Leading a New Normal (strength and tenderness)

by Brian Brittain on March 20, 2020


I am reminded of a William James (the world’s first psychologist) quote, “What you pay attention to in this moment becomes your reality.”

I just went through an interesting exercise where we were asked, what were we paying too much attention to, and what were we not paying enough attention to.

I notice if I spend too much time watching the news, I just get anxious and unclear. When I spend time on exercise, writing,  going for walks, being with my family, I am more likely to feel calm and centred.

The TV now stays off, until I know there is a particular piece of new information coming (no more binging on CNN), and I go out for daily 40 minute walks with Elizabeth, my wife.

Are you as leaders, paying attention to the right things?

As Leaders how are you helping your teams turn down the noise of anxiety and uncertainty, and turn up the signal of hopefulness and resilience?

Here are a few things I think are important for you to stay focused on in order to keep your team’s energy focused and connected with each other.


  • Acknowledge we are all in uncharted territory that requires a new normal. The bad news is that we are all struggling with our need to adapt. The good news is that we are ALL in this together.
  • Help your team see what the controllables and the uncontrollables are in your world. Focus on what they can influence, no matter how small. This will focus them and stimulate empowerment.
  • With them lay out different future scenarios, from worst case to most probable case, so your team has a sense of certainty and preparedness.


  • Maximize the use of technology to meet (Zoom/Skype Works, etc.). Physically isolate, but don’t emotionally and socially isolate.
  • Virtual meetings tend to overboard on task and neglect relationship. It is your job as a leader to ensure these virtual meetings provide connection and emotional support. How do you do this?
    • Check in with each other at the start of the meeting. Ask people how they are feeling? Do the same thing at the end of the meeting. Give people a chance to update how they feel now.
    • Don’t dominate the meeting. Mute yourself, and give others a chance to talk with each other. Don’t compulsively fill the silence. Give people time and space to talk.
    • Make part of your agenda to discuss how individuals could connect with individuals after the meeting. (e.g. WhatsApp group, Slack, etc.)


  • Role model openness and vulnerability. Tell your own story about your difficulties
  • Make it okay, to NOT be okay.
  • Survey the team for how they are dealing with their own stress.
  • Extend your interest beyond them, into their families and communities. Check to see they have a robust support system for all this.


  • Get your team focused on its purpose, or how it adds value. Why are we important?
  • Get your team talking about how they can best impact other teams, customers, etc.

At some point in the future enable a conversation with your team that gets them talking about in what ways will your team emerge stronger from this experience.

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