Last month, Valor hosted a virtual event for the Valor Community, a Fireside Chat with Sarah Milby and Brad Stulberg, which can be viewed here. Sarah and Brad covered topics such as the need to be flexible and adaptable, the importance of having self-compassion, and the restorative impact of creating physical and temporal boundaries for ourselves.
There were so many great questions and conversation points suggested and submitted by attendees that Sarah and Brad couldn’t get to all of them during the event, so we called upon our incredible bench of global Valor Coaches. We crowd-sourced answers to some of the remaining questions and collected them here. Valor Performance Coaches Dr. Lauren S. Tashman, Iris Zimmermann, Inga Stasiulionyte, and Sunny Nwabueze provide incredible insight and wisdom, actionable takeaways, and resources for further learning on some of the unanswered questions from our event.
Q: We know that developing and fostering creativity and a “stretchy mindset” is important for adaptability and can help with changing up our routines, but how do you actually do that?
Iris Zimmermann: This fits in with the Valor Competency of Mental Agility. Valor Master Coach, Dr. Lauren Tashman talks about the idea of “adapt and don’t abandon,” which I think is really really important. When circumstances change, we think that our first solution will be the right one. Think like a scientist and develop a hypothesis and try it out for a period of time and then decide what needs to be kept, changed, or thrown out of the experiment. The problem is that we always need the answer right away, but it does take time to develop new routines.
Dr. Lauren Tashman: Adapting rather than abandoning is key so that we are also leveraging the Valor Competency of Emotional Flexibility: tuning into what we need which may be different at different times. It also is useful so we don’t completely abandon the strategies that have been keys to success for us in the past as well as remain flexible to know which tool in our toolbox we might need at different times. This has been really important during this year when we’ve seen that for quite a few reasons, things work for a bit but then may get stale or our mental state shifts so we end up needing to either adapt our strategy or use a different one.
The last thing that comes to mind on this is that sometimes we think changes mean that we need to change what we’re doing. An example is this is the athlete or team that shifts their approach completely for a big game solely because it’s a big game so they think they need to do something different rather than sticking with what has been working for them. I often remind clients about the Zen story of “chop wood, carry water” which is mentioned in Jim Afremow’s The Champion’s Mind.
Sunny Nwabueze: There is a great, recent Brene Brown interview with Scott Sonenshien, author of Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less – and Achieve More than You Ever Imagined related to this topic. They share loads of tips and activities for creating a stretchy mindset.
Inga Stasiulionyte: Also, creating the habit of learning something new. This entails discovering how we learn things and being aware of the learning curve where we allow ourselves to fail and progressing without judgement.
Sunny: Other practical applications are bringing curiosity and a beginner’s mind to the activities we engage in. Trying to find new joys in the everyday activity. Seeing things through a child’s eyes helps with this. Also, holding our routines lightly. If we don’t feel like exercising because we didn’t sleep well the night before, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it. Try to do it the next day and find something else for that day which works. And finally, letting go of expectations. Don’t think “this is what I should be doing, or what I used to do.” Instead, focus on what I need right now and put your energy into that.
Q: Are there any best practices for managing uncertainty?
Iris: I use the concept of Accept, Let Go, and Embrace. What can I Accept about this current situation, what can I Let Go about this current situation, and what is there for me to Embrace?
Lauren: I love this and do something similar, but add in “Keep” and “Change/Adapt.”
Iris: The idea begins with “Controlling the Controllables.” We have to come to terms that sometimes things are uncertain and we cannot control the outcomes as much as we want to. The fear of the unknown creates a need to want to control the uncomfortable place we feel we are in now. The truth is, the control is a short term fix and may relieve the emotion at the moment, but it is not a long term solution.
Sunny: I would add as well, creating a practice by setting intentions to monitor your thinking and stop yourself from getting fixated on the uncontrollable things in your life. I like to call it “not falling down the rabbit hole.”
Lauren: I often break it down into things we can control, things we can influence, and things we can’t control. For the thing we can control, we have to look at what we can actually control and what things we can do that give us a sense of control which is important because that is one of our fundamental psychological needs as humans.
Iris: And lastly, lean into your values and the Valor Competency of Values Endurance. Get clear about them and do not get distracted by the emotion or words telling us to try and control what we cannot control.
Lauren: It can be really helpful to choose a value of the day/week/month or to create a mantra to help us keep that top of mind so we can continue reorienting ourselves towards it like a compass.
Another thing I would add in here is the understanding of what stress is. It is the product of our perception that the demand being placed on us is greater than the resources (internal or external) we have to meet that demand (whether that is actual or just perceived). Thus, the two things that really trigger this imbalance to cause stress are uncertainty and importance. The more important and/or uncertain something is or feels the more we will perceive the situation as stressful. So an actionable item here is to use tools such as reframing, self-talk, gratitude, and various confidence strategies to shift from a perception of threat to one of challenge and opportunity for resilience/growth.
Inga: In addition to what’s being said, I love to discuss with clients what uncertainty means and what benefits this state delivers to us. We spend most of our time in states of uncertainty, so the question becomes: What skills do we need to develop to better our relationship with the unknown?
Q: How can we be better with our time management in the Zoom Era? Having an agenda helps set the tone, but what can we do when people go over time or get off-topic?
Iris: Zoom seems convenient until you have 10 of them in a row and you have a headache at the end of the day. Sticking to some norms may be helpful, such as 50 minute meetings giving you 10 minutes of buffer time in between to relax and prep. Create a system where there is a break between meetings, and encourage using that break for processing and resetting.
Also, create time blocks in your calendar. Decide ahead of time which ones are movable and which ones are not. I would be intentional that the immovable ones are spent resetting: taking a walk, time to not think about work, etc. Part of the reason that we are feeling drained is that we are “always on” and the brain needs some resetting in order to be more creative. We aren’t just machines that produce. We also need space to think in a big picture way. I think that is what is missing with these back to back meetings. Before, we had time between meetings, commutes, etc. that created those spaces for us to just let our mind wander, but we don’t have that right now and need to intentionally create that time for ourselves.
Also, pick up the phone! Phone conversations offer a nice way to connect that doesn’t make you feel you have to “be on.” Be intentional about which mediums you choose to connect with others.
Lastly, whenever someone says Time Management, we Valor Coaches often think “Energy Management.” How do you want to feel at the end of a successful day? Many of us choose “really drained” because it feels like we got everything out of a day, but truth be told, in order to sustain performance, you have to leave some gas in the tank. For a resource on Energy Management, I really enjoy the book The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr.
Lauren: This is really important because some research has shown that how we “walk away” from something (the emotion we feel for example at the end of a workout, day, etc.) has a feedforward effect (implications for our motivation and mindset moving forward).
And be proactive! Game plan the week ahead and do some contingency planning since plans never go as planned.
A couple thoughts on the meeting management part of the question: First, clarify the goal(s) of the meeting (this can be clarifying the purpose of meeting, priorities for meeting, what want/need to happen by end of meeting, etc.) so that everyone is on the same page at the start and decisions can be easily made about whether to let someone talk for longer than their time or stop them, because it’s aligned with the goal everyone agreed to.
Second, have various ways in which people get to have their time and value add. So maybe there’s a shared google doc where ideas get added in, questions get asked, etc. and meetings are reserved for discussion or prioritized topics.
Creating clarity around follow up is another way to manage your time and energy around meetings. If someone didn’t get to share fully, what is the next step? Do they share in another way? Does circling back to that topic or point go to the top of the agenda for the next meeting? Identifying how we handle these situations ahead of time is useful. Even better, allow opportunity for contribution to the meeting agenda in the first place! Help everyone be proactive about preparation for meetings instead of just having an agenda (what does everyone need to think about, do, etc. to be ready for the meeting).
Q: How can you create a “sense of belonging” with a virtual team?
Iris: This is such a great opportunity to get creative! We think we don’t have time to get to know people, but in the end, it helps us work together better as a team and can produce some really great long term results. Bottom line, put in the time. With Zoom, we want to “get to the point,” but finding other times and ways to connect will establish that sense of belonging. This speaks to the Valor Competency of Connection Strength.
Lauren: Make sure this is done intentionally and you’re not just adding things in with the intent of belonging. Belonging isn’t just about spending time together, it’s about the quality time that produces a sense of “we” and a feeling amongst everyone that they are a value add and piece of the puzzle.
Iris: Your team members are all different and their ideas of how they feel included can be very different, too. Take the time to understand that and perhaps think one layer deeper on how to connect with each person. I just think we have an opportunity to get creative and have fun with it.