“I know my people have been through a lot the past few years. I know it’s not business as usual with how I lead my team. What can you tell me about trauma-informed leadership?
More and more we are understanding what trauma-informed management and leadership look like. It’s especially compelling given that we have all been through trauma these past few years, whether it’s big T or little t. COVID and the change in how we think about work, how we think about relationships, how we think about health, how we think about everything, has really started to get the ball rolling on understanding what trauma-informed leadership and management best practices look like.
So I want to give you four things to consider as you’re thinking about how to be the most trauma-informed, capable leader you can be. It’s an acronym: SAFE.
S is for Safety.
The first thing you want to do is make sure — more so than ever before — you are being as predictable as possible. We feel safe when we know that whatever is expected will actually be happening. And that’s super tricky in this time and age when everything is so unpredictable. So do whatever you can to make sure that predictability is maximized. In fact, you’ve probably heard me say before, one of my favorite pieces of advice is a famous quote that comes from Max de Pree, who says “The first job of a leader is to define reality. The second is to say thank you. And the third is to be a debtor and a servant.” So that first charge of defining reality is what you want to do all the time with your folks — continually define reality so they have a good idea of what to expect. And if you don’t know what to expect, then that’s part of the reality you want to define for people.
A is for Autonomy
Give folks as much power as possible over their own destiny. That’s more important than ever, given the trauma that we’ve been through. Let folks have the autonomy they crave to be able to set their destiny on the path they want. So do whatever you can do to help support that.
F is for Face Time
In this day and age, when so much of our work is remote or hybrid, this one can be tricky. More than ever, having been through and continuing to go through trauma, your people really need that connection in the 3D world as much as possible. There’s just so much nuance that goes on with a face to face contact, both for connection and for social support. So give them that face time as much as possible — make it less about the phone, voicemails, texts, and emails and more about video conferencing or in person.
E is for Empathy
Not sympathy — the two are very, very different. In fact, do me a favor and check out the Brene Brown video on empathy versus sympathy. Empathy is about being in the same space with somebody, saying that you can see as much as possible through their eyes. You want to practice, now more than ever, your active listening skills to really see if you can connect with folks in a way that says, “I understand to the best of my ability where you’re coming from.” Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone and that is not what we’re looking for right now.
Finally, listen to a podcast where I interviewed Craig Sims, who is an expert in this field of working with people through their trauma in professional environments.