Virtual Coaching: The Good, The Bad, And the Disclaimer

By: David Herdlinger

We’re living in an increasingly virtual world. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many industries were forced to embrace the remote or hybrid workplace a lot sooner than expected, or even regardless if they’d ever made such plans.

But like it or not, we now have countless digital opportunities at our fingertips, including professional coaching.

But does it work? Does video-calling your coach yield the same benefits as face-to-face meetings?

Let’s unpack the issue.

The Good of Virtual Coaching

Professional or personal coaching can be incredibly powerful for a lot of people in need of a little help reaching their goals.

But depending on where you live, you might not have access to the best coaches, or even not have one in your area at all.

Virtual coaching, therefore, allows many more people to access these types of services, from anywhere, and even at any time.

This leads to some compelling advantages:

  • Easily fit the coaching sessions into your busy schedule
  • Find more opportunities to get coaching even for niche matters
  • Get the chance to find a coach who can truly help your specific situation, etc.

The Bad of Virtual Coaching

There are two things I want to mention here:

First, you need to be careful who you trust. Since virtual coaching is on the rise, naturally many people may try to take advantage of them. It’s important to fully vet the coach and be sure you’re going to work with someone who’s experienced and can genuinely guide you to the success you look for.

That’s the biggest downside of virtual coaching.

But, there’s also a matter of what style you may respond best to. Simply put, some people still need face-to-face experience. The message resonates much clearer with them when they receive it live, as opposed to a video call.

The Disclaimer

I don’t think it’s necessarily productive to claim one style of coaching is better than the other. Both virtual and in-person coaching can provide you with a great experience.

Instead, be very careful how you select your coach, no matter if the meetings will occur in real life or through a digital platform.

There are some things you should always be looking for in a coach:

  • Compatibility – Like any relationship, you have to be compatible with your coach at least on some level;
  • Experience – If you’re going to learn from that person and take their advice, then they need to have the right experience to genuinely help you reach your goals;
  • Expertise – The coach is an expert in their niche, but is their niche right for what you need? Always be sure to check;
  • Trust – This is the foundation of any collaboration or relationship. If the coach isn’t the type of person you can trust to open up to, then your coaching experience will suffer because of it;

If you find someone compatible with you, has the right expertise and experience, and you feel you can trust them, then you don’t need to concern yourself with the virtual vs. real-life coaching debate.

Achieving Success: Do You Need Personal or Career Coaching?

By: David Herdlinger

It’s a question many of my clients looking to meet success often ask me: what type of coaching is most suitable for them and their goals?

Do you need a career coach to help you stay on track in your professional life? Or, do you need a personal development coach to help you unlock more fulfillment?

And the truth is… most people need both!

Unpacking the “Difference” Between Personal and Career Coaching

It’s easy to think that the two areas of coaching are completely distinct from each other.

When it comes to career coaching, you’d expect:

  • Analyzing your career path and opportunities
  • Get support in case you need to reassess your professional life
  • Unlock even more growth opportunities
  • Determining your goals and staying on your career path to meet them

While personal coaching seems to focus on other areas in your life:

  • Identify the skills you lack and build them (such as confidence, communication, etc.)
  • Create more opportunities for personal fulfillment and happiness
  • Finding ways to reduce stress and anxiety
  • Cultivating a sense of well-being in your life

If you look at it this way, it’s easy to think the two have almost nothing to do with each other. But before you consider working with two different coaches to reach your personal and professional goals, there is one key thing to understand:

These two facets in your life are so intertwined that working on one aspect automatically influences the other.

Success Is Determined by Having a Balance in Both These Worlds

Many personal issues can have a great impact on your professional life, positive or negative. And the reverse is also true.

Only when you have to make real choices, you can understand this strong link. You can’t truly help a person move forward in their career if they are battling with certain personal issues that are indirectly creating unnecessary obstacles. You can assist them in writing the best resumes out there, do countless mock interviews to ensure they get the job, but if, for instance, you don’t address the stress in their personal lives, you know their performance will be affected. And so will their ability to reach their goals.

Choose the “Right” Coach Instead of the “Right Type”

A coach is a person who provides you with 1:1 support to help you improve your life. The means to do it or the goals can differ from person to person, but that’s pretty much it.

So unless you’re looking to work on some very niche aspects of your life, I wouldn’t concern myself too much with the label that comes after “coach” as long as this person:

  • Has the right experience and qualifications
  • Understands your situation, and is able to genuinely empathize
  • Can provide you with support in a way that’s comfortable to you (such as face-to-face, online, on specific days, etc.)
  • You feel you can trust

And the last one is, by far, the most important! Because if you don’t trust your coach, you will not trust the process.

Lead with Love

As a business leader, how do you lead with love? How is love practiced in your organization?

Given the volatility of 2021, I’ve been exploring this facet of leadership. Tension and anger in the workplace is on the rise. Some HR researchers anticipate this will continue throughout 2022.

In a recent article published by Harvard Business Review (January 2022), eleven current trends foster ongoing workplace volatility. Some of the top issues leaders and managers will face include:

  • Fairness and equity
  • Vaccine mandates and testing
  • Shorter work week
  • Employee turnover
  • Permanent shift to remote technology/tools
  • Permanent hybrid work model
  • Wellness tactics, technologies, and metrics
  • The need for a Chief Purpose Officer (CPO)
  • Manager-employee interpersonal relationships

There is a growing urgency to strengthen manager-employee interpersonal relationships, and for some organizations, a shift or addition of a CPO. You see, at a minimum, the volatility we are experiencing creates stress for individuals, poor working relationships, and decreased productivity. Left unchecked, psychological abuse, violence, and ruin ensue. Great leaders can manage and even avoid these worst case scenarios by leading with love.

Our Need for Love

All humans need love: we need to be loved and nurtured, and we need to express love. For many, having healthy business and professional relationships is a top goal. Even the smallest act of kindness can help meet our need for love.

Leading with love is doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right spirit (motivation). This type of love embodies courageousness, discernment, justice, and humility—it’s not about our natural preferences.

Leadership, Love, and Blind Spots

When it comes to leadership and love, even the best leaders have blind spots. As Steven Snyder wrote in Leadership and the Art of Struggle, “Blind spots are the product of an overactive automatic mind and an underactive reflective mind.” This can be especially dangerous for leaders.

In Thinking Fast and Slow, psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman describes how our fast, automatic mind reaches conclusions (re: judgments) quickly, typically prematurely, and frequently incorrectly; but our slow, reflective mind challenges assumptions, generates alternatives, and objectively evaluates and analyzes them.

Fast thinking happens frequently. Unfortunately, it does not address leadership blind spots, especially when it comes to self-perception. You see, most of us have a blind spot for our good qualities and a magnifying glass for our flaws.

The more we deny these blind spots, the more miserable we become. Instead, we can change the stories we tell ourselves that result from habitual fast thinking.

Practice Self-love

First, take a deep breath to slow your pace and clear your mind. Think back to something you recently did that was loving and kind. Allow yourself to linger in that memory to rebalance your feelings. Then, practice forgiveness. One helpful technique is a loving-kindness meditation:

  • May I be happy
  • May I be well
  • May I be safe
  • May I be peaceful and at ease

Extend Love at Work

The loving-kindness meditation published on Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley  is a helpful way to extend love at work. This meditation was created by Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research Education, who define compassionate love as:

“…An attitude toward other(s), either close others or strangers or all of humanity; containing feelings, cognitions, and behaviors that are focused on caring, concern, tenderness, and an orientation toward supporting, helping, and understanding the other(s), particularly when the other(s) is (are) perceived to be suffering or in need.” (Sprecher & Fehr, 2005)

The Platinum Rule

People are starving for connection and hope amidst all of the uncertainty and fear we experienced over the past two years. In light of these issues, it’s crucial for leadership to offer love using what anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher describes as, The Platinum Rule: treat others not as you want to be treated (The Golden Rule), but as they want to be treated.

Ask, listen, confirm, offer, and if agreed, act.

Love What You Do at Work

According to a recently published article “Managing a Polarized Workforce,” (Harvard Business Review, March-April 2022), “conflict is an inescapable part of work life for employees at all levels.” Their recent survey of US companies reveals that 89% of respondents report experiencing conflict at work and “spend about 3.5 hours a week, on average, dealing with it.”

Given this environment, especially for those who do not thrive in conflict, how are we able to love what we do at work? It boils down to identifying that which is truly meaningful.

Language Matters

Language is powerful. It doesn’t merely describe, it shapes reality. Language becomes the filter through which we perceive the world.
When we talk about work that is truly meaningful, we are talking about the fundamental and essential human need of purpose. Great leaders and managers tap into what is truly meaningful by daily asking (and answering) three questions:

  • What ignites my passion in today’s work? Reclaim your resources—energy, time, and attention—from the urgent to the meaningful.
  • How can I bring true value to this moment? Disengage from emotional entanglements and take constructive action.
  • What would I like my legacy to be in this assignment? Bring more value and meaning to a seemingly onerous task.

Workplace Romance

When co-workers seek connection and friendship, should love or dating be verboten? Views and opinions vary greatly depending on the size of the organization, the history (of the organization and the individual), and the perceived risk of intimate alliances. And so do company policies.

According to a 2018 survey published by Harvard Law School, the number of close personal relationship policies is on the rise. They report that in 2017, more than 50% of respondents have formal, written policies and 78% discourage supervisor-subordinate relationships. However, this does not mean they have anti-fraternization policies. Why?

The Cons of Non-fraternization Policies

  • Grey areas: what is a close, personal relationship?
  • Enforcement: who monitors compliance?
  • Paternalism: should employers have the authority regarding personal matters?

The Pros of Non-fraternization Policies

  • Prevent sexual harassment
  • Mitigate organization’s legal risk
  • Curtail workplace favoritism/toxicity
  • Outline accountability processes and consequences

Clearly, there are multiple considerations, including the approach, the scope, and the consequences. While every employee should review their organization’s policies, leaders and managers should review for:

  • How does the policy address employee’s concerns?
  • What channels are in place to support employees? How can they report/disclose their intentions/status? Who must do this? (The more senior in the relationship?)
  • Where are the grey areas? Who is responsible for decisions in these areas?

Truly successful organizations are led with love; what is happening in your organization?

The Resilience Pill

We are seeing incredible advances in medical science in recent years: portable MRI machines, cancer treatments (radioligand therapy), sickle cell gene-editing treatment, an Alzheimer blood test, and vaccines. Is a resilience pill next?

Imagine: a simple pill that can increase our resilience. No more struggle with set-backs from uncertainty, mistakes, or failure. Stress would be something we could choose: the how, what, where, when, and why. After all, we know that some stress—eustress—is good for us.

According to The American Institute of Stress, eustress is the experience of a challenging event; it is a mindset that accompanies a challenge. And it helps us develop resilience.

Typically, we become more resilient through life struggles. We adapt and grow. But neuroscience reveals that some of us are a bit more lucky: we’re born with a bit more resilience at the start. For the less fortunate, a pill might just level the playing field.

The Study

Scientists have been digging in to the study of resilience and stress over the past two decades. One leader is Mount Sinai Health Systems. According to their research, the most resilient people have the ability to defend, bounce back, and find ways to create “a sense of safety, control, and social connection.”

When examining seemingly adaptive behavior, the researchers were surprised to find that genetics and neurochemistry played a role. They found differences in the molecular biology of resilient brains (as compared to less resilient). When stressed, specific genes in the nervous system become more active. But in the more resilient brain, the genes are more regulated.

This has led to pilot clinical trials with specific epilepsy and/or anti-depressant drugs to boost resiliency at the cellular level. Of course, at this early stage it is too early to predict the outcome. In the meantime, we’ll need to develop and cultivate our resilience in the more traditional ways.

Understanding Resilience

Over the past two years, this word has been tossed about everywhere: in headlines, podcasts, blogs, articles, talks, etc. I’ve noticed that there is a wide array of definitions, and subsequently, understanding. For example, from 2015-2020, 18 different approach processes were published in adult health research.

In the June 2021 issue of Frontiers in Psychology, researchers point to three challenges when it comes of understanding resilience: definition of positive outcomes, process descriptions, and identification of mechanisms that result in resilience. The authors suggest we need to reconsider some of the attributes of resilience.

The Research

Resilience research has been conducted in four primary scientific fields/waves:

  • Developmental psychology: This resulted in an acceptance and usage of resilient scales to identify and/or predict protective factors and resilient personality types, including environmental experiences that may occur at various developmental stages.
  • Developmental and ecological systems: This resulted in an understanding of resilience as a natural phenomenon resulting from many processes. For example: a sense of safety, positive social connections, feelings of competence and control, and positive outlooks.
  • Intervention and training: the technological advances in neuroimaging suggest the possibility to recover functioning after extreme stress.
  • Neurobiology: Studies on mechanisms, including neural plasticity and the interrelations between biological and psychological processes, reveal additional insights.

Researchers explain that our understanding of resilience has evolved from a trait-oriented approach to a process-oriented/outcome-oriented approach. However, there is no universal outcome measure for resilience. At best, there are three core qualifiers: adversity, positive adaptation, and positive outcome.

Adversity

The researchers define adversity as an exposure to significant adverse events or the risk thereof. The events may be acute and chronically stressful and range from daily life challenges to bereavement, job loss, or chronic events.

Positive Outcomes

  • Immunity, stability, or resistance: while this outcome may apply for acute crisis, no one is invulnerable when it comes to chronic adversity and/or significant trauma.
  • Bouncing back, or recovery: this implies that adversity is experienced in a specific trajectory for a specified period with a return to homeostasis.
  • Growth: unlike recovery, growth implies new, or the strengthening of functions and/or abilities.

Mechanisms of Positive Adaptation

  • Cognitive Reappraisal: positive (re)appraisal and attention control
  • Cognitive or regulatory flexibility: an ability to modify cognitive and behavioral strategies to respond accurately to changing environments
  • Attachment: secure attachment with family, teachers, therapists, or others
  • Hardiness: sense of purpose, agency/self-efficacy, growth-mindset
  • Neurobiology: functioning brain circuitries
  • Genetics: allele type may affect resilience to adversity.

At its core, resilience is a dynamic, multi-dimensional construct, and there is much more to learn. Today, we must rely on three systems, or sources, to build our resilience.

Build Resilience Today

  • Intra-individual sources: gender, sex, biology, physiology, health behavior
  • Interpersonal sources: education, family, competence and knowledge, interpersonal relationships and social groups, skills, and experience
  • Socio-ecological sources: access, formal, and informal institutions, geography, socio-economic status

Of course, access to resources varies greatly across the globe, and even within a community. We see signs of this more and more frequently as situations and behavior indicate persons are experiencing a lack of agency. How can we create a sense of safety (for self and others), a sense of control, and social connections?

Resilience Strategies

An effective strategy that helps build resilience is cognitive reappraisal. This helps us lessen negative emotions and increase positive emotions. Cognitive reappraisal is changing how we think about the situation.

Sometimes, it’s simply using a mantra, such as the Serenity Prayer: “Help me to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This can help us slow down, breathe, and connect with what we can change: our own thinking.

Researchers have found there are many psychological benefits when we experience positive emotions, without necessarily altering negative feelings. After all, it is unrealistic to avoid all negative emotions, such as loss or grief. But we can grow through these experiences when we change how we respond to the situation, including our thoughts and feelings about the situation.

You see, cognitive reappraisal can change the intensity and duration of our feelings. Neuroimaging reveals that when we practice this strategy over a period of time it actual changes our brains; cognitive reappraisal increases our overall sense of well-being and resilience. And when we build our own resilience, we can help others, too.

Get the Right People on Your Bus

As a leader, how do you get the right people on your bus?

While the U.S. unemployment rate declined to 3.9% in December 2021, many managers and leaders feel an increasing urgency to fill open positions. And it’s understandable: short-staffed teams are at greater risk for disengagement, errors, and burnout. So, it’s not uncommon to see new-hire incentives including signing bonuses, flex work schedules, and childcare grants.

Unfortunately, filling open positions with the wrong person can make matters worse. When this topic comes up with leaders and managers, I hear about the impact to efficiency and productivity, client trust, and the triple-bottom line.

Instead of hiring the wrong person, great leaders improve their recruitment efforts, discernment in talent selection, and development (and support) of their existing talent pool.

The Pressure to Hire

Even in the best of times, getting the right people on the bus is a persistent challenge for leaders and managers. After all, talent is a critical driver of corporate performance. Consider the factors that greatly influenced the past two decades:

  • The irreversible shift from the Industrial Age to the Information Age: an average of 1.9 million new knowledge workers was needed every year.
  • Intensifying demand for top-performing managers
  • Drop in the number of workers ages 20-54: in the U.S., this was 10 million fewer than anticipated from 2000 – 2020.
  • Ability to search for and find other positions (switching from company to company)
  • Ongoing earnings inequality

As a result, managers often feel pressured to hire, even if it is not the right fit. This contributes to hiring mistakes, attrition, and increased expenses. It also impacts the organization’s potential managerial and leadership talent pool.

Avoid These Hiring Mistakes

Even in the best of times, managers report that the hiring process is time consuming and often frustrating. This leads to a negative bias, and an increased risk of impulsive hiring. Eager, energetic, and articulate candidates become more attractive when hiring decisions rely too heavily on interview impressions and intuition.

Consider the 85 years of data collected and analyzed by Frank L. Schmidt and John E. Hunter. Their research reveals that employment interviews are only 57% accurate when it comes to getting the right people on the bus. This is only slightly better than a coin toss.

Instead, great leaders develop a process tailored for their organization and culture. They commonly assess candidates on intelligence, work sample (results portfolio or work sample test), integrity test (conscientiousness), and structured interviews.

However, before testing and interviewing can take place, it is critical to understand the real performance requirements. This is the time to review, and if necessary, update job descriptions. It’s important to know what you are looking for.

The Best Job Descriptions

The best job descriptions reflect what needs to get done today, and in the near future. Savvy leaders and managers also focus on the behavior and traits necessary to achieve desired results. They consider how the role:

  1. Solves current and future anticipated business challenges/needs.
  2. Impacts (affects/interacts/collaborates) other teams, departments, lines of business.
  3. Benefits from specific competencies and traits.

For example, a combination of four key traits has the greatest impact on workplace teams, according to a recent article in Harvard Business Review. These include:

  1. Reliability: Flexibility only goes so far if an employee is unreliable.
  2. Readiness: A growth mindset may be more important than training and experience.
  3. Attitude: Positivity is contagious.
  4. Communication: Look for clarity, coherence, and comprehension.

Performance & Outcome Job Descriptions

If the past two years has taught us anything, it’s the importance of flexibility and adaptability. However, what got us here may not get us there. Sure, experience and skills are important. But an outcome-oriented job description is a better predictor of future performance. For example, “reduce operating expenses by 9% within the first six months” emphasizes performance and potential and provides measurable objectives.

Talent Attraction and Management

Talented, high performers may expect top-pay and perks, but they need to believe in and feel passionate about what they are doing. Over the past two decades, creative freedom was a priority for many; today it is the balance of freedom and safety. Attracting top talent requires the right messaging.

One way to evaluate this is to review your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Does it truly reflect the real employee experience: culture, values, work satisfaction, leadership, compensation, and more? How do you know this?

Employee Survey

Ask your employees what they value. You can offer options and/or write in answers, and ask them to rank in importance. For example, top performing managers often report that they value:

  • Exciting work
  • A value-drive culture
  • Great leaders in a great company
  • Incentives and rewards
  • Opportunities for growth, development, and advancement
  • The ability (and support) to meet personal and family commitments.

Ask what they would change. How could their work experience improve? What about the organization?

Keep your survey as short and simple as possible, and start with why: how you will use the information to improve their work experience. Follow-up with the results of your survey and any action (next steps) you will take.

Retain Top Talent

Providing optimal working conditions is even more crucial for leaders and managers. Monitor tasks, conditions, and outcomes and their relationship to roles, responsibilities, and strengths:

  • Communicate: Provide status updates and opportunities for real-time dialog.
  • Consider support strategies: Help people “play” at work, develop strengths to achieve mastery of their work, and ways to reward their efforts and results.
  • Re-examine roles and responsibilities: Consider if/how to create new/different/temp/AI positions), or hire for a different position.

While we may learn from our mistakes, we grow even more when our successes are noticed and praised. Recognize achievements, efforts, and attitudes.

Many factors cause disengagement, but the most prevalent is feeling overwhelmed—physically, mentally, or emotionally.  Acknowledge this in your employees. Our level of engagement depends on how we feel: optimistic, grateful, autonomous, able, hopeful, supported. We need to feel true appreciation.

Show Up for Your Best Self

How do you show up for your best self?

Let’s face it: the past 20 months have not been easy. Remaining open, yet vigilant; positive, yet cautious; and resilient, yet flexible has been no easy task. For many, taking care of our loved ones has taken precedence over care for our self. Yet, if we don’t show up for our best self, how do we fully recover and care for others? How do we live our best life?

Demonstrating care (and affection) for ourselves begins with self-compassion. To some degree, everyone suffers. It is part of being human. Unfortunately, denying our suffering may make us more prone to self-sabotage.

Practicing self-compassion means acknowledging that we may be self-handicapping: we anticipate a real or imagined obstacle to living our best life and use it as an excuse for inaction. We practice self-compassion when we recognize this as an ineffective mechanism against suffering, and begin to notice this behavior.

As clinical psychologist and author Alice Boyes, PhD, writes for Harvard Business Review, practicing self-compassion has four components:

  • Practicing a kind tone (and language) that appeals to you.
  • Accepting pain and suffering are part of being human.
  • Allowing and recognizing all feelings (without attachment).
  • Anticipating that you can and will do the best you can at any point in time.

Unfortunately, our self-handicapping can be very subtle. It’s also one of the ways we get and stay stuck, trapped in the familiar, or worse, bad habit loop.

Recognize Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage can be cunning, especially for highly intelligent and successful people. For example, resting on past accomplishments (too much positive thinking) can sabotage future success. Here are nine other ways we self-handicap:

  • Negative thinking (“I’m not good enough.”)
  • Withholding/silence (Not contributing/responding/offering ideas.)
  • Delaying action (Failing to act.)
  • Excuse making (“I don’t have the time/resources.”)
  • Failure to accept responsibility (Similar to excuse making, we may point to others or circumstances outside of our control.)
  • Adopting a “good-enough” attitude to avoid failure/rejection. (Becoming too risk averse.)
  • Imbalance of focus: too small picture
  • Focusing more on feelings, rather than facts.
  • Allowing (or encouraging) distractions to derail us.

Understand Why We Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage just might be another part of being human. Fortunately, our brains can help us thrive in the face of adversity, practice self-compassion, and become our best self. We know this through the study of positive neuroscience—the study of positive psychology using neuroimaging techniques to explain the neurobiology.

To some degree or other, we are inundated with information or situations that can evoke an emotion. Whether it is happiness, gratitude, sadness, sympathy or any other emotion, we vary in how we respond. One study leads researchers to conclude that happier people are better able to see opportunities without missing threats.

The Research

Happier people—persons with high positive affectivity—are typically characterized as open-minded, sociable, and helpful. They have high energy and enthusiasm, are alert and active, and have confidence in their ability to achieve—if not now, then later. Persons with high negative affectivity are typically characterized as having a poor self-concept. Nervousness, guilt, fear, disgust, contempt and/or anger are common experiences in persons with high negative affect. 

With the use of fMRI studies, researchers find that our amygdala responds to emotional stimuli according to our affective style. If we have a more positive affect style we are less reactive to stimuli, are better able to regulate our emotions, and our disposition is more positive. If we have a more negative affect style we are more reactive, less able to regulate emotions, and our disposition tends to be more negative. (This is not all bad news: negative affectivity does have benefits.)

According to researchers, our affective style is the result of our genes, attachment style, adversity in early life, and mental disorders. While there is nothing we can do to go back in time to change our genetics or early life influences, we can change our style, specifically, how our brains respond to emotional stimuli or situations.

Self-Sabotage Alternatives

When taking action to counter self-sabotage, especially self-compassion, it’s helpful to understand how emotion regulation can change the brain. While it’s important to recognize the feeling, name it, and allow it to happen, regulating emotions has a bit more nuance.

Emotion regulation is an attempt to influence what, when, and how an emotion is experienced. According to Stanford Professor of Psychology James J. Gross, PhD, and the November 2021 research paper, Assessing Emotion Regulation Ability for Negative and Positive Emotions: Psychometrics of the Perth Emotion Regulation Competency Inventory in United States Adults, we can, and do, regulate both negative and positive emotions. Gross, and his fellow researchers, posit that this ability is “a cornerstone of adaptive psychological functioning.” And they are not alone.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, emotion regulation techniques are a way to show up for your best self: emotion regulation can change our brain. First, let’s look at some of the conscious techniques:

  • Avoidance: avoiding a situation
  • Focus: noticing breath or other repetitive pattern
  • Seeking support: contacting a friend or support person
  • Smiling: forcing a smile, even by clamping a pen or pencil in your mouth, can stimulate the amygdala, releasing “feel good” neurotransmitters  
  • Exercise

Researchers find that two techniques, cognitive reappraisal and meditation, have lasting impact on our affective style

Cognitive Reappraisal

The technique of cognitive reappraisal can alter the emotional impact of a situation by changing how you think about the situation. Not only can you use this strategy to lessen negative emotions, reappraisal can increase positive emotions. This is important because it allows you to experience your feelings, including unavoidable and constructive negative feelings, and increase the psychological benefits of positive feelings.

You see, when we reframe our thoughts about a situation, experience, or stimulus, we can experience change in our emotional response. Research finds that using cognitive reappraisal correlates with activity changes in specific parts of the brain. We can change the intensity and duration of the emotion, depending on the tactics and frequency.

Meditation

Mindfulness meditation—such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)—which focuses on the experience of thoughts, sensations, and emotions by simple observance—has been used in many neuroscientific studies of emotion regulation. Researches find that:

  • Long-term meditators are better able to accept their emotions.
  • Short-term (8-week) MBSR training increased the functional connectivity between the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and the ability to regulate emotions.  

There are other strategies to counter self-sabotage and show up for your best self, including spotting the warning signs, stating your goals, and working toward mastering a domain that you value. A qualified coach can help you develop strategies and techniques that work best for you.

The Learning Style of Leaders

What is your learning style?
Depending on when you attended school, you may have been tested and/or identified as a particular type of learner: the way you process and retain information. Typically, most children learn through the five senses, including seeing, hearing, touching, and doing/moving (which can include tasting/smelling). As adults, we bring depth of experience and greater self-awareness to our learning.
The theory of learning styles is not new and has evolved since it was introduced in the 70’s by social psychologist David A. Kolb. According to Kolb, our styles are based on genetics, experiences, and current environment. With his colleague Ron Fry, Kolb identified a four-stage experiential learning cycle:

  1. Observation of concrete experiences
  2. Reflection and interpretation of observations (creation of hypothesis)
  3. Formation of abstract concepts (generalizations)
  4. Testing of new concepts in different situations

Learning Preferences
Kolb and Fry posit that learning preferences are based on two continuums:

  1. Active experimentation <—>  Reflective observation
  2. Abstract conceptualization <—> Concrete experience

When combined, the two dimensions create four learning styles:

  1. Converger (Active & Abstract) This type of learner is known for their practical application of ideas.
  2. Accommodator (Active & Concrete) Known for their agility and adaptability, this type of learner is an active, risk-taking doer.
  3. Assimilator (Reflective & Abstract) This type of learner is known for their research and planning abilities, and they excel in creating theoretical models.
  4. Diverger (Reflective & Concrete) Known for their ability to see the big picture and create meaning, this type of learner is often most creative.

Understanding learning styles can help us become better leaders. However, we can achieve greater success—personally and professionally—by learning how to think and learn in new ways.  When we limit ourselves to a particular type of learner we can miss learning opportunities and important lessons, both critical to reach our full potential as leaders.
Debunk the Myths of Learning Styles
One of the most widely accepted learning style theories is that everyone (including children and adults) has a specific aptitude for processing different types of information and instruction. Perhaps this explains why over 70 models have been created since Kolb and Fry began their work, including Neil Fleming’s VARK model: visual, auditory, read/write, or kinesthetic/tactile (hands-on).
However, studies fail to show a “statistically significant relationship” between learning styles and comprehension. You see, we learn best when we experience a blend of cognitive (knowledge/information), affective (attitudes/beliefs), and behavioral (practical/practice) activities. If you want to learn to think and learn in new ways, expand your cognitive capacities.
Howard E. Gardner, developmental psychologist, renowned professor, and senior director of Harvard Project Zero, has spent decades researching the development of the human mind. His studies on how people learn, create, lead, and influence others are the foundation for his book, Five Minds for the Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2009).
Expand Cognitive Capacities
According to Gardner, we can expand our cognitive capacities in five different kinds of minds:

  1. Disciplined mind: a mastery in at least one specific scholarly discipline, craft, or profession. With a joyful passion to know more, a disciplined mind continues to learn as more information emerges every day.
  2. Synthesizing mind: an ability to discern crucial information across disciplines. By weeding out the false or unimportant, the synthesizing mind can organize new information (and skills) to make sense for self and others.
  3. Creating mind: the knowledge to make quality, acceptable judgments that pose new, relevant questions, offer new solutions, and/or create new genres. Creating minds also have a disciplined mind and require a medium to work with or against along with performance opportunities.
  4. Respectful mind: the capacity to welcome different ideas, opinions, and needs that moves beyond tolerance for greater understanding and unity. Respectful minds respond to differences among individuals and groups constructively and with empathy.
  5. Ethical mind: the tools to conceptualize how to move beyond self-interests to improve the lot of all. Ethical minds act consistently with conceptualizations, striving for good work and ethical balance in micro to global environments.

The first three kinds of minds deal primarily with cognitive capacities. The last two deal with our relations to other human beings. Unless we increasingly place value on diversity and common good, we risk our very survival.
As Gardner writes “…it is not enough to state what each individual or group needs to survive on its own turf. In the long run, it is not possible for parts of the world to thrive while others remain desperately poor and deeply frustrated. Recalling the words of Benjamin Franklin, “We must indeed all hang together, or, must assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
The critical questions to ask are:

  1. With which of these minds do I already show strength?
  2. How can I expand my cognitive capacities?
  3. Where can I stretch my abilities to enable growth?
  4. Which of these minds do I need to learn?
  5. Who in my organization can help mentor me?
  6. How can I assist others with this knowledge?

A Mindset for Learning
As a leader, how do you learn? Let me ask: when was the last time you learned something in a new way?  Was it intentional, or unexpected?
The mindset we develop over the years (heavily influenced by our caregivers, educators, or other environmental factors, like a pandemic) exerts a powerful impact on our attitudes and beliefs toward learning and achieving.
As psychologist, Stanford professor, and author Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., shares in her audiobook, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, (Random House Audio, 2019) our mindset creates our whole mental worldview and determines whether we approach life with an optimistic or pessimistic attitude. It shapes our goals, our attitudes toward work and relationships, and ultimately, it predicts whether we reach our full potential. How?
We have one of two basic mindsets:

  1. Growth: open to growth and learning, this open mindset believes that one can always do better.
  2. Closed: closed to growth and learning, this closed mindset is entrenched in the belief that natural talents and abilities predetermine success.

With a growth mindset we believe that we can always learn more, do more, and improve. We are confident, yet humble enough to do the work required to expand our potential. Our open mindset allows us to seek and accept criticism as important feedback—not a personal insult.
With a closed mindset we believe success is based on innate talents; we shouldn’t have to work hard to achieve (change, grow, improve, etc.) Abilities are set in stone: either you have them, or you don’t. A closed mindset requires that you prove yourself over and over again. This is the path to stagnation, or worse.
A closed mindset chips away at our confidence and sense of self. As a result, we try to look smart and accomplished at all costs. We seek validation of our worth and want to be “right,” instead of showing an interest in feedback and willingness to make changes or adjustments.
If you have an open (or growth) mindset, you know your talents can be developed and that great abilities are built over time. This is the true learning style of leaders: the path of opportunity and leadership success.
Explore Attitudes and Beliefs
What are your attitudes and beliefs about your own intelligence? Consider the statements listed below. Which is most true for you at this point in time?

  1. Your intelligence is something very basic that cannot change much.
  2. You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.
  3. No matter how intelligent you are, you can always improve.
  4. You can substantially change how intelligent you are.

The first two statements reflect a more closed mindset, while three and four indicate a more open or growth mindset. Now, consider other key areas, roles, or abilities in your professional and personal life. For example, substitute creativity, relationship skills, or parenting for intelligence. Where is there room to improve your attitude or beliefs?
The Learning Mindset for Leaders
In his best-selling work, Good to Great (Harper Business, 2011) Jim Collins writes about the type of leader who takes companies to greatness. They’re not larger-than-life, charismatic types who ooze big egos and self-proclaimed talent. Rather, they’re self-effacing individuals who constantly ask questions and have the ability to confront the most brutal answers. They look failures in the face, including their own, while maintaining faith that they’ll succeed in the end.
Collins calls such open-mindset executives “Level 5 Leaders,” who:

  1. Always work on self-improvement.
  2. Surround themselves with the most able people they can find.
  3. Look squarely at their own mistakes and deficiencies.
  4. Identify the skills that they and their companies will need in the future.

These traits allow them to move forward with confidence grounded in facts, not built on fantasies about their own talents.
Open-mindset leaders aren’t afraid of debate and questioning. They prod—and then prod deeper—to uncover realities and weaknesses.
Anyone can change his or her mindset. It requires conscious practice and vigilance, as well as a willingness to be open to learning and changing.
Still, it’s not easy to let go of something that has felt like your “self” for many years and has served as your path to self-esteem. It’s especially difficult to replace it with a mindset that requires you to embrace issues that feel threatening: challenge, struggle, criticism, and setbacks.
You see, we adopt a closed mindset because it protects us from feeling vulnerable. But opening up to growth allows us to experience the fulfillment of our real potential. This is the true learning style of leaders.

Jump-start Your Leadership and Team Performance

Executives, leaders, and managers are facing tough decisions as we return to work. Newly appointed and seasoned leaders must assess their teams, find the gaps, and fill open positions. Adding to the complexity is the critical task of identifying those who would be better served in a different capacity, often times outside the team or organization. This requires an intricate balance of confidence and humility, as well as skillful communication.
The first few weeks are crucial to build trust, learn, and evaluate, even if you are not new to your role. You see, the pandemic has changed us: we’ve adapted and grown, our perspectives have been altered, and for some, our values have shifted.
In a recent Pew Research survey of Americans regarding their experience with the pandemic, almost 90% of the 9,220 who responded reported at least one negative change and 73% have experienced an “unexpected upside.”
According to Pew, “Most have experienced these negative impacts and silver linings simultaneously: Two-thirds (67%) of Americans mentioned at least one negative and at least one positive change since the pandemic began.
When analyzing the data, they found that Americans were affected in a variety of different ways, both positive and negative, and there was no “typical experience.”
As we return to work, we are returning as a new team. We are new leaders, managers, employees, and teams. By asking the right probing questions and actively listening you can jump-start your leadership and team performance.
Beyond “The Great Resignation”
According to research by Microsoft, 41% of the entire workforce has or may make a change this year. This includes the 4 million Americans who left their positions in April of 2021 in “The Great Resignation.” With many companies returning to the office in October, it is critical that managers, leaders, and executives assess their teams.
New leadership—managers new to their position—will likely find they’ve got the right people on the bus. However, they may inherit people who are not pulling their own weight, including people who are burned out. Rather than shaking the trees (and losing some good leaves with the bad apples), mindfully gather information to make your evaluations.
Evaluation Criteria
Spend time with each individual to assess for:

  • Core competencies: Technical skills and experience required for the job.
  • Discernment: Good judgment under pressure and supporting the greater good.
  • Energy/Engagement: Contributes appropriate energy for the role and tasks.
  • Focus: Prioritizes essential tasks, manage distractions, and complete assignments.
  • Relationships: Maintains healthy relationships with colleagues and is supportive of co-workers and team decisions.
  • Trust: Honest, consistent, and reliable, demonstrating authenticity and trustworthiness.

Consider ranking each category commensurate with the position, and using a scale to determine areas of strength and weakness. Of course, adequate time and the right questions are critical for a fair and accurate evaluation.
Meaningful Questions and Answers
Create a list of standard questions to ask every employee, such as:

  1. How would you describe our existing organizational and team strategy? What are your thoughts about it?
  2. What are our largest short- and long-term team challenges?
  3. Where are our greatest opportunities?
  4. Which/what resources could we leverage more effectively?
  5. How can we improve the way the team works together?
  6. If you could give me any advice regarding my position, what would it be?
  7. What should I pay attention to?
  8. What can I do to help you?

Pay attention to non-verbal clues:

  • What is unsaid?
  • Are they open, volunteering information, or wait until asked specifics?
  • Is there equal focus on strengths and weakness?
  • Do they take responsibility when appropriate, or blame others?
  • Are excuses made (for self or others)?
  • How consistent is body language with words?
  • Which topics evoke an increase of energy?
  • When observing the individual interacting informally with others, how do they appear? (Cordial, reserved, judgmental, competitive, etc.)

Assess Your Team
It is essential to understand how the existing team functions. An initial study of data, reports from meetings, and any climate surveys is helpful. However, group dynamics observed in first meetings are revealing indicators. This is also true for teams who are returning to the office environment post-pandemic.
Observe how they interact in your presence, and roles people take. Have they shifted? If you are new to your leadership position, notice who speaks easily, who is more reserved, and if there appear to be alliances. Note that non-verbal clues appear each time someone speaks during the meeting.
Team Restructuring
If team restructuring is required, you’ll need to identify:

  • Who will remain in their current role?
  • Who is better fit for a different position?
  • Who will you retain and develop?
  • Who do you need to observe for a longer period of time?
  • Who will you need to replace ASAP?
  • Who will need to be replaced within a year or two?

Even when poor performance is well documented, letting someone go can be difficult, time consuming, and costly. Consider alternatives such as a move to another position that is a better fit for their skills. Of course, safety is first. Keep an eye on their performance, but be respectful.
Avoid Common Mistakes
Hesitancy about letting people go, especially when positions remain open, can feel risky. But failing to act decisively and quickly can lead to derailment. Other common mistakes managers and leaders make include:

  • Inadequate personnel plan. Within your first 90-days, personnel decisions should be made and communicated to key stakeholders, including your boss and HR.
  • Ongoing team dysfunction. Correct problems and develop options right away. This may require temporary solutions, including temporary staff and resources.
  • Lack of clarity, purpose, and focus. Your leadership and team must be aligned and clear about organizational mission, goals, and values.
  • Loss of good people. Look for ways to recognize efforts and capabilities. Express gratitude and share all victories—even the small wins.
  • Poorly timed team building. Ensure you have the right people on the bus before you begin team building exercises.
  • Rushing to decisions. When it comes to making implementation decisions, wait until core members of your team are in place and include them in the decision-making process.
  • Going it alone. Great leaders are often seen as independent, trail-blazing mavericks. But the truth is that the greatest rely on experts who can offer sage advice.

How Do You Define Freedom?

When you hear or read the word “freedom,” what is the first thing that comes to mind?

In the US, the 4th of July marks the anniversary of thirteen colonies declaring independence from Britain. They gained their freedom from British rule and government.

In contrast, Canada Day, celebrated on the 1st of July, marks the anniversary of four separate colonies uniting into a single dominion with the British Empire. They gained their freedom to.

Both holidays celebrate freedom, but from very different perspectives. One is freedom from, and the other, freedom to.

But is it really a matter of perspective?

The words freedom, free will, and liberty are frequently used interchangeably. However, according to Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Ph.D, author of Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT, 2006), there is significant difference:

Liberty is linked to human subjectivity; people have (or have not) liberty.

Free will is the quality of being free from control.

Freedom can exist within a state of liberty: a person can be liberated but not experience freedom. Just as control differs from discipline, freedom differs from liberty.

And then there is the matter of negative liberty (or negative rights) and positive liberty (or positive rights.) In Two Concepts of Liberty, Isaiah Berlin wrote that “I am slave to no man,” as an example of negative liberty, and “I am my own master,” as an example of positive liberty.  

How do you experience freedom and liberty? Are you your own master?

Defining Freedom

Consider how you may have defined freedom pre-pandemic. Was it a feeling? Was it an abstract principle? Was it the ability to do what you wanted, when you wanted? You may have given it little thought; freedom may have been something you took for granted. For many, this became abundantly clear during the pandemic lock-downs and the renewed focus against systemic racism.

Yet for persons of color, women, LGBTQ communities, or any oppressed persons, freedom is rarely taken for granted. The struggle was, and remains, real. For others, the struggle might be a matter of awareness that requires a shift in mindset.

What if we acknowledge the freedom of privilege and choice where it exists? What if we manage our time and energy better, and advocate for others?

Freedom Management

In “Time Management Won’t Save You,” (Harvard Business Review, June 2021), Dane Jensen wrote, “time management is like digging a hole at the beach: the bigger the hole, the more water that rushes in to fill it.” That pretty well describes it. Maybe it’s not about time management, it’s about freedom management.

Of course, productivity matters. But choosing what to choose is critical. Here are a few strategies to exercise freedom.

Freedom Strategies

Clarify values, identify choices (and which really matter), and prioritize tasks that align with values.  This requires an attitude of gratitude and the ability to set boundaries:

When it is in your power to do so, say “thank you, no,” to tasks that don’t align with your values or priorities. When it is not in your power to do so, engage in a collaborative discussion to prioritize the request. This strategy aids in the reduction of tasks.

Recognize and reduce decision fatigue with absolute principles. Seemingly unlimited options and choices can overwhelm even the most experienced leaders. Create rules about your decision-making and decisions. For example, I won’t eat anything between 7:00pm and 11:00am; I will research options for 48 hours, make a decision, and then let it go; I will limit my time on social media to 15 minutes each day, including the time it requires to respond to direct inquiries.

Block task-time on your calendar in order of priority (i.e. #1 priority on Monday, #2 on Tuesday, etc.) to safeguard your time and prevent distractions. For managers and leaders, this can include open-door or on-call hours when you are available. Block a few minutes between meetings to capture notes, process, and reflect.

Together, these strategies work to reduce how many tasks we take on, how many decisions we must make, and the number of distractions that can interrupt us, depleting our time and energy.

Exercising Our Freedom

The very subtle stories we tell our self about our own limitations often block us from exercising the freedom we do have. These stories are often a form of self-handicapping: we anticipate a real or imagined obstacle that might get in the way of success and use it as an excuse to do nothing.

This behavior is not uncommon, even for great managers and leaders. We do it unconsciously to protect our self from the pain (and fear) of failure. It may look like procrastination or lack of time.  It might feel like “I can’t,” or, “I don’t have the freedom to…” But, what if you could? What if you do?

More Freedom and Power at Work

Here is an exercise to explore the freedom and power you have at work:

Block 15 minutes on your calendar where you will not be interrupted or distracted.

Reflect on your career path, and identify the projects that you enjoyed the most.

What were your actual actions, or tasks?

Did these projects rely on your strengths, or allow you to develop new skills?

How were you involved in establishing goal- and benchmark setting? What about processes to achieve the goal?

If you had the freedom to change your work, what would that look like? For example, which tasks or projects could you swap with someone who would find them more enjoyable or fulfilling? Which strengths would you like to better utilize or develop?

It’s easy to unintentionally lose power and get stuck, especially today. We have been inundated with obstacles and barriers outside of our control, and we feel disappointed, angry and frustrated. Many of us have been holding ourselves back, waiting for better times. If you have trouble with self-handicapping or embracing your freedom, a qualified coach can help.

Leadership, Trauma, and Recovery

The way we live and work has changed dramatically the past year, upending our routines, our identities, and for many, our sense of security. The trauma of job insecurity, health insecurity, major intergenerational loss, and culture assaults leave us reeling and impact our productivity. Leaders are concerned about their employee’s well-being and safety.

Traditionally, when employees share or demonstrate a need for assistance, we rely on our human resources department (or representative) to step in.

However, leaders and managers who are able to work with HR and their employees through trauma recovery are of greater help to those they lead —and their entire organization.

The Catalyst for Change

It’s no wonder that reports of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are on the rise. Experiencing violence (as a victim or witness), a serious illness, or the death of a loved one can trigger post-traumatic stress. Unfortunately, fear, misunderstanding, and lack of trust prevent many employees from seeking assistance or even reporting events.

Trauma can impact anyone. Great leaders recognize this. They understand that how we manage trauma can define our life. The best leaders share openly about their own struggles, how they manage uncertainty, and are able to engage others to share their story. Why?

Individual wellbeing matters in every organization, small or large. When leaders and managers are equipped to treat everyone with care and compassion, everyone benefits.

In Posttraumatic Growth: Theory, Research, and Applications, (Routledge, 2018), authors Richard G. Tedeschi, Jane Shakespeare-Finch, Kanako Taku, and Lawrence G. Calhoun share their research on trauma and how leaders can help traumatized people recover. According to Tedeschi, “…despite the misery resulting from the coronavirus outbreak, many of us can expect to develop in beneficial ways in its aftermath.”

What is Trauma?

Although trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are frequently used interchangeably, they are different. Trauma is time-based, can be experienced more than once by an individual, and there are multiple types of trauma:

  • Physical or psychological
  • A one-time event
  • Historical – this type of trauma is often associated with racial and ethnic population groups in the United States who have suffered major intergenerational losses and assaults on their culture and well-being
  • Traumatic grief/separation/forced displacement
  • Natural disasters
  • Witnessing any of the above traumatic events

Responses to trauma can be expressed through emotions and/or behavior, and can impede an individual’s ability to function.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a longer-term condition that can develop as a result of trauma, however, not all traumatic events lead to PTSD. Re-experience of the event can occur through flashbacks, dreams, and thoughts. Common signs and symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Avoidance of people, places, or memories of the event
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Being easily startled
  • Feelings of guilt or blame for the event
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Constant state of agitation/arousal  (not triggered by traumatic event reminder)
  • Event memory lapse
  • Negative thinking about self/world
  • Loss of interest in pleasure, family, or friends

PTSD symptoms can begin as early as three months post trauma or years after, occur for more than a month, and interfere with work, relationships, and daily tasks. A diagnosis of PTSD can be done by a trained medical professional, but leaders who have a greater understanding of the condition can aid in the recovery process.

What Leaders Need to Know about PTG

Post-traumatic growth (PTG) occurs through the struggle with adversity and results in a transformative, positive change. Based on the research published by Lawrence G. Calhoun and Richard G. Tedeschi in The Handbook of Posttraumatic Growth (Routledge, 2014), people who make meaning out of trauma:

  • Increase their sense of personal strength and ability to prevail
  • Improve their relationships and sense of belonging
  • Experience greater compassion
  • Deepen their sense of purpose and appreciation for life

Research also reveals the benefits of small support groups. These offer the opportunity to share our stories, an invaluable tool in PTG.

PTG at Work: What Managers Need to Know

Managers and team leaders can provide a psychologically safe-space where employees can share their stories, restore their wellbeing, and re-affirm their sense of purpose. Below are five key questions to help employees validate their experience and move forward constructively through the pandemic recovery:

  • What is your greatest loss as a result of the pandemic?
  • What is your greatest gain as a result of the pandemic?
  • What self-discoveries have you, or are you making as a result of the pandemic?
  • How can you apply your discoveries going forward? What would it look like?
  • What can you use to prompt you to apply your discovery? Specifically, what two words or phrase?

Remind your team to refrain from cross talk (don’t interrupt or comment on what someone else has said), as well as keeping what is shared confidential. You see, listening as “attentive companions” creates and holds a safe space for one another. When we use storytelling based on these questions, we express authenticity, vulnerability, and trust: for and in others.

Your Trauma Recovery:
What Employees Need to Know

As many return to pre-pandemic routines, trauma and trauma recovery are frequent topics of discussion. For some, the challenges have brought a new appreciation (and recognition) of personal strengths. They are exploring new possibilities personally and professionally.

If you’re not there yet, know you are not alone. Help is available. While post-traumatic growth (PTG) may happen naturally, there are steps you can take to facilitate the process.

Five Ways to Facilitate Growth after Trauma

A traumatic event is often shocking, scary, and sometimes, dangerous. It disrupts our beliefs and challenges our assumptions. Trauma can produce anxiety and repetitive thoughts.

  1. Educate: Trauma disrupts our beliefs, challenges our assumptions, and can be a catalyst of positive change. Consider where you might find positive impacts.
  2. Regulate emotions: Notice feelings as they occur. Then, determine what thoughts preceded negative feelings. Replace negative thinking with positive thoughts.
  3. Share your story: Talk about your experience: past and present.
  4. Create an authentic narrative: In what ways are you changing or have you grown? Where are new possibilities and opportunities?  
  5. Be of service: Helping others can renew our energy and help us find meaning.

Be patient with yourself. When you are ready, the effort is worth it: you are worth it. If you need help, ask your manager, a trusted mentor, or a qualified professional.