Making things better together (Online Exclusive)
A crisis can be intense, distracting, and frustrating. A crisis is a quick, unexpected change that requires us to readjust our expectations. As human beings, we eventually adapt to change, but in the midst of it, we may find ourselves struggling. A crisis challenges us, but it doesn’t have to impact us negatively. We learn lessons that we may not have learned otherwise. By recognizing the power of perspective, utilizing intentional communication, and knowing that there is always a solution, we will empower each other and make the most of our time in a crisis.
The power of perspective
You set the perspective for your people. You define reality. If you decide that you will let a crisis shut you down, then you give the crisis all the power. However, if you decide to use a crisis to challenge your team to get motivated, then you create a space for growth. When you see everything as an opportunity to learn, you change the way you view the world. That positivity will influence your team to look toward a better future. Plan themed video chat meetings and think beyond traditional transition documents; fun ideas help change the perspective of “having” to have a meeting to “getting” to have a meeting. It’s also giving your people something to look forward to, because crisis is a time where we, as leaders, can give our people glimmers of hope in the chaos. Understanding the power of perspective allows you to be more thoughtful, more compassionate, and more effective in the way that you solve problems during times of crisis.
I have learned that when it comes to communication, it’s about effective and wise communication in times of crisis, not simply increased volume. Because we are so information overloaded right now, I need to make sure that the way I’m communicating is concise, straightforward, and positive. When communicating with your team, amp up the positivity: challenge them to simple well-being activities (go outside for 15 minutes today, spend 20 minutes reflecting on your favorite moment in pharmacy school, bake chocolate chip cookies and send some to me), sprinkle in inspirational quotes, and provide resources for professional assistance. As leaders, when you offer your personal assistance to others, you are offering them tools to help build themselves up, and you have taught them a way to continue to grow long after you’ve been around them.
Always a solution
There is always a solution to every problem. Leaders know this because they respect the necessity of adaptability and flexibility, and they know that it’s even more crucial in a crisis. Since a crisis usually introduces spaces where we’ve never led before, we may ask ourselves, “Am I doing this right?” Let me let you in on a secret: we are all doing the best we can with what we have. You’ve experienced crises before of different magnitudes. Crisis management is intensified problem solving. You have the power in you to always find a solution.
I have learned the importance of helping my people feel safe. When you examine Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, people need to feel safe before they can focus on love, belonging, pride, and a desire to grow. In times of crisis, they look to their leader to give them safety and guidance. It’s okay to not know the answer, and it’s okay to not have all the answers. People appreciate when their leaders are authentic. Be clear about what you do know and what you don’t know. Do your best to give your people direction to help them prioritize.
Life is uphill. Life is messy. In what feels like an even steeper uphill battle, we must stick together. John Maxwell said, “Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is knowing that we will make things better together.” You don’t have to do this alone. Grasp the hand of a friend, who will grab another, and another, until our entire student body is hiking up this mountain alongside one another. We don’t know when we will reach the top, but we will embrace a positive perspective, utilize intentional communication, and find creative solutions along the way. Hope is alive within this Academy and within our profession.
So, shall we keep climbing, friends?
Kelli Jo Welter is a final-year PharmD candidate at the Drake University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences and the 2019–20 APhA–ASP National President.