Nurturing hope in times of challenge

Written by Nick Ashley
16th October 2020
Seedlings growing

In February we ran a senior team development course in Kabul, Afghanistan for a large charity. On the way back, via Dubai International Airport, signs of what the future was going to look like were becoming evident as the first face masks started to appear. Within a week of returning we’d lost all of our booked face to face training and coaching work in Qatar. COVID-19 was now a global reality.

We quickly made decisions to work from home, close our team workspace and reduce salaries. As the situation un-folded we reluctantly reduced the staff team to a minimum and put the rest of the team on unpaid leave. We, like many others, were in survival mode.

All of this is demanding for the whole team. Not knowing what is going to happen combined with limited power to affect the future is a powerful demotivator. The big thing we need at times like this is hope, a genuine sense of how things might develop positively.

How do you nurture hope for yourself and the team you are in when faced with the conditions we find ourselves currently surrounded by? It is easy to be overwhelmed by despair and swayed by our emotions but there are practical steps we can take to develop hope. Here are some ideas that worked for us:

1. Create multiple, strategic plans based on worst case assumptions, best case assumptions and something in the middle

For our team, in April, we developed two strategic plans. The first based on the assumption income streams would start in October. This was our “middle case”. The second strategic plan was based on income starting in January (our worst case as we could see it then). These strategic plans allowed us to forecast who we could employ, when, and what they would do. We shared the plans with the team, it built hope based on an understanding of the assumptions made and data derived from those assumptions.

2. Develop short term goals

We went from being busy; preparing a presentation skills course for imminent delivery, numerous team builds and delivering a large leadership programme, to having very little to do. This was debilitating and created a sense of hopelessness and fear.

What we found effective was to get together as a whole team and discuss ideas for what we could do. This led us to identifying short term goals the whole team could engage in. We designed online training and associated marketing materials. Our free webinars on how to use Zoom proved very popular! We moved from focusing on the losses to developing opportunities.

3. Keep meeting, keep talking

When I wake in the morning, the challenges I am facing have grown into large monsters during the night. Once I get together with others and talk about my challenges they seem to shrink to a manageable size. Working at home, or not working, can easily lead one to being isolated. And isolation provides a fertile environment for our problems to grow exponentially. It is super important to meet and talk and discover regularly that we are not on our own.

During the summer, we continued to have weekly meetings when we could with the whole team, those employed and those waiting to be re-employed. These meetings allowed the team to be updated on what was happening with regards to work and cash. And it allowed people to share how things were going for them and feel connected.

For many of us, it is tempting to simply hope that soon things will return to “normal” and we’ll be able to get on with our lives in much the same way as before.  But by doing this, we often rob ourselves and our team of the hope that embracing and facing the situation will bring. At the beginning of October, we were able to re-engage most of our team. It is richly rewarding to be together and have work to do.  And we are faced with a future of opportunity often cleverly disguised as challenging circumstances.

If you are interested in going deeper and exploring different ways to nurture hope and help others nuture hope in your organisations you might be interested in one of our upcoming open courses. Especially relevant for the context we find ourselves in, they provide practical advice and tools to help you and your team thrive in the current circumstances. The courses are delivered live online so you can take part wherever your office happens to be. Find out more: 

Online open course: Strategic planning through challenges 
Online open course: Overcoming self-doubt to tackle bigger challenges

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