Walk Like A Penguin In Uncertain Times

By Serin N Silva

The world has shifted rather quickly in 2020. You may find yourself now working out of your home, leading a remote team, juggling kids who run into the frame on a video call. Maybe we can take a cue from the penguins and how they walk. Short, certain steps that can bring us forward even though there is ice. The penguin keeps walking no matter what, and we can too.

I thought I’d share some tips for navigating across the ice that we find underfoot today. Take what works for you and leave what doesn’t. Everything is an invitation.

  1. We’re human and we have emotions — even at work. Emotions are a part of us and cannot be left at the door when working together — particularly now. In the old days, we were trained to leave them at the door — almost sanitized away once you crossed the reception desk. But in today’s climate, this is when emotional intelligence really shows up for us. Emotional intelligence is an opportunity for you to understand your own emotions and the emotions of those around you. Navigate together as one team and acknowledge that our external world is quite complicated right now. Also known as ‘keeping it real’ and leading through adversity.
  2. Imperfection is ok. Things don’t have to be perfect with your penguin walk. Just don’t stop walking abruptly because something isn’t perfect. Brene Brown says that vulnerability and imperfection are not flaws – I tend to agree with her. Sometimes, 80% is ok. Especially if you are a high performer and always deliver 120%. Maybe with all that is going on, 80% is ok if it keeps projects/plans/strategies moving forward.
  3. Make work feel safe – Create an environment where people feel comfortable making mistakes and can be authentic. Free of ridicule. According to Harvard Business Review, safe teams are a cornerstone of high-performance. One of the best managers I ever had, made it so easy for us to talk about what’s on our minds. This built trust, understanding and a feeling of being seen. I felt very comfortable sharing my ideas and so did our team. We were a cohesive team and one of the most profitable business units in the company.

I don’t profess to have all of the answers or make it seem easy. The penguins have mastered their walk, but some of us may be new to the ice. I do hope that by sharing this and by having faith in our shared humanity, people will show up as their full authentic selves, work as inspired teams, and step by step move forward.

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