Tools for the COVID-19 Arena

The dramatic shift in work and learning environments caused by the COVID-19 pandemic demands adaptation and innovation by our nonprofit and education organizations. Innovation, by its very nature, requires vulnerability.  Vulnerability is defined as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, and it does not come naturally to any of us; ESPECIALLY during times of extreme stress, where we default to our less than helpful coping behaviors. 

The work of Dr. Brené Brown can provide some insights into how to navigate the constant uncertainty we are experiencing during this pandemic.  Brené has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, and most recently completed a seven-year study on courageous leadership.  She developed an empirically based courage-building program, Dare to Lead™, to help leaders and organizations build their courage skill set.  

There are a million ways to connect to Brené and her work, but I think the best place to start is her Unlocking Us podcast that talks in real time about how to cope with COVID-19. Her episode on comparative suffering and the 50/50 myth could not have come at a better time for me in this experience. 

In the meantime, here are the practices I’m leaning on, personally and professionally, during COVID-19. 

  • Increased Self-Awareness.  Dr. Brené Brown explains, “You either do vulnerability knowingly or vulnerability does you.”  We have patterned ways of responding to stress and uncertainty, which Brown calls shame shields. These shields include moving away, moving toward, and moving against.  These shields ALWAYS prevent us from showing up the way we want to and staying in our integrity.  When we can recognize these shields, and name the negative impact they have when we pick them up, we can begin to alter our behavior. Check out this Shame Shields Sorting Worksheet Brené offers in her #DaringClassroom Hub for a quick primer. 
  • Marble Jar. Trust is needed more than ever as we navigate our radically different personal and professional environments. How can we build trust when our normal systems of accountability have changed? Brené’s BRAVING Inventory breaks down the specific elements of trust. Watch her super soul video and take a look at the BRAVING Inventory to see what specific behaviors you can identify that are taking place in your home or organization.
  • Debunking my SFDs. We all make up stories about why something is happening, and it usually revolves around us and our shortcomings. These stories are our SFDs (shitty first drafts) and often have gaping holes in them. I am writing SFDs weekly, and sometimes daily to help me process my thoughts. Here is an easy template to try the next time you get stuck in a vicious thought pattern. You can read about my COVID-19 SFDs here.
  • Personal Permission Slips: Personal permission slips have been in my mental health and courage-boosting toolkit for just over six months. Permission slips are described in the Dare to Lead™ curriculum as, “A practical and familiar way to think about what might get in the way of us talking about how we feel, asking for what we need, or trying something new.”  It seems ridiculous to give myself permission for things I know rationally are true, but I can tell you from experience- it helps. For those of you waging an internal battle daily over what you should or shouldn’t be feeling, or should or shouldn’t be doing- feel free to borrow a few of my COVID-19 permission slips.

I would love to help you dive deeper into the Dare to Lead™ program and use it to live and lead more courageously.  I provide one-on-one coaching, group workshops, and the full sixteen hour program which allows you to become Dare to Lead™ trained. Learn more.


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