BLOG: Are You Swimming, Floating or Sinking?
I know the season is summer and water fun is upon us. If you live in California, you are praying for an opportunity to be near any body of water. However, my posed question has nothing to do with splashing.
Are you Swimming, Floating or Sinking?
I am questioning how you are currently coping with your life.
How are you feeling about yourself, your career and your relationships?
There are many titles you may hold: o Woman/Man o Husband/Wife o Sister/Brother o Employee/Student o Friend/Mentor o Daughter/Son
Of course, there are other specialized titles, like Dance Mom, Baseball Coach or Choir Director, to name a few.
In addition to my plethora of titles, one of the roles that I have had the pleasure of fulfilling has been that of leader. I now operate as more of a freelancer, but once upon a time I was a Program Coordinator over a social service program. I supervised 65+ staff of varying academic and career levels. Leadership was a privilege; it came naturally and was well received by my staff.
My leadership style almost mirrored my clinical approach. I was nurturing, engaged and truthful (even when the truth hurt).
Recently while speaking with one of my former staff recently, I was reminded about a check-in tool that I frequently used to assess the adjustment of my staff.
I would make direct eye contact and ask:
“How are you? Do you feel like you are swimming, floating or sinking in your current role?”
Most importantly, I listened intently to their response and responded accordingly.
SWIMMING Those that felt like they were swimming appeared competent and fulfilled at that time. I would praise them for their contributions to the team and ask:
“What tools or support have you been finding helpful?”
The person’s response required them to consider the aspects of their life that contribute to fulfillment. Their answers also provided me with ideas to share with other staff who were struggling at the time.
The exchange provided me with valuable information, and the staff left feeling affirmed.
FLOATING My floaters were stable, content and possibly stagnant.
Now, these challenged me the most, because I had to eliminate my values and fully respect the views of the employee.
I am an adventurous go-getter, so in my life, stagnation is death. However, I must respect that there are individuals who cherish stability and consistency.
I listened intently to my floaters, as well. If there appeared to be a struggle regarding their status, I helped them identify opportunities for growth.
I asked probing questions, like: o Do you need new opportunities at work? o Would you like to acquire any new skills? o What are your interests or hobbies outside of work?
I encourage them to ponder these questions and bring their brainstormed responses back to me within 1 week. While they pondered opportunities for change, I considered options within our program (based upon their interests, of course) that could enhance the employee’s work experience.
SINKING Usually someone that is sinking will evidently display that distress in his or her affect and body language. For my sinkers, listening without judgment is critical, even if that meant listening to a bitter rant. While paying attention, I was tuning in to potential areas of support. I validated their feelings and collaboratively developed a strategy for support. This could’ve even included requesting some self-care, like giving them an afternoon off to spend with their family and taking a nap.
The sinkers could have been problem staff, but pointing that out while they were sinking wasn’t helpful. Like in a swimming crisis, I immediately focused on safety and stabilization before exploring what went wrong. Additionally, my interaction with staff in other categories was relatively brief, but the sinkers required more time. It was worth it though, because a disgruntled staff can become like a cancer infecting every aspect of the team.
Once you answer that question, apply the techniques I presented to your own life.
Tell me how it goes:
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