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Together despite everything: how to survive the horrors of war and save the team

Together despite everything: how to survive the horrors of war and save the team

10 principles of trauma-informed leadership

Цей матеріал також доступний українською
Together despite everything: how to survive the horrors of war and save the team

Russia's military aggression has forced not only the Ukrainian army, society, and volunteers, but also Ukrainian big business to unite. The business community that already has experience in surviving and supporting all processes under a list of "COVID-19" lockdowns, has faced a new challenge: how to continue working under military actions, when the team partly was evacuated, partly – sits in bomb shelters, someone joined the Armed Forces and / or local defense units; at the same time all with no exception are embarrassed by the staggering attack of the northern neighbor.

The situation highlighted an increased demand for the competence of Change Managers. In Ukraine, more than 2,000 people – business owners, heads of organizations and departments, project managers and middle managers – are working on transformation and organizational change projects. They represent 11 industries, as well as state and public companies. To help them act more effectively, ASMR Ukraine has launched the "Changes to Prepare for Change" program. This is a series of events to support Ukrainian society and business, whose task is to survive and learn to work in the new reality of war.

Iryna Chernyshova – Certified Change Management Professional, Head of Board of АСМР Ukraine, СЕО ChangeImpulse, prepared a column for Mind media and explained, what is the basis for such training and support, and how can any leader manage a team that has felt the devastating effects of war in one way or another.

This publication is the first in a series of articles under the general title "Leadership for Change in War." Further materials are being prepared jointly by Mind and the open innovation platform Reactor.ua and will be published in the near future.

Our member’s experience shows that there are several guidelines on how to act in modern realities. First of all, pay attention to such aspects.

Rely on the most up-to-date researches on the impact of war on the international context (and therefore on your business/subordinates) conducted by the highly trusted and reputable organizations.

For example, EYs’ research analytics, presented by Olga Gorbanovska, a partner and head of EY People Advisory Services in Ukraine, during the meetup “ACMP Ukraine” named “Company’s actions after the war started in Ukraine”, can help to identify six risk groups and identify the most effective instruments to work with personnel.

Help managers to develop an awareness of the need for leadership informed about trauma. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (SAMHSA) is a recognized institution in the field of traumatic experience.

According to the SAMHSA definition, “individual trauma is the result of an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that an individual experience, is physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening. Trauma has long-term adverse effects, affects the functioning of the individual and mental, physical, social, emotional or spiritual well-being. “

Currently, the war continues to traumatize everyone and affects everyone we interact with, including staff and colleagues. But we react to trauma differently, it all depends on individual factors. Ten people may experience the same event, and each will have a different behavioral response.

Our reaction is influenced by genetics, deep historical experience, internal and external resources. Injury to one person can be a "traffic jam" for another, and even change the life path of several people.

Trauma-aware leaders know that people respond to trauma and the emotional scars they leave; this manifests itself in one way or another in the workplace and affects the productivity of the whole team. Therefore, such leaders are emotionally open, compassionate and do create a safe environment. They recognize and respect a person's ability to cope, promote healing, and maintain mental health. And they understand that the care about others should start with care about yourself.

How to become such a leader?

To learn to see the manifestations of trauma in colleagues and be able to respond properly, people in the organization must understand not only what is happening in our brain and body.

To truly become a trauma-aware organization, SAMHSA recommends using four steps:

  • be aware of the common effects of trauma and understand potential ways to recover;
  • recognize the signs and symptoms of injury in customers, family, staff and others associated with the system;
  • integrate injury knowledge into the organization's policies, procedures, and practices;
  • actively resist re-trauma.

How to implement such practices?

It’s easy to start with easy, basic things.

Meet five staff requests:

  • "Hear me"
  • "Protect me"
  • "Prepare me"
  • "Support me"
  • "Take care of me."

Create a safe, trusting environment for your staff in the workspace.

Encourage your workers to "take 10" (on the recommendations of American expert Ellen Fink-Semnik):

  • 10 seconds for breathing;
  • 10 minutes for grounding (mindfulness applications are a must);
  • 10 hours, or one day for psychic health, to restore stability;
  • 10 days for rest (vacation);
  • 10 weeks or 10 months to change the life (this may require a more detailed interview and even a potential job change).

10 principles of a responsive leader

  1. Pay attention to the health of staff (including mental health) and the well-being of the team.
  2. Watch for signs of stress: agitation, sadness, frustration, forgetfulness, exacerbation of chronic illness, depression or anxiety.
  3. Reduce behavioral stigma about health. Encourage discussion of this topic and referral (if necessary) to medical facilities for testing.
  4. Support and model self-care.
  5. Participate in two-way communication: not just tell staff what to do, but also why.
  6. Stay available to staff.
  7. Recognize that you, as a leader, also have boundaries.
  8. Build team collaboration instead of confrontation between management and staff or among staff, encourage whenever and where possible.
  9. For virtual roles, provide visual interaction with webcams on, where executives can see employees during the day or week.
  10. Realize that cultural change is not achieved through a "once and for all" approach; stay consistent for long-term victory.
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