According to a recent article in The Atlantic, today marks the 597th day of the U.S. presidential election. A Pew Research study published in July found that 60% of Americans were exhausted by the barrage of election news. And that was four months ago.
Since then, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton accepted their parties’ nominations, the DNC Chair resigned, the candidates went head-to-head in blistering debates, a tape was leaked of Trump talking about groping women, Clinton walked a legal tightrope over her email scandal, the North Carolina GOP office was firebombed, and Trump is keeping the world in suspense about whether he will accept the election results.
Your team is not immune to the stress reported by 52% of Americans over the presidential election. Regardless of the election results at the end of today, regardless of the fallout that will take place over the next weeks, some members of your organization (possibly even you) will be very unhappy with the results.
During times of uncertainty, it is the leader’s role to bring order to chaos, calm nerves, and manifest a non-anxious presence. Here are three things you can do today to keep yourself and your team focused:
1. Do a walkabout. Leadership builds confidence. Leaders routinely have to make important decisions, often under conditions of uncertainty, that affect many people over a long period of time. Operating under those circumstances helps leaders navigate the peaks and valleys that come with the job. But, your team members may not have a built-in compass. The stress of deciding who to vote for, or of deciding not to vote, can weigh heavily on them today.
Make sure that you build time into your day to do a walkabout. Letting your team see you in the halls will serve as an instant stress relief. You’ll remind them that they are not alone, and you will get through this together.
2. Picture a monkey, an ice cream cone, and an Italian graduate student. In the late 1990’s neuroscientists in Parma, Italy, were studying cells in a monkey’s brain that fired only when the monkey raised its arm. One day, a research student walked into the lab with an ice cream cone. When he absentmindedly raised the cone to his mouth, the monkey’s brain cells for raising its own arm were triggered. Researchers have since found that the brain is filled with neurons that mirror not only the actions, but also the emotions, of those around us. These mirror neurons operate as antennae, allowing us to pick up signals in our social world. When we detect the emotions of another person through their actions, our mirror neurons replicate those emotions.
As you go about your day today, your team will be picking up on your signals. Remember that both your verbal and non-verbal patterns are being imitated and reflected by your team members.
3. Talk about the Johnson Wax Company. In 1886, Samuel Curtis Johnson was a parquet floor salesman in Racine, Wisconsin. One day, he realized that there were more floors than there were products to keep them clean. He mixed his first batch of Johnson’s Wax in his bathtub, abandoned the flooring business and started selling wax as fast as he could make it. Since then, five generations of Johnsons have led the now $10 billion company, making it one of the oldest family-owned businesses in America. This year marks SC Johnson’s 100th anniversary. The company has weathered the Great Depression, World War I, World War II, the Civil Rights Era, 9/11, and 23 presidential administrations.
Whatever happens today, life will go on. Let your team know that this is a season, not a catastrophe.
Question: Are your team members feeling anxious today? What are you doing to help them through it?
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