We have used these big and all-encompassing terms to quantify, categorize, and make sense of the last 18 months. Epic words for an epic time. Most of us are speculating how this will play out and wondering what the long term effects will be on education, government, and business. All of that is uncertain and unpredictable on a macro level. What is certain though is that we are all changed, or at least we want to be changed on a micro level. We want to make the most and learn from what we have gone through.
As I reflect on my own experience, I can see that the most significant change is that I look inward now more than outward. I have always been fairly introspective, I am a therapist after all. But what I notice now, combined with that introspection, is that now I ask questions like, “What am I putting out into the world, what DO I want to put out into the world?” I want my thoughts and actions to have an intentional meaning and purpose.
In my office, I see this play out in people struggling to make changes and adjust when their old ways of doing things are no longer working the way they used to. Relationships are different. Dynamics have changed. This results in a restlessness and a general feeling of “What now?”
This restlessness, a searching or desire for a more meaningful life is also playing out in the workplace. This narrative is irrevocably changing how we work and leaving many organizations scrambling to retain good people and react in real time to shifts in approach, attitude, and motivation. Existing approaches to leadership are inevitably going to fall short. This calls for all of us, especially leaders, to cultivate a new skill set that is based on self-awareness and relational positioning and health. This is accomplished by having a nuanced and sophisticated skill set that most of us don’t have innately. It requires us to practice good boundaries, become more responsive and less reactive, take accountability for our biases and prejudices, and cultivate empathy. The old rules simply won’t work in the future. As we slowly move away from a structure of power over to power with, we can do this by leading through example and consistently looking inward with intention and purpose on our course.
Angie Shirey is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker located in Western Pennsylvania. Together with Christy Stuber, a professional coach, they have created real@work. A program designed to bring self awareness and relational skills to the workforce by focusing on the practical skills found in therapy, neuroscience and professional coaching.