeling lost?

Lost.  What do you need to do when lost?  In the words of poet David Wagoner, the answer is simple:

Stand still.  The trees and bushes beside you are not lost.  Wherever you are
is called ‘Here’, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger, Must ask permission to know it and be known.  The forest breathes.  Listen…
….
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, you are surely lost.
Stand still.  The forest knows where you are.  You must let it find you.

https://thefirstgates.com/2012/09/05/lost-a-poem-by-david-wagoner/

This blog is my offering to you.  Whether you feel isolated with too much time on your hands, or overwhelmed with no time to rest, I encourage you to stand still, and breathe deep, even if only for a minute.  My wish is this blog will give you some ideas for reflection, resilience, and renewed hope. 

Daily Quarantine Questions. 

I found a great set of Journal Prompt Questions on UC Berkeley’s online Greater Good Magazine: “Six Daily Questions to Ask Yourself in Quarantine:” 

 image by Brooke Anderson, @movementphotographer

I’ve jotted them down on a post-it on my own laptop. These questions help me restore a sense of normalcy lost, structure my day, and check-in with myself.  For Self as Leader is where we all need to start.  Here is the article: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/six_daily_questions_to_ask_yourself_in_quarantine.

A Daily Leadership Reflection Practice. 

In early January, I sent some Journal prompts to some of our coaching clients who wanted to start a Leadership Reflection Practice in 2020. Little did we know then how much the world would change in just a few weeks. I thought perhaps it might be helpful if I share these journal prompts with you. I’ve included some new questions to help navigate through the COVID-19 cloud.  

Daily Reflection Prompts (1 minute)

  • Looking Backward:  What worked well yesterday? What didn’t?  What’s the most useful thing you learned? What are you most grateful for?
  • Looking Forward: What is your intention today? What do you need to do differently to be the best version of yourself? What is one thing you will do to refuel or increase your resilience? 

Weekly Reflection Prompts (3-5 minutes)

  • Looking Backward: What progress did you make last week?  What challenged you? What was a sliver lining you found in the cloud; or a source of strength? What lessons did you learn?
  • Looking Forward: What is one thing you will stop doing? What is one small step you could take to strengthen you? What do you need to focus on in the coming week?

Periodic Reflection Prompts for Focus (1- 5 minutes)

For those of you who are having challenges focusing right now, perhaps these prompts may help.

  • What’s the most important thing (or person) for you to focus on right now?
  • What will happen if you don’t focus on it?
  • What are you not thinking about that needs attention?
  • What has been preventing you from thinking about the things you want to be focusing on?
  • What’s one small step you could take to remove or minimize that obstacle?
  • Who or what could be a support to you in this time?

Summary:

In our work with leaders and teams, we have noticed that those who have regular reflection practices show up differently as leaders.  As Peter Drucker once advised: “Follow effective action with quiet reflection.  From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”  Reflection helps us develop a practice of pausing~ to notice and name where we are putting our attention~ then taking a moment to choose our future intentions. 

The challenge is, in times of crisis and volatility like these, can we truly feel we have a choice?  The answer is:  YES! We always have a choice to pause- even if only for a minute. 

We hope these questions will prompt you to start or strengthen your own reflection practice. There is no one right way nor perfect time to reflect. What is one small step you could take to build a reflection practice?  And what better time than now to start?

Published 3/20/2020
Kathleen Marron is a certified Master Coach | author | leadership and gender diversity expert in Minneapolis, MN. Her prior experience as a lawyer, mediator, and leader provides a unique perspective for the leaders, teams and organizations whom she serves.  She specializes in equipping leaders and their teams with the tools they need to achieve breakthrough success. Her new book, Fearless Feedback, is available for purchase on Amazon (see www.fearlessfeedbackguide.com ). Whether you are interested in our coaching of leaders or teams, or  our leadership development programs, we’d love to hear from you.