How can we be better leaders amidst global crises?
How can we provide mental health support for our teams?
How can we foster spaces for resilience and recovery?
This is an incredibly difficult time to lead. The recent acts of terror in Israel have deeply affected our team and community, and as we face this tragedy, our role extends beyond business as usual.
As we continue to support our community affected by the Israel-Hamas war and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, we recognize the delicate balance between giving space to heal and encouraging a return to impact. During times of global crisis, there’s very little we can do as individuals to make an impact, the best and the only thing we can do is come together and offer support—when we create alliances we are stronger.
We’re using the A.Team platform to serve as a conduit for connecting non-profits, builders, and startups who either need assistance to keep projects moving or are looking to volunteer their skills and services—an initiative we are calling the United Tech Force.
We've also been talking to our builders, customers, and community about the challenges they’re facing and wanted to share some strategies that we’ve found incredibly valuable as we work together through this.
Here is a list of questions and topics that have come up recently within our community with resources and insights from experts we’ve worked with:
How can I be a better leader amidst global crises?
Today's workplace is shaped by the collective experiences of a global pandemic, economic uncertainties, and ongoing conflicts, which have all contributed to a shift in managerial roles.
Mental Health First Aid:
In this piece from Harvard Business Review, Adi Ignatius summarizes the concept of "mental health first aid", which has emerged as a vital skill, with tips for equipping managers to provide initial support without overstepping into the role of therapist. Simple acts of acknowledgment and validation of an employee's distress can be powerful first steps in fostering a supportive environment.
The VUCA Framework:
HBR also outlines a modern take on the VUCA framework—originally developed by the U.S. Army War College. Here's how managers can apply the VUCA principles to strengthen their teams:
- Volatility: Responding to fast-paced changes with agility and not allowing the fear of the unknown to paralyze decision-making.
- Uncertainty: Making informed decisions even with incomplete data, and preparing teams to pivot as situations evolve.
- Complexity: Simplifying processes and cutting through the noise to focus on what truly matters.
- Ambiguity: Recognizing that there may not always be a clear right answer, and being comfortable with making the best possible call with the information at hand.
The Kübler-Ross Change Curve:
In the gradual journey back to familiar rhythms of work and daily life, it's crucial for companies to grasp that employees will require diverse forms of support. It's a journey without a set timeline, where leaders, managers, and teams must acknowledge the varied paces and experiences of individuals.
The Harvard Business Review offers insight into the five stages of grief, framing them within The Kübler-Ross Change Curve, a model initially conceived to understand personal loss and later applied to organizational change. While it's been referenced in the context of the pandemic here, its principles are profoundly relevant for any form of crisis and grief management.
Kindness as a Strategy:
An approach that managers can adopt immediately is fostering kindness. Research from the Journal of Positive Psychology suggests that acts of kindness, particularly those directed toward others, can have a significant positive impact on mental health. Why? This approach shifts the focus from the self to altruistic actions, which can reduce stress and enhance overall well-being. This strategy not only helps individuals cope with their own challenges but also builds a culture of empathy and community that is essential in today's work environment.
How can I provide mental health support for my team?
Facilitating group therapy:
It’s unfortunate that this isn’t the first time we’ve faced such difficult circumstances, with conflicts affecting our team members.
Psychotherapist, Tetiana Svyatenko, has been working with people affected by the war in Ukraine since 2014, when it started. As a certified crisis expert who specializes in group therapy, she cautions against expecting immediate change, advocating instead for an approach of patience and presence, fostering an environment where voices are heard and emotions are validated.
Crucially, she also advised against self-labeling and the labeling of others—as such practices can limit potential and hinder open communication. During her sessions with our community, she stressed the importance of being present and listening actively, allowing team members to fully express their emotions before offering solutions.
Navigating your team through the Israel-Hamas war:
We recently collaborated with Jack Hazan, of Modern Therapy Group in NYC to facilitate therapy sessions for those in our network affected by the Israel-Hamas war, providing a space for healing and understanding. Drawing on his expertise, Jack has outlined a ten-step guide to help managers support their teams effectively in times of crisis:
- Create a Safe Space: Emphasize that the workplace is a haven for open, judgment-free conversation.
- Acknowledge and Validate Feelings: Recognize the emotional impact these events may have on employees and show empathy.
- Be Informed and Sensitive: Stay educated on the current and historical context of the issues to engage in informed and sensitive dialogue.
- Encourage Respectful Dialogue: Foster a culture where different views are expressed respectfully, with clear guidelines to maintain constructive discussions.
- Provide Support Resources: Make counseling services and employee assistance programs available, encouraging their use for those struggling.
- Be Mindful of Diversity: Respect the diverse perspectives and backgrounds within your team, especially regarding experiences of war and antisemitism.
- Avoid Political Partisanship: Keep the focus on the humanitarian and ethical aspects of the situation to prevent divisiveness.
- Focus on Shared Values: Highlight common values like peace, respect, and compassion to unite the team.
- Communicate Consistently: Maintain open lines of communication, offering support and updates on the company’s actions.
- Lead by Example: Demonstrate a commitment to combating antisemitism and supporting peace through concrete actions.
How can I foster a space for resilience and recovery?
Recognizing Trauma and Recovery Phases: Psychotherapist Tetiana Svyatenko emphasizes the importance of not rushing the healing process. She advises leaders to be patient and responsive, allowing individuals to dictate their readiness to re-engage with work. Using her insights, we encourage leaders to create environments where team members can express themselves without fear and find solace in group experiences.
Incorporating Learning and Survival Brain Dynamics: We recommend resources like this medically reviewed article from Verywell Mind on shifting from a 'survival brain' to a 'learning brain' to better understand and support team members' mental states during crises.
Learn the Art of Active Listening: Listening is a skill. Instead of just hearing what your team is saying, actually listen—think about why they're sharing it with you. As explained in this article featuring tips from expert Ximena Vengoechea, “We do not need to share in others’ direct experience, we just need to imagine it.”
Give Space for People to Feel: This isn't the moment for generic corporate responses or blanket statements, what's needed is a genuine, individualized approach. We often judge our own emotions, thinking we shouldn't feel a certain way, especially when we believe others have it worse. But it's important to remember embracing the full spectrum of grief and allowing each emotion its due course is an essential part of the healing process.
Building a Supportive Community: Personal outreach, such as calling team members and conducting regular check-ins, can be invaluable. It’s not always about expecting people to speak up; sometimes, just being present and available for others is enough.
Embracing Distraction and Play: Gathering together isn't solely about addressing the pain; it's also about embracing moments of play and levity. Svyatenko advocates for the integration of joy and communal experiences as a means to foster recovery and well-being. By creating spaces where laughter and light-heartedness are abundant, to not just seek temporary reprieve but actively participate in the healing process.
Encouraging a Return to Impact: While acknowledging the trauma, it's also vital to inspire action. We believe in the power of moving forward and the significance of contributing to our communities during these times. Leaders can gently encourage their teams to channel their experiences into creating positive change.
Collaborative Learning: We encourage leaders to share their strategies and resources. By learning from each other, we can collectively navigate these unprecedented times more effectively.
Should your organization make a public statement?
There has been a growing expectation for organizations to take a stand. Businesses around the world are grappling with how to respond in their statements—and whether or not they should be saying anything at all.
The CEOs of JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs are among those who have publicly condemned the attacks on Israel, signaling a shift in how businesses approach geopolitical issues. But it's a complex landscape to navigate, especially when every statement carries with it weight that could affect those who are personally impacted by the conflict.
New research from The American Psychological Association underscores this shift, revealing that stakeholders perceive companies that openly discuss their diversity challenges as more trustworthy and committed to change, even when the data shared is not flattering. But, the APA's findings also suggest that initial goodwill toward companies is contingent on witnessing tangible improvements. The same principle applies when companies address conflicts: your community expects words to be matched by actions.
Companies that manage this balance—acknowledging the complexities and providing meaningful support—can enhance their reputation and trust with stakeholders while affirming their commitment to their team's welfare. This means that organizations that are called to make a statement should ensure that their contributions to the dialogue are both meaningful and impactful.
Where can I donate?
Magen David Adom: MDA is on the front lines treating all those who have been injured in the recent attacks. They are in need of donations for ambulances, protective equipment, bandages, and other medical equipment that will help them save lives. Donate here
ZAKA: ZAKA Search and Rescue is a UN-recognized humanitarian volunteer organization that provides a rapid response to mass casualty disasters across the world. They are in dire need of safety equipment, medical supplies, first aid kits, and more. Donate here
United Hatzalah: United Hatzalah volunteers have been tirelessly treating wounded in the south of Israel since the onset of the war. They require additional trauma kits and protective vests in order to save more lives. Donate here
We will continue adding to this list, and share trusted resources that hold personal significance and are important to our community, each having been carefully verified for their integrity and impact.
As the situation in Israel and Gaza continues to unfold, we will continue to update this article with resources and strategies. We invite you to contribute by sharing your strategies with us. Your insights will be instrumental in helping our community in these challenging times.
If you’re looking to get involved with the United Tech Force, to either offer your expertise or request the support you need; Sign up here
We remain hopeful for better times and committed to supporting each other through whatever comes next.