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Overwhelmed? Three "Overcome Mindsets" that Can Help.

I've been digging into the American Psychological Association's March 2022 update on "Stress in America," one of the most significant bodies of research on the changes in American's lives since the global pandemic hit. In the past two years, no person has been immune from the changes to daily life and feelings of insecurity that the pandemic inflicted, the economic uncertainties that followed, and the civil and political unrest across the globe. Add to that the climate crisis and the impact on the planet, and it is no surprise that when it comes to the workplace, people are stressed. Leaders, managers, employees, and customers are not checking their stress level at the door when they click open the Zoom screen, make a buying decision, or step over the threshold of the office with all the new RTO expectations.

U.S. workers are the most stressed in the world.

A recent Gallup poll on the State of the Global Workplace found that U.S. workers are the most stressed in the world. Leaders are no exception. In my practice, I focus on creativity and enhancing leadership skills in the C-Suite and executive teams. The term that is showing up most often in discussing leadership challenges is "overwhelmed." The workforce is overwhelmed, their leaders are overwhelmed, and uncertainty hangs in the balance. The majority of leaders are holding back on addressing the tension from fear that they might make things worse by doing the wrong thing. What was right two years ago doesn't seem like it fits today. With my clients, I have found success in applying a "this before that" approach. Before addressing the team, the leader needs to address their own stress. And that begins with how they show up to face the many challenges impacting their business and their employees. The illusion that the "next normal" will reset to the familiar has melted away, and leaders that will succeed are learning how to build and double down on resilience.

In my journey to find tangible and proven ways to help leaders cope, I took The American Institute of Stress's online free workshop on Evidence-based Workforce Resilience. The interactive deck has good tips on how to deal with both personal and workplace stress. What resonated with me on the surface was an exploration of three different mindset approaches that can be helpful in upacking most aspects of feeling "overwhelmed." It fits Break the Tape Leadership's methodology to solve problems from a creative approach, believing that diverse perspectives produce the most innovative and effective solutions.

The three "I shall overcome" mindsets.

The three mindsets that can be used to address the state of being overwhelmed are: Grit, Mastery, and Restorative. Grit relies on the idea of digging deap, Mastery relies on learning and getting into the "beginners" mind, and Restorative looks at using is what is available and known in a new way. Let's use an example of how each of the mindsets can reframe and generate momentum. Jessica is a CEO in the tech sector that has asked the workforce to return to work on a hybrid basis. There is an overwhelming feeling of tension as some workers feel that flexibility should be based on the individual needs versus the job function. Jessica has been avoiding addressing the tension with her executive team and feels overwhelmed.

Grit Mindset: What if Jessica adopts the mindset that return to the office protocols are evolving? Adopting an "it's not over until it's over" approach could allow her to set up mini experiments within the company with transparent metrics to see what is effective. How could Jessica embrace failures as part of the "figuring out" process? Keeping failures small and being curious could lead to insights that may re-energize the workforce. Committing to figuring out what will be the "best" solution is a reframe from committing to a singular policy. It also calls in others to be part of the solution. Also communicating that Jessica is in it for the long haul, whatever it takes to figure it out, can also create security.

Mastery Mindset: When a leader admits that they don't have all the answers, they become more human. Jessica could admit that she nor does anyone in the U.S. have the answer to what will be an equitable and effective RTO strategy. She can ask herself, "What do I and my executive team need to learn before setting a policy?" "How will we know that it is a solution that is sustainable and effective?" "In being students of change and by being vulnerable, what do we gain and what do we lose?" Jessica defined what was non-negotiable (customer satisfaction, meeting deadlines, profitability) and was open to her team helping to define workplace experiments and sharing results across the organization on what was working and what wasn't.

Restorative Mindset: In Jessica's case, defining what was broken in the way the workforce had been working in the last two years was pivotal. In a restorative mindset, she could look at what was the problem and in this example it was loss of communciation and comraderie for a common purpose. Jessica looked at what was broken and came up with questions for her executive team to give her ideas to repair, restore, and re-deploy how they can regain the communication channels and common purpose that was lost during remote work.

The feeling and reality of being overwhelmed isn't going away anytime soon. But using techniques that allow leaders and their teams to show up with tangible methods to navigate the very real limiting beliefs that have taken root post-pandemic and the very real obstacles to driving change can be an effective way to start, experiment, and overcome.

Break the Tape Leadership helps leaders unleash creativity and potential in themselves and the organizations they lead to generate meaningful momentum.

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