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What we learn about ourselves during hard times that can help our team be more effective

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

March 2020 marked a turning point in how we deliver health care.

The COVID pandemic arrived and many workplaces moved into a type of crisis rapid response. Teams came together, individuals stretched themselves and as communities, we found new ways to deliver health care to as many people as possible.

As time has progressed, we’ve had to adjust our rhythm of work to shift between responding quickly to unpredictability and settling into a new normal in our workplaces, businesses and lives more broadly.

Now if we pause for a moment and turn our attention away from the inertia of the days, to reflecting on what getting through the challenging experiences has taught you, what comes to mind? What have you learnt about yourself and what have you collectively achieved with those around you?

Here are 3 reflections plus some team tips to help you explore this for yourself and expand this conversation with your team.

1. You are achieving more than you think – our brains are unfortunately hard-wired to remember and recognise the negative emotions, hard moments and challenges. Difficult experiences can feel like they stick and play on our minds more than positive ones. Psychologists refer to this as negativity bias, and it’s linked to evolutionary survival so we can remember or recognise potentially life-threatening situations. Bringing awareness to our hard-wiring can be very useful and building the mental muscle every day of reflecting on what went well, can be an effective way of interrupting the negative thought patterns and an important reminder that you’re capable of positive outcomes during difficult times and are achieving more than you think.

Team Tip. Ask each other “What is something you have learnt, achieved or completed in the past 7 days that has been a positive surprise for you?”

2. Pausing, reflecting and re-prioritising is always a good idea – It’s common during times of pressure to sharpen our skill for decision making and to prioritise high-value activities, but it can also require us to stretch ourselves and spread ourselves across more tasks that we would normally. Then, when the hard times occur over an extended period, we can end up with a never-ending to do list. An easy way to start to re-prioritise your to-do list is to group your tasks into 4 buckets and see where small changes could be made.

a. I love to do – these are the tasks and activities you enjoy and bring value to your team and customers

b. I have to do – these tasks and activities help the team to work more efficiently and effectively

c. Stretching me to do – these tasks can and often should be delegated or re-assessed to be shared across multiple team members

d. Stop doing – tasks you might have adopted or inherited during the difficult times but may now be unnecessary

Team Tip. Ask all your team to do this quick exercise and the have an open and honest quick brainstorming session about what you as a team can review and re-prioritise so you can keep you working well together.

3. Notice what makes you feel calm – hard times often require us to be more focused, work quicker, rush and work longer hours and our bodies can shift into gear to help us accelerate and perform. As individuals it’s helpful to notice how you respond physically during the challenging times and also how you can bring yourself to a state of calm as often as possible. For example, focusing on your breath, tuning into the music playing, or even just smiling at someone are all tiny ways you can expand calmness.

Team Tip. The most effective teams can amplify their output when it gets busy and remain calm at the same time. Share with someone how you stay calm when it gets busy.

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