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Posted by on Feb 8, 2017

To Overcome Anxiety in the First 100 Days, Coaching Is Clutch

To Overcome Anxiety in the First 100 Days, Coaching Is Clutch

A worker coaches other workersExecutive orders, cabinet confirmation hearings, and Supreme Court nominations are leaving many in the federal sector uncertain about how they’ll be impacted. This uncertainty can increase anxiety for Federal employees.

This uncertainty, combined with how people feel about the uncertainty, affects people’s ability to tolerate ambiguity, increasing the intensity of their experience of anxiety. The experience of uncertainty can also in turn amplify a particular feeling you already have about what’s going on in your workplace.

One of several factors that influence the human experience of uncertainty is the psychological safety they experience in their work environment.

As someone’s boss, you likely influence the psychological safety a person experiences, even if you cannot change the objective uncertainty of the present moment. How you demonstrate transparency, trust, and yes, even care, for your employees can influence how they experience a sense of security at work.

Your role is even more critical in steadying your team while they work through fears, anxiety, confusion, apprehension, and other negative emotions that can be brought on by significant transitions in the workplace.

Emotional contagion, the phenomenon of a team’s attitudes and feelings—and thus, their decision making—being influenced by one another’s emotions, has gained increasing attention in recent times. If you’re a manager who isn’t paying attention to how your own emotions are influencing your people, you might be contributing unnecessary negativity to an already anxious group. Yet, you may not be experiencing a sense of stability from your own boss. So, you’re having to buffer against what’s coming at you from your boss, and prevent that from being passed down to your people…

Enter coaching.

Working with a coach (internal or external to your organization) can help you navigate your own feelings of uncertainty, while working on your capacity for self-control or empathy, holding difficult conversations, executive presence, and more. And, if you get serious about using coaching skills to help your own people, having your own coach can be critical in helping you understand what good coaching looks and feels like, and how it’s different from traditional supervisory conversations.

According to our recent research report—Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management82 % of the Federal workers we surveyed feel that their managers are unresponsive or slow to address reported employee issues.

A study by DDI (Development Divisions International, Inc.) found that in the U.S., 56% of frontline managers fail because of lack of interpersonal skills. Moreover, negative outcomes like loss of leader engagement, team members leaving the organization, and profit and productivity loss, were most commonly attributed to lack of interpersonal skills.

Are you that manager? Are you uncomfortable handling important, if difficult, conversations? Are you perhaps even uncomfortable holding check-in conversations that aren’t part of the official “performance review” process?

I’ve encountered several clients who hesitate to initiate informal conversations with their employees because it isn’t part of their organization’s “culture.” They get self-conscious. They think it will be too awkward, or worse yet, that employees will question their motivations.

Without putting in the time and effort to build rapport, they’re surprised when they don’t know how to motivate or support individual employees. And now, both the relationship and how to deal with uncertainty, have to be addressed.

If you’re a manager who hasn’t picked up coaching skills—you can develop those skills through training, mentoring, and effective practice. Inquire of and listen to your employees, in a conversation that isn’t tied to their performance review. Ask what will help them feel supported in the present moment, and that they’re moving forward.

For some, this might feel more like a “stay” interview. But the bottom line is that you need to have the skills to hold meaningful conversations with employees so that they feel heard and supported, engaged in the immediate future, and have a reasonable expectation that you’re looking out for their interests in the times ahead.

Combine your regular use of coaching skills and your own one-on-one work with a coach to fortify yourself and grow your own resilience, self-regulation, and tolerance for ambiguity.

Your team needs you.

2 Comments

  1. Very interesting article with lots of valid, important points that are equally applicable to and critical for the private sector.

    • Thanks, Cassandra! I completely agree. Employee-manager interactions to engender support and engagement are beyond, or core to, both public and private sector organizations. Both deal with a workforce that shares the same universal human/social needs–public and private organizations have many of the same concerns to work on (and they often use–or could use–the same solutions)!

      – Natalya

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