Creating predictability and stability in times of rapid change

Originally posted Mar 15, 2020 • More resources on building resilience & leading through crises

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A few years back, spurred by the effects of the 2016 election, I published a blog post called “Managering in terrible times”. It begins:

“As managers, one of our responsibilities is to provide the safest workplace we can to those around us. This includes members of marginalized groups who are dealing with a rapidly worsening environment, folks who may be anticipating legal challenges, and people with families who are uncertain about their ability to keep their jobs and stay safe in their communities. How do we support our reports in this rapidly changing political environment?”

It’s getting shared a lot right now. The advice I share in that post is (I hope) still useful during this wild time, but there’s one new thing I want to call out: in addition to our needs around physical safety, our BICEPS core needs are also threatened right now. So let’s talk about what we can do for ourselves, and for those around us, to help address those core needs.

Longtime readers are probably already familiar with humans’ 6 core needs at work (BICEPS). Our core needs are exactly that: needs that must be met in order for us to feel safe and secure. And guess what? During a pandemic, it’s really hard to address them. Here’s a quick recap of BICEPS:

Belonging: This core need is about a sense of belonging, a connection to a community or to a group of people. Our amygdala perceives social rejection as a threat.

Improvement/Progress: We have a core need to feel some level of improvement, or a sense of making progress—whether for your organization, for your team, or for your personal life.

Choice: Choice (or autonomy) is the power to make decisions about your own life and work. This core need calls for balance— too many choices can feel overwhelming or aimless; too few choices can make you feel powerless.

Equality/Fairness: This core need boils down to the idea that your environment includes equal access to resources, information, and support for everyone in it.

Predictability: We need the right balance of consistency and unpredictability in our lives to thrive. When our sense of certainty is threatened, we may have a really hard time focusing on our job duties or goals.

Significance: Significance, or status, is our core need for understanding where we are in a hierarchy, especially in relation to others.

If you’ve been feeling a sense of dread, anxiety, or intensity—which of these core needs is particularly at play?

For me personally, I’m grasping for any sense of predictability. All of my planned workshops—which constitute the majority of my yearly income—for April, May, and June have been postponed. So when I think about what would help me the most right now, I know that creating more predictability and certainty would help me significantly.

1. Pinpoint your #1 core need right now.

Maybe it’s feeling a sense of improvement and progress: how can I feel like I’m moving forward, and not stagnating?

Maybe it’s a sense of choice: given all of the new constraints, what do I have power over?

Maybe it’s belonging: working from home and social distancing means new levels of isolation.

Take a few minutes and figure out which of the core needs is the most in need of addressing for yourself right now.

(No, seriously, go do it. Write the name of the core need on a post-it. Keep it as a reminder to check in on over the next few weeks!)

2. Check in with your teammates.

Next, remember that for your teammates, it might be a different core need. We’re all different, and we each are living with different circumstances, so it’s crucial to remember that you’ll need to check in with each member of your team.

If you’re wondering how to talk about it: I like to describe BICEPS, show them the list of core needs, and ask them which of these core needs (if any) feel especially relevant to what they’re feeling today.

3. Get creative about addressing these core needs.

There are so many ways to address these core needs, once you’ve figured out which one needs the most attention. You might need to get creative (like I illustrate in this post about core needs and desk moves), but you have agency here! For example:

Here are two ways that we at Wherewithall are trying to help with folks’ core needs right now:

Online Workshops

To help with Belonging, Improvement/Progress, and Significance core needs

These online versions of our best-in-class in-person workshops are ideal for line managers and middle managers of any discipline. We welcome folks who are management-curious, too.

And our online class sizes are capped at 12 people—so this is the best opportunity to connect with Lara outside of her coaching practice!

Our first 3 workshops have sold out, but more online workshops will be announced here soon!

In case it’s helpful, here are all my posts about how to lead through crises.

Woman speaking to camera with video player buttons underneathWant some extra support as you lead your team through this challenging season?

Check out my new Building Resilience video course to find exercises, tips, and homework to strengthen your network and manage your energy.

Lara Hogan

Author, public speaker, and coach for managers and leaders across the tech industry.

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