By Sara Williscroft

Remember the “we’re all in this together” message from early in the pandemic lockdown? It was the overwhelming message of unity that helped us get through the early restrictions.

Fast forward to today, where people are finding more differences in their opinions about the pandemic than similarities. Thoughts and behaviours range from the strident following of public health orders, to pandemic fatigue and people who decreasingly see the value of current restrictions.

It’s important to be curious about others, and to be willing to be a part of the conversation, to overcome divisiveness.

What happens when this spectrum becomes divisive in your team? How do you contribute to a supportive, collaborative culture in the face of sharp differences in perspectives on the pandemic?

Amanda Delamer, leadership coach with SoulTree Coaching, has worked with many leaders throughout the pandemic. For Amanda, it comes down to being curious and empathic with your colleagues, encouraging communication and advocating for yourself.

She recommends starting with curiosity.

“Instead of telling people how they are right or wrong, try being curious,” says Amanda. “How are you finding this? How can I support you there? No one needs to feel alienated.”

Asking people about how they’re feeling is a great way to find common ground and start courageous conversations that can truly build a strong team. If you are not willing to be a part of the conversation, it can’t happen.

“I support my clients to be clear on who they are and what is most important, and to be curious about others,” said Amanda. “There are times when you need to advocate for yourself, to have courage to communicate with your employer. Sometimes we need to start the conversation.”

For example, Amanda recalls a client whose workplace had asked people to come back immediately post-lockdown and she was noticing that things were just back to “normal.” People were crammed into the boardroom with no physical distancing at all. Not only was she feeling anxious about work, but now she was feeling alienated about being the odd person out, wearing a mask in the corner, two-meters away from everyone else.

“It really became a matter of her leading with courage and communicating this with her employer to work out a remote solution,” said Amanda. “Until that meeting where she found herself in the corner, she hadn’t communicated, or was even aware of her concerns. We are allowed to change our minds – we can feel safe one day and not the next. Yes, employers are responsible for providing safe environments, but it is also our responsibility to communicate what we need.”

Amanda Delamer is a leadership coach and facilitator, who has been supporting leaders to thrive in both their professional and personal lives for over 10 years. Amanda pushes clients to take responsibility for creating space for joy in their lives and not waiting for it to come to them. She lives in Calgary with her husband and three children.

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