Caught in the Vortex

The conversation seemed vaguely familiar.  “I just don’t get it,” she said, “we’re facing this massive reorganization.  If we’re going to get through it then people need to reach out, to communicate.  It seems like the more we tell them to do that, the less it happens.  I’m starting to think that we’re going to need to do something drastic to get their attention.”  She sighed sadly.  “Funny thing is, before this reorganization started this team was famous for its collaboration.”

I’ve lived this.  If you’ve been an organizational leader for any length of time, you probably have too.  The problem is that chronic stress, the sort caused by prolonged situations fraught with uncertainty, perceived personal risk and feelings of helplessness (like a significant reorganization at work) actually affect how our brain works.  To make matters worse, these changes further degrade our ability to do things like “reaching out”, making the stress even worse and tempting frustrated leaders to “take drastic action” (which will likely just make things get really bad).

Fortunately, there are some powerful things that you as a leader can do to help yourself and your team.  One of the approaches that I have found very helpful is David Rock’s SCARF model.

We’ve learned a lot about how our brains work.  How does that affect the way you lead?  Let’s talk about it.