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How to be productive in uncertain times

Our world has changed rapidly over a short period of time. The heightened anxiety has brought out the best in people and the worst – ranging from kindness and compassion to fear-based, self-focused behaviour.

Our working environments have also changed dramatically. What many of us once took for granted, is for the moment, on hold. The changes in work environments have highlighted further challenges. We now need to be more adaptable.

Whether you identify as an introvert or an extrovert will determine how you respond to working from home and social isolation.

The introverts among us will embrace the opportunity to have more time to stop and reflect; to work independently while also keeping in contact with other team members.

The extroverts among us may initially struggle with the thought of not being in a bustling team environment. Luckily, technology is allowing virtual meetings and the ability to stay in regular contact.

Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, the key to making the new working environment successful, is effective communication. That also means being able to manage your communication time well.

And that's where everyday leadership is important.

What is everyday leadership?

Everyday leadership is about taking responsibility for our behaviours in the situation we find ourselves in and helping everyone around us to perform to the best of their ability, regardless of our role in an organisation/business.

Everyone is dealing with the uncertainty that surrounds us – some better than others. What we need to remember is that each of us is a role model to those around us, whether in the physical space or virtual space. This is emphasised by how we communicate our messages, each and every day.

Working effectively

Our ability to focus and be proactive will influence our effectiveness in communicating our messages. We need to be adaptable and flexible with our behaviour to work effectively with others, including in the virtual space. Leaders recognise this and help people to work together as a team.

Steven Covey's circlesTo do this effectively, Steven Covey's circle of influence and circle of concern come into play. The circle of influence contains all the things you can control and/or change. The circle of concern, on the other hand, contains things that you have no real control over.

So it's about being self-aware and in turn the degree that each of us is proactive about our environment, including the current circumstances that we all find ourselves in.

It's easy to have a negative perspective and focus on our areas of concern, especially with the constant bombardment of news broadcasts and social media posts about the world crisis.

Circle of concernWhen you have a reactive focus, the circle of concern increases in size and the circle of influence decreases. By being reactive, the focus is on things that you cannot control. For example,

  • The actions of others
  • Predicting what will happen
  • The motives of others
  • How others react
  • How long this health crisis will last

The negative energy generated by this type of focus causes you to neglect areas where something could be done. This in turn, causes the circle of influence to shrink. Feelings of helplessness and anger can overcome you. This does not help the communication process at any level.

Circle of influenceWhen you have a proactive focus, the circle of influence increases as you work on things that you can do something about. For example,

  • Your attitude
  • Choosing when to listen/watch the news
  • Enjoying the positive aspects of your new working environment
  • Learning new ways to communicate
  • Finding new approaches to being innovative and solving problems

The nature of your energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying which causes the circle of influence to increase.

Feelings of achievement and the ability to control some aspect of life, when there are restrictions in place, help you to cope better. This is the focus that each and everyone of us needs to be practising now.

Being an everyday leader

I'm a strong believer in everyday leadership. So much so that I published a book about it. In it, I interviewed 18 everyday leaders who are making a difference to those around them and focusing on their circle of influence.

The following are 5 ideas to help you communicate more effectively as an everyday leader, whether in your virtual or physical working environment.

1. Establish a routine

Routines help to maintain a form of normality. This could be checking in on team members at certain times of the day/week or starting work at a specific time of the day.

2. Be present & respect the time of others

Working in a virtual environment can have its distractions. Ensure that you are focused on what is being said, directly and indirectly.

The majority of us are familiar with social media. It is important to remember the difference between a virtual meeting and a virtual social meeting.

3. Be kind to yourself

Your mental and physical well-being are important. Allocate time in your day to do something that you enjoy. If you look after yourself, you will also be able to help others look after themselves.

4. Celebrate

The current work situation allows you to focus on the small wins each day that you may have previously been too busy to acknowledge.

Are you saving time by not having to commute to work each day? What are you able to do with that extra time in your day?

5. Pause and reflect

Allow yourself time to pause. It is easy to become caught up in everything that is happening in the world. Pausing and reflecting will help you to gain clarity about situations and answers to problems that previously eluded you.

Final note…

Whether you identify as an introvert or an extrovert, the circle of influence is important to remember in these uncertain times. It helps each of us to take responsibility for our actions and practise everyday leadership skills. By being able to communicate in an effective and meaningful way we ensure that those around us feel valued and appreciated.

I'd like to end with a quote from Juliana Nkrumah who was featured in my book, Success Talks: Conversations with Everyday Leaders,

"We all need to take responsibility for improving society."


What can you do today to increase your circle of influence as an everyday leader?



Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone works with individuals and teams to make communication their strength so that their message is heard. Her programs help her clients to excel in their role and be recognised as leaders in their field.
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