Tag: Rachel Parikh

Leading through uncertainty:  Bending towards wholeness

Leading through uncertainty: Bending towards wholeness

Beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep! The sound of the kitchen smoke alarm pierces through the house. I sit bolt upright in my bed. It’s 12.15 am. The lights are on in the hallway. I hear mumbling, “It’s bad, it’s really bad.” I venture into the kitchen and find one of the kids standing in front of the oven. Smoke is pouring out, toxic fumes billowing through the air and out of the window. I carefully open the oven door. Through the smoke I can see a half-baked pizza on a melting chopping board, a growing pool of molten plastic on the oven floor. I cough as the stench fills my lungs. I shut the door quickly. 

California’s shelter-in-place order means our two college kids have returned to complete their semester from home and our high schooler has shifted to distance learning. We’re back to being a full, noisy household. The dining table is a shared office/learning environment during the day, and returns to its usual function in the evening. The fridge is stocked to the brim with food to feed three hungry teenagers, appliances are working overtime, and there’s a stream of family members in and out of the kitchen, all day, seven days a week. Together, we are re-experiencing the good, the bad and the ugly of family life. From lively conversation around the dinner table, to a midnight feast on a melted chopping board – and everything in between.

It’s only 12 months since I was preparing for our second child to head off to college, following in her brother’s footsteps (he’d left the previous year). Our family was dwindling, an empty nest on the horizon. After 20 years of a house bursting with energy, I was dreading the shift to a different kind of reality. I wasn’t sure that I was ready for this new phase and I could see it was going to happen whether I liked it or not. Change is hard; anticipating it is even harder. 

But when the day came to drop our daughter at college, I discovered the emotional work of separation had already been done. I felt at peace. I was happy for her and had a sense of ease about letting go, letting her go off to build a future. Our family was transitioning to a new chapter, a new way of being in a relationship, a new way of being – individually and collectively. 

My husband and I settled into a newly configured life at home with our youngest son. We enjoyed the quieter house and simpler day-to-day routine. I challenged myself to take up a new hobby – ballroom dancing – to tame the inner gremlin that has always told me I don’t know how to dance. I delighted in the rediscovery of things forgotten and the discovery of things I never knew.

It’s now just six months later, and we have reversed gear. The house is full again. Some of our family dysfunction has returned.The kids have grown up in so many ways, but old behaviors show up in moments of stress. Deep-seated father-son dynamics resurface. There are arguments over nothing. The kitchen is on fire. I fall back into my default role: imperfect mediator. Yet new bonds form. The boys exercise together. Big sister tutors younger brother in trigonometry. Our main outing of the week is to the supermarket. We try out new recipes; cook dinner together. Make banana bread. Dust off the board games. 

Martin Luther King Jr once said, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. Perhaps it also bends towards wholeness. These past weeks have reminded me that life is not linear; it is complex and unpredictable, full of stops and starts. It is utterly imperfect, and still it moves towards wholeness. Our role is to focus on what we can influence, and nudge things in the right direction.

Coronavirus has brought about a change to our existence that we didn’t anticipate. It arrived suddenly and forced us to adjust in unimaginable ways. Collectively, we’ve had to do an about-turn. It is easy to feel anxious and disempowered when so much is beyond our control. Yet we are more empowered than we sometimes think. Each of us has the chance to make even small changes, so that we emerge from this crisis stronger than before.

Take a moment to consider your sphere of influence. Are there pockets of dissonance, or places where you feel stuck? What might you do to nudge towards wholeness? Are there conversations you’ve been putting off? People you’ve been avoiding? Is it time to re-envision your leadership? Reimagine your future? Pause for a moment to reflect.

I mean really pause.

Beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep! The alarm awakens us and we respond to an urgent family situation. A spontaneous reaction, subconscious and immediate. Comforting in its familiarity. By contrast, our global predicament feels uncertain, alarming and at times painful. It’s hard going through this, not knowing our direction, or even what awaits us on the other side. Yet just as we have shown willing to adapt over the last few weeks, so can we emerge from this crisis with new ways of living and leading. And, most importantly, with a deeper understanding of what it means to inhabit – humanely and sustainably – this place we call home. Our collective future depends on it. 

Leaders’ Quest offer a wide range of leadership workshops to help leaders and companies navigate uncertainty. To learn more, get in touch with us at info@leadersquest.org.

This blog is part of a series on leading through uncertainty.

Part I: Leading self

Part II: Making conscious choices

Leading through uncertainty: Making conscious choices

Leading through uncertainty: Making conscious choices

I love to wake before dawn. With a cup of warm tea in my hand, I sit and watch the night turn into day. I relish these quiet moments before my family rises, when the world outside is still silent. My phone too is silent and out of reach, invisible to me though it is bursting with content and desperate for my attention. I choose a slower start that allows me to step consciously and softly into the new day without being swept away by events that can sometimes feel out of my control. In this time of coronavirus, it’s especially true.

A few days ago, my husband entered the room, phone in hand, as the sun was rising. He read the notification: “Stock market plunges. Gun sales surge.” My stomach lurched as his words collided with the stillness of my morning. My mind shifted into high gear, as my thoughts churned: People are terrified; they are buying guns to protect themselves. People will turn on each other in this crisis; they will resort to violence to defend their families. There will be mass panic. We are doomed.

In the face of fear and uncertainty, how easily I latched onto that narrative. I was hijacked – body, mind and spirit. How did that happen? The stress of the current moment took me down a path I would not have chosen.

The situation we find ourselves in today is steeped in uncertainty. We have had to implement sudden changes to our lives, and we have no clear sense of when — or even, if — life will return to normal. And what will the new normal look like?

It’s natural to feel anxious at a time like this. What matters is how we process the situation, and the decisions we make. Does our anxiety take us down a path where we believe we need guns to protect our loved ones from a world that’s out of control? Or can we make a more conscious choice?

At this moment of crisis, we have an opportunity to create the kind of community we want to be part of. For example, we could respond by reaching out to family members or picking up groceries for neighbors. In our work lives, we could talk to our team members, listen and support them, or have those career conversations that we’ve been putting off for so long. Maybe you always wanted to try yoga or improve your mile time, read a book or even write one. This could be the time!

In any given moment, we can choose what is important and where to invest our attention and energy, knowing that our choices, combined, will have real impact.

I am reminded of the Cherokee legend about the two wolves:

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 evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. 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.”

We are far from powerless. We may not have chosen the coronavirus, but there are so many things we can choose. They could be small things like how we structure our day, how often we check our phones or read the news. They could be bigger things, like the kind of leader we want to be, our values, how we think about the purpose of our organisations, how we connect and listen to people around us.

All of these choices will determine the quality of our lives on the other side of this crisis. We can be stronger and more connected as individuals, families, communities, teams and societies, or we can keep our heads down and let the days go by until this is over.

Take a moment now to reflect. What are you feeling? How can you use this time to make conscious changes? Have you latched on to a narrative that is keeping you stuck or disempowered? Are you perhaps acting defensively, feeling frustrated or disillusioned? Can you be better served by openness, hope and kindness?

In any moment we can choose how we respond and how we show up to lead. We all have the chance to shape a better tomorrow.

In this difficult period, running ever faster is no longer enough. Leaders’ Quest equips leaders with the capabilities to thrive in uncertain and disrupted times. 

Best Self Leadership in-person and online workshops equip leaders and teams to:

  • Hone their values and mindset to steer themselves and their organisation effectively.
  • Learn how to show up differently and unlock potential in others.
  • Harvest empathy and trust – break silos, work collaboratively and effectively navigate complexity.

To find out more, email us at info@leadersquest.org

This blog is part of a series on leading through uncertainty.

Part I: Leading self

Leading through uncertainty: Leading self

Leading through uncertainty: Leading self

The C word. Yes, coronavirus. 

These are truly unprecedented circumstances. In so many ways, the disruption caused by coronavirus is a microcosm of our times: uncertain, full of leadership voids, lacking a clear path ahead, threatening our sense of control and personal freedom, and instilling feelings of mistrust and fear. 

Many of us have been impacted in some way by this virus. We may not have fallen ill ourselves, but it’s possible we know people in our community who have. Ill or not, we have had to change our routines, cancel trips, postpone events, stay at home, and experience an onslaught of media coverage that challenges us to discern what we can trust. Safe to say, this is uncharted territory for most of us, a problem with no straightforward solution, no end in sight, which is creating uncertainty, unease – and paranoia – at a global scale.

It is easy to become unnerved, anxious, frustrated and even panicked. I am tempted to keep checking the news, knowing I will find more of the same. Another plane load of people quarantined. Another school closure. Another cruise ship denied entry to the port. The number of infected persons is skyrocketing globally. When, if ever, will this end? Has the interconnectedness of our world created a dynamic that is spinning out of control?

Anxiety begets anxiety; it’s contagious and creates a downward spiral. As leaders, we need to be able to counter the chaos and confusion with clarity and calm. We need to adopt practices that help us remain grounded and centered in the face of fear and uncertainty.

One of my tried and tested practices is to take time off and drive to the coast, my go-to place when the world around me seems to be falling apart. This week I took a long walk on the beach. I soaked in the gentle warmth of the late winter sun. I felt the damp sand between my toes and the cool breeze in my hair. I allowed the sound of the waves crashing on the shore to wash over me. I let go of all that I cannot predict, understand or control – and I re-connected with what I know. The sun that rises, the waves that break, the wind that blows. From this place, the virus no longer felt so scary and the uncertainty became easier to bear. I regained my clarity and calm.

What is your go-to practice for regaining clarity and calm? How do you integrate it in your life under normal circumstances? It could be a walk in the forest, a run or a swim. Or maybe a creative pursuit such as painting, dancing, journaling or sculpting. It might be having a conversation with someone you trust, a regular meditation practice, or simple breathing exercises.

To lead through uncertainty, we must have our own way to center ourselves, become clear and calm. In this period of extreme uncertainty, how are you using it and how is it impacting your wellbeing – and the wellbeing of those you lead?

The key for us, as leaders, is knowing how to shift ourselves out of fear and confusion into a place of knowing we can handle the challenges in front of us. The quality of our inner state has a direct impact on those around us who are looking for direction. Just as our fear engenders fear in others, so does our feeling of calm and safety. If we enjoy inner balance and a clear vision of the world, we’ll have a better capacity to enable others to feel calm, confident and safe.

Today, when the world seems to be falling apart under the infamous C-word, take a moment to reflect on your grounding practice. If you don’t yet have one, notice what helps you come back to yourself. And then use the extra time (perhaps freed up by this crisis) to experiment. Find what helps you to lead with greater calm and clarity through these difficult times.

Leaders’ Quest equips leaders with the capabilities to thrive in uncertain and disrupted times. Our leadership workshops can be adapted to your context and needs. 

To help you tune in with your energy sources – and keep your spirits up to show up at your best – Leaders’ Quest will be runs virtual and in-person personal energy management workshops.

These sessions are an ideal way to connect with others and build your energy collectively. To learn more, get in touch with us at info@leadersquest.org