Acknowledging the Overwhelm

Blog 2021-06-01 photo

A different kind of overwhelm seems to be setting in for some right now with work. Requests from customers to meet in-person again, having to show up in the office full bore, added traffic doubling some commute times…you name it.

If you are feeling extra exhausted lately, you are not alone. The mental toll from this past year’s pandemic is now magnified with different or added pressures. As we navigate expectations to perform, it’s helpful to remind ourselves it is people who perform the work.

Harvard Business Review published a recent article, What Amazing Bosses Do Differently. One of their recommendations: Manage individuals, not teams. Each person we interact with has their own unique desires, challenges, and ways of responding in their world. Knowing this, I suggest using the power of acknowledgement.

Showing up for people by acknowledging what’s happening in their lives can ease overwhelm and help clear the way for performance. As I was taught, acknowledgement can be simply articulating what’s going on before you launch into a pressing task or endeavor.

Decades ago, I learned a simple mnemonic that’s helped me with this: Culture + Audience + Goal = Etiquette (C + A + G = E). Using CAGE gets me focused first on what’s going on (Culture) and acknowledging the person(s) in front of me (Audience) before I launch into my task (Goal) with the intent of a successful interaction (Etiquette). I have since adapted CAGE slightly to focus on questions that build leadership capacity and improve performance:

  • Culture – What is the mood in the space (physical or virtual) surrounding our interaction?
  • Audience – Who am I getting to work with and positively influence? TIP: “Relationship is the container that holds the task” as Amanda Blake says.
  • Goal – What am I wanting to achieve through our interaction?
  • Etiquette – What is possible now because of our interaction?

This Week’s Challenge: Try employing the CAGE approach in your daily interactions and see how it might help you at work and in life.

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