In recent months, all of us have experienced some level of disruption to our lives, the scale of which will have depended on so many factors: front-line worker or not, experience of family bereavement or illness, fear of loss, requirement to juggle childcare with other responsibilities, level of income, etc. A question for us now is what can we learn and how can we grow from this?

Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun coined the phrase ‘post-traumatic growth’ (PTGrowth) in the mid 1990’s to describe positive psychological changes experienced as a result of traumas undergone. They distinguish between ‘big T traumas’ and ‘little t traumas’, the latter of which we will have all experienced to some extent.

Margaret Moore, of the Institute of Coaching (affiliated with Harvard Medical School) describes how in the PTGrowth construct, a trauma or crisis is defined as a ‘life-altering event that is undesirable and psychologically seismic’. Such events disrupt the basic assumptions that we have about life and challenge our core beliefs. They can produce significant levels of anxiety. She adds that what’s important is how traumatic the experience is in the eye of the beholder, as opposed to any form of objective evaluation of the trauma experienced.

Such experiences, whilst difficult at the time, can sometimes result in personal growth. Tedeschi and Calhoun describe how such growth can relate to the following domains:
• Appreciation of life
• Personal strength
• New opportunities
• Relating with others
• Spiritual Change.

We all know people who have overcome adversity and been stronger and better people as a result (by their own assessment). The question for us now, is whether there is something in the experience of recent months that can prompt personal growth, that would be enriching and beneficial to us, once nurtured. Can we build on this unique period of time?

When speaking with colleagues and friends, many have spoken of how their lives have been changed utterly and how they would not want them to go back to the way they were. Others are craving a return to pre-Covid normal, which seems unlikely anytime soon. Many of us pressed the pause button on different aspects of our lives as Covid hit. We can’t however press the pause button indefinitely, We have aspirations for our lives, careers and business imperatives to deliver on. Yes, there are constraints, but how can we engage with life and work to maximise our impact ?

Here are some questions which we have explored ourselves and some of which we are exploring with clients:
• Has your sense of what’s important changed?
• Are there things that you now appreciate more than before?
• Have you put work, career or life aspirations/ objectives on hold?
• How would you rate your own level of engagement at the moment on a scale of 1-10?
• How would you rate the level of engagement of your team on a scale of 1-10?
• If we assume the current situation is here on a semi-permanent basis, how do you want to engage differently to make the most of this time?

We invite you to reflect on some of these questions with a work lens or a personal one, or indeed both. Our ways of living and working have been upended and are likely to be for the foreseeable future. How can we make the most of this time?

This Autumn, we are running a new leadership programme ‘Leading in Complex Times’, which provides the space to explore such questions and much more. It is as much about personal as professional development. As is the nature of these times, this programme will be virtual, with a mix of podcasts, virtual workshops, virtual peer group and sub-group sessions. We will also use a mix of readings and movies, and most importantly participant leadership case studies, to apply the learnings. The material is heavily influenced by adaptive leadership concepts from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government as well as theories of adult development and coaching.

We would be delighted to share more about this programme or indeed 1-1 coaching if the idea of pausing for reflection at this time appeals to you. Please do get in touch.

In addition, we have included here a link to our latest podcast on this theme.

Eadine Hickey and Gerry Prizeman

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