Feeling Safe in Uncertain Times

What makes us feel safe in uncertain times… and how might our Insights colour preferences influence this?

‘We all know that times are strange; Coronavirus is changing everything that is familiar to us’ – Insights Thought Leadership March 2020

Our flagship leadership development programme ‘Leading with Safe Uncertainty’ (LWSU) – delivered in partnership with Moonstone Associates – is based on the concepts that:

  • change and uncertainty are the new norms (yet we still strive for certainty, trying to create solutions that ‘fix’ problems– perceived or otherwise)
  • If we are to adapt, we need to recognise the opportunities that change offers, accepting that uncertainty brings tension yet it can trigger positive adaptation

The underlying tenet of the programme is:

  • Feeling safe is a need; a prerequisite for creative thinking and a growth mindset
  • Feeling certain is a preference and can limit creativity and innovation

According to Porter and Davis (2020), not only do we feel unsafe as our limbic system reacts to the real threat posed by COVID19, we are also dealing with the anxiety triggered by our emotional response to uncertainty and change. We worry about family and friends, our finances, social isolation and juggling our responsibilities, as well as loss of freedom and control. From our perspective we are experiencing unsafe uncertainty.

Coronavirus is, indeed, changing everything that’s familiar to us, and our working lives are central to the shift. Many (perhaps most) of us are currently remote from our colleagues, and who knows for how long? Existing projects are being paused in favour of something that’s more pressing, things can’t be talked through by frank discussions over a coffee and finances and the future are feeling vulnerable.

The current ‘perfect storm’ of the Coronavirus crisis is, as indicated above, a situation that is uncertain and unsafe. We cannot change the fact that uncertainty exists but we can give thought to what makes us, personally, feel psychologically safe; this, in turn, is likely to support our wellbeing and resilience. Is it the same for all of us?

Here are some of the things that people on a LWSU session earlier this year (before the current pandemic) said they needed in order to feel psychologically safe:

Those of you familiar with Insights Discovery will know exactly why the information is set out how it is. Participants shared this information whilst standing on the Insights Discovery floor mat and their dawning realisation that our preferences appear to impact on what is important to us in terms of psychological safety was fabulous to behold. People had ‘lightbulb moments’ for themselves and in relation to others. What would you say is most important for you to feel psychologically safe? Are you getting that right now?

In these extremely uncertain times remember that ‘feeling safe is a need’ – what can you find about yourself (and – if you manage staff – your team members) that can support you with this? With the current physical distancing measures, I believe that being able to ‘adapt and connect’ has never been more important.

If you don’t already have an Insights Discovery personal profile and are interested to find out more, just get in touch (you might even be eligible for a free profile and debrief). If you do have an Insights profile already and would like to chat about this or anything else – again, please just get in touch!

Dee Cooper, Director, Agar Management Consultancy – May 2020


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