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Combating Fear-Fed Selfishness

We have all seen the memes showing a hunched over elderly person peering through their large-rimmed glasses at a sparsely stocked grocery store shelf holding an empty shopping basket while a middle aged couple watches from afar pushing a piled high shopping cart.

While that image pulls heart strings, it doesn’t change behavior. We continue to scroll on and laugh at the next meme about hiding toilet paper for Easter instead of eggs, the plight of the elderly person completely forgotten.

Fear and selfishness are BFFs (hence hoarding). When fear reigns those less capable suffer the most. This is because when we move into survival mode (which is what the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing everyone into) it is natural to look inward to protect ourselves and those we hold dear. This creates an “every-person-for-themselves” mentality that overrides compassion.

As we lead through this crisis, we naturally shift our focus inward to our team and it’s needs. As we should. But not to the exclusion of serving those in need.

What do I mean by that? Think about it - by giving undivided attention to making your team as capable and efficient as possible (not bad things by the way) there are others who are not part of your focus. This fine-grained focus during the beginning phase of trying to figure everything out makes complete sense.

However, if hyper focus on team and self continues past the point of feeling somewhat comfortable with the new circumstances the result can be damaging.

The continued focus on narrow ideas, such as only internal goals and wants, breeds entitlement and selfishness over time.

Authentic leadership addresses and diverts fear for the benefit of others. Here are practical ways you can be an authentic leader and be “with” your team while avoiding an entitled future:

  • Keep connected with your team to keep a pulse on how everyone is doing - when they start to get into a rhythm that is the time to start small steps in looking outside

  • Ask for a small number of volunteers to set aside 20 minutes a week to contact people that may be more vulnerable and lonely with a shelter-in-place edict (think assisted living, single parents, etc.)

  • Keep your ears to the ground and identify those who are not be able to access necessary resources, create a supply chain of sorts, and be creative to get people what they need

  • Every so often ask your team who outside of the office/department has really supported them in this crisis and send an electronic thank you card that everyone has signed

Focusing on others gives us something to focus on other than our fear. Bring your team together and ask them how they want to look outside of themselves and serve those in need. You’ll be surprised at the response. Engagement will soar and so will productivity, all because you stopped the inward spiral to entitlement and selfishness.

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