Here’s how to find the potential for personal and corporate growth in the wake of trauma’s upheaval.
Good things do sometimes emerge from tough times. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Richard G. Tedeschi explains that even during the current crisis, it’s possible to look beyond the tragic to find a better way of living and working. As a leader, your attitude and personal response to COVID-19 can boost the chances of experiencing post-traumatic growth for both your employees and your business.
FINDING THE POSITIVES
‘Posttraumatic growth’ is a theory co-devised by Tedeschi, professor of psychology emeritus at the University of North Carolina, and is the title of his 2018 book. From cases studied over 25 years, growth resulting from trauma includes “a recognition of personal strength, the exploration of new possibilities, improved relationships, a greater appreciation for life, and spiritual growth”.
You can encourage positive personal and professional development in response to the trauma of COVID-19 by employing five tactics: education, emotional regulation, disclosure, narrative development, and service. “You can emerge stronger yourself. And you can serve as what we call an expert companion for others, encouraging introspection and curiosity, actively listening, and offering compassionate feedback.”
FIVE PATHS TO PERSONAL GROWTH
1) Accepting new core beliefs. When our everyday world is tipped upside down, we tend to dwell on why it’s happened and how hard it is to cope with it. Accepting the truth of our situation can be a painful hurdle, but it’s essential if you want to move forward, seize the positives, and help your employees to embrace them too.
2) Managing your emotions. Your thoughts create emotional reactions. If you rise above your fears and reshape anxiety into optimism, the picture will look much brighter. “You can regulate emotions directly by observing them as they are experienced. Physical exercise and meditative practices such as breathing also help. Employ these techniques yourself and share them to help others.”
3) Acknowledging the trauma. Being positive doesn’t mean sweeping the bad stuff under the carpet; people need to be heard. Tell your teams about your own experience of the pandemic and what you have found difficult, then listen to their stories and appreciate the impact they feel as individuals.
4) Shaping your story. We all have a narrative about traumatic events in our past and the consequences of it. In time you will be ready to tell your story of the COVID-19 epidemic, both for yourself and your business. Look back at the experience meaningfully. What did it teach you? How has life changed for the better because of it? Are you following an unexpected, but better path?
5) Helping others helps you. Examine how you can be of service as the pandemic fallout continues. This could simply be showing gratitude and compassion to your employees, or is there something your business could do for the good of your local community which could promote growth?
FIVE REWARDS OF POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH
The payoff for taking these steps is the enhanced potential for growth for yourself, your employees and your organisation.
1) Surprising strength. You may shock yourself with how well you cope with the crisis and you could find yourself in a much healthier place for the future. If you involve your whole team in the process, they will feel stronger too.
2) Increased courage and adaptability. Showing you are willing to try new ways of working and communicating will also help your staff to uncover hidden skills and qualities.
3) Better bonding. Working through a crisis together can bring you and your teams closer, strengthen existing relationships, and encourage new ones.
4) Enhanced gratitude. Facing the trauma of loss invites you to appreciate what you do have. Demonstrate your value for life’s basics and your teams will follow suit.
5) Philosophical development. Your crisis response could find you scrutinising what is really important in life and signal an opening up to deeper spiritual connection. You might question whether your principles are sound or if your contribution to society is valuable, and reshape your business accordingly.
Tedeschi’s theories might appear “too optimistic or naive”, but he says time will reveal that there is always good to be found, even out of the worst experiences. Don’t let your posttraumatic growth opportunity slip away.