We enter another week, engaging with new realities most days, trying to form new patterns of life, work and family. New language abounds, ‘flattening the curve’ and ‘super-spreaders’ are now part of everyday parlance. We are also seeing new cultural phenomena emerging. This last week in the normally quite cynical UK we witnessed millions of people from around the country step outside their doors at 8pm to ‘ClapforourCarers’, in truth it is one of the most moving things I have witnessed for years. Sadly, we reserved Brits are not as creative as our Italian friends who sang to their carers, yet it was still quite a remarkable scene.

There appear to be few ‘upsides’ to this current crisis, only sadness and heartbreak. However, part of our job as leaders is to explore and interrogate new realities, and, where we can, reframe downside as also opportunity.

Many of us would have seen the images of the normally murky, cloudy and petroleum covered waters of Venice that are now crystal clear, playing host to shoals of fish. The absence of motorised gondolas, ferries and delivery motorboats has allowed a cleansing of all the damaging toxins to take place that in normal times would not ever be possible.

As I reflected on this image, I did wonder whether this unchosen hiatus of normal working life might also provide an opportunity for our own form of ‘cleansing’. As a coach I am regularly in conversation with leaders about unhealthy mindsets and belief systems. These psychological toxins pervert reality, cloud leader’s judgement and often lead to bad decisions or fractured relationships. Too rarely do they pause to interrogate their own perceptions and attitudes and the more senior they are, the less likely they are to receive external challenge. Often their self-perception and internal narratives are riddled with insecurity, playing host to very muscular ‘imposter syndromes’, causing them to be defensive, uncertain and closed to challenge.

I also often end up exploring unhelpful behaviours and habits informed by those mindsets, these things having embedded themselves neurologically and end up feeling ‘normal’. These range from excessive need for control, coercion of colleagues, conflict avoidance and work addiction, clearly none of which are healthy for anyone involved.

Reflective practice is important in every discipline, never more so than in leadership. I attach a few open questions below that might be a helpful tool to use for interrogating any unhealthy belief systems you think you may harbour. It might well be a helpful and healthy idea to put some of your mindsets and behaviours under the microscope during this home working season and explore any positive and ‘cleansing’ change that might take place. It will make you a better leader and if ever we needed to lead more effectively it is now….

What is the evidence for this thought? Against it?

Am I basing this thought on facts, or on feelings?

Is this thought black and white, when reality is more complicated?

Could I be misinterpreting the evidence? Am I making any assumptions?

Might other people have different interpretations of this same situation? What are they?

Am I looking at all the evidence, or just what supports my thought?

Could my thought be an exaggeration of what’s true?

Am I having this thought out of habit, or do the facts support it?

Did someone pass this thought / belief to me? If so, are they a reliable source?

Is my thought a likely scenario, or is it the worst case scenario?