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Curiosity or Catastrophe – How managers can impact employees in the second wave

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Curiosity or Catastrophe – How managers can impact employees in the second wave

Curiosity is the essence of human existence and exploration has been part of humankind for a long time. The exploration of space, like the exploration of life, if you will, is a risk. We’ve got to be willing to take it – Gene Cernan

Just when you could see that there was light at the end of the management tunnel and you’d pulled your head out from under the doona, COVID takes its revenge in the form of a second lockdown in Victoria and the re-tightening of restrictions in other states.

It appears this virus is striking back when our optimism was growing as the cases reported was falling.

Feeling unmotivated right now? You’re not alone.

After all you’re human…

Turn your attention to your team who are shrinking back into survival mode. Their hardwired instincts to survive kicking in hard right now and their narratives would be more aligned to catastrophe than curiosity.

Research by the National Science Foundation states that on average, humans have between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day, and of those thoughts, 80% are negative and 95% are repetitive.

Think of it like this.

Imagine there’s two old fashioned metal filing cabinets in your head.

An eight drawer one is chock-full to the brim and overflowing with bad news (catastrophe) and next to it is a two-drawer cabinet, scattered loosely with good news (exploration and curiosity).

And that’s before the second wave hit!

Now, overlay that with repetitive thoughts and the catastrophe just keeps on growing as we add more bad news stories to the filing cabinet.

There are so many subtle reminders right now bringing a sense of ‘am I next?’ as our hardwired survival instincts kick in once restrictions started to tighten again.

“Humans fear loss much more than they value gain.” – Marty Linsky

So, what can you do as a manager to assist those in a state of catastrophe migrate to a place of curiosity? Is this a bridge too far to cross right now?

Author of ‘Being Human’, ‘The Little Book of Human’ and creator of the Human Manager Experience, Mark LeBusque has a simple process that could just be the circuit breaker that helps employees put more sheets of paper into their good news filing cabinet.

Curiosity or Catastrophe – How managers can impact employees in second wave
Mark LeBusque, Founder and Director, The Human Manager

It’s based around giving your team members time to explore and get curious about the ‘what’s next’ in their career and step into what LeBusque describes as the ‘P.O.C. Process’.

First things first, we’ve not been great at the career development process and now is a time to give your team members permission to explore ‘what’s next’ for them.

An invitation to do a deeper dive into their passion, opportunities and capabilities and get curious with themselves.

In reality, we know there is a likelihood of more layoffs so why not give them a bit of time and space to get clear in their minds, just in case they are facing a future of uncertainty. 

What are the steps that can be taken?

  • Passion – What do you want to be when you grow up?

Humans are mostly ambitious and given a chance to explore their passions creates a level of trust and opens up dialogue that is usually suppressed or spoken about once per year in a formal career (boring) development conversation.

Who knows if Judy in Sales really has an ambition to be part of the Operations team or Bill would love to move from Finance into the Marketing group?

  • Opportunity – Who can I connect with and build broader networks?

We are social creatures and LeBusque suggests creating what he calls a ‘network tree’ by adding branches to the trunk every time you meet a new connection.

As a manager, you can play a critical role in both encouraging your team members to network (even virtually) and by using your own network to help others expand theirs into areas they are passionate about.

  • Capability – What are my skills and how can I develop them further?

What a time to undertake a capability audit, however LeBusque warns you not to just have your team focus on the technical skills.

Include a section on what he calls the human or transferable skills and spend time assessing strengths and gaps in both.

Remember, as a manager you’ve had some practice at this in lockdown one, and whilst it feels different, there is a constant here.

Human beings are at the centre of the issue, and they are hardwired for survival and ever alert for their own catastrophe.

Give them permission to explore and become curious about what ‘next’ might look like, and some sense that there is a chance to put more sheets of paper into their good news filing cabinet.

It might feel risky as there is a chance that a great employee moves on.

Don’t wait until ‘that moment’ where you ship them off to an outplacement or career step consultant. Give them a chance to challenge themselves and practice curiosity rather than sit in their catastrophe.

It’s the human way to be.

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