As I started this year, it was not without the weight we all felt as our planned holiday festivities morphed into the frantic rush to find rapid tests and the return of near-2020 quarantine levels. We can’t help but feel exhausted, worried, and unsure what will happen. I read a funny meme on New Year's Eve that said, “Maybe we should wait until June to celebrate 2022…see how it goes?” #THIS
As the leader of an organization, I found myself returning to work in 2022 anxious instead of refreshed from the break. What would another COVID surge mean for our team? How would it impact the company? What would it mean for the educators we support? I started spinning within that worry wheel, bringing it with me to the first few days’ meetings. I was smiling and saying the right things, but I ended each day with a knot in my abdomen which is how my body tells me I have held my breath for too long and have been in anxious mode. Leading with worry wasn’t going to work to support our team and our mission.
That is how I found myself Wednesday evening reflecting on trust - the little moments of trust day to day in those with whom we work and interact, and the “big T” trust that we will emerge stronger, that the work matters, that the world will heal, that everything will work itself out. I recalled the Cherokee parable of the two wolves. In the story, a Cherokee elder grandfather is telling his grandson about the great battle of two wolves within him – the “bad” wolf that is fear, ego, anxiety, sorrow, regret; and the “good” wolf that is possibility, love, hope, belief. The grandson asks, “Which wolf will win?” The grandfather responds, “The one you feed.”
I’ve always loved this parable as a personal guide, but I hadn’t really thought about this on a group level before. In all our workspaces, whether companies, schools, or individual classrooms, those wolves exist as well. LINC is a company that prides itself on and prioritizes team culture, and yet, of course, we are not immune from the impact of feeding the wrong wolf. It made me wonder how we can cultivate feeding the good wolf each day within our workspaces.
This is an exploration I’m taking on this year as a leader, starting with a few simple things:
- I know it sounds silly, but I’m going to breathe better in meetings. I’m going to pause, talk slower, breathe through my nose.
- I’m going to encourage more transparency and authenticity, which means a conscious move away from what sometimes feels like a cheerleading culture. The “bad” wolf doesn’t go away just because we don’t acknowledge it; in fact, it can get more agitated and persistent to be noticed.
- I’m going to listen more intentionally and lead with more questions than answers. One of the tools we use at LINC is Elena Aguilar’s Expansive Listening techniques.
- I’m going to take time and encourage time for creativity and innovation. These are both energy sources which can revitalize and renew our work passion.
What would “feeding the good wolf” look like for you as you enter your workspace each day? Amidst these challenging times, how can we consciously drive towards creativity and possibility with our teachers and with our students? If you want a thought partner in how to care for your team’s good wolf, we’re here for you as we journey through this year together.