It was 2009, and hospitals, skilled care settings and the community were on edge. My neighbor who was in his 50s had contracted H1N1 and died.
My own daughter was being hospitalized for the same infection. I was exhausted, panicked and at the end of my ability to cope.
My colleague reminded me that Zig Ziglar once said that F.E.A.R is really Fabricated Evidence that Appears Real. At the time, I was in no mood for the wisdom of Ziglar. I had an overflowing hospital, a community that seemed to have the virus literally everywhere and this viral spread had become personal.
Reflecting back on that moment in my life, there are clear lessons I learned that pertain to today’s situation of COVID-19. My colleague, in his wisdom, was trying to get me to see that when fear takes over our ability as leaders, our minds go into overdrive and what is not truth, becomes truth.
Fabricated Evidence that Appears Real (F.E.A.R) #1
As a leader, you must have all of the answers.
This a falsehood of leadership, but becomes more pronounced in times of turbulence. It is perceived as the sentence embedded with invisible ink in a leadership job description.
The dynamics are such that the actions employees are being asked to take are fluid, changing to the situation on hand. Employees long for stability and look to you as their leader to be the stabilizer. You feel the tension to reassure and provide knowledge and insight.
Here is where the principles of servant leadership must be utilized. Think of President Lincoln. He did not have the answers, the situation he was facing was ever changing. He listened to his people. He stated the problems and listened to their ideas to address the challenges. He then utilized them to help develop plans. He trusted them to put the plans into action. He knew his job was to make sure that his people could do their jobs to the best of their abilities and the situation.
At the end of our emergency preparedness briefings, a statement was made by all present: “Many Hands, One Team.” Being grounded in the knowledge that everyone is part of a greater whole helps as the days get long.
You are a team working together. Working to care for each other and those who are trusting you to be that team.
Fabricated Evidence that Appears Real (F.E.A.R) #2
We can use our usual communications.
If there were ever a time to amp up communication, it is now. I learned to stick to a phrase that employees knew was a clear, concise message for them to tune into and listen.
I would say, “Here is what we know today…” then I gave clear, concise communication on what was known and what they needed to know. I then stated, “Here is how I need for you to use this information…” Once again clear, concise messaging.
This takes a change in thinking, communication prepping and listening for all involved. The same communication channels you are currently using, will not work. The people who are not at work, need to know the same information as those who are onsite. You need for them to report into work prepared for the current situation.
Recording the communication with a designated number for people to call in was one solution utilized. Typing the communication up and posting in a designated site for people to refer to was also done. Transparency is critical.
In the absence of information, F.E.A.R becomes a focal point within an organization and diverts attention and organizational energy.
Fabricated Evidence that Appears Real (F.E.A.R) #3
Times are too serious for moments of self-care, joy and balance.
In the beginning of the epidemic, everyone was energetic, volunteering for extra shifts and staying over to help out. As time went on, we wore out.
We all were so busy managing the issues, we failed to manage our own health and wellness. Studies have demonstrated over and over again, the need for resilience within the human spirit. Now is the time to give thoughtful design and actions on how to help your team and yourself have enduring resilience.
Beyond the worry of contraction of the virus, the sheer pace was grueling. We joked about how we didn’t even know what normal looked like anymore. Yet, we longed for a moment of normalcy.
Think about creating moments of normalcy. Such simple actions as a room converted for staff to have more than breaks, they are designed for recess. Not only physical but mental ability to disconnect from the overwhelming pace and issues.
I have seen staff put coloring books, puzzles, headphones, music players, guided meditation videos and posters of beautiful photography of nature into their rooms. I have seen teams have a mandatory checkout where people spend time talking about the shift and staying connected to each other’s energy and capabilities. I have seen talented individuals lead singing, humming and musical moments that influenced a shot of energy to the team.
We are in uncharted waters as we work to address COVID-19. Knowledge from the past can inform the now and future. As a leader, utilizing the power of many, communicating clearly and having consciousness about creating opportunity for recovery of body, mind and spirit will help sustain ourselves and our teams.
Martie L. Moore, MAOM, RN, CPHQ, has been an executive healthcare leader for more than 20 years. She has served on advisory boards for the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel and the American Nurses Association, and she currently serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board at the University of Central Florida College of Nursing. She recently was honored by Saint’s Martin’s University with an honorary doctorate degree for her service and accomplishments in advancing healthcare.