The Coronavirus pandemic has multiplied both the the reality and the influence or force of anxiety in the lives of individuals. And at the same time there is increasing evidence that all segments of society (locally, regionally or nationally) are having difficulty coping with the anxiety of the ups and downs of the spikes in infections and deaths.

The most obvious places to observe stress intensifying anxiety are the hospital settings and in venues such as shopping centers, bars, restaurants, and places like picnic grounds or beaches. A popular mentor for thousands of leaders repeatedly reminded attendees at training events, “The explosive outbursts by individuals and small groups in your setting are their ‘dumping’ of individual or collective or pent-up anxiety onto you or into your system. Their seeming attacks on you or others in your organization ARE NOT ABOUT YOU. Often in their lives they have been disappointed or are having feelings of failure and need to dissipate or dispose of the sorrow for failing or self-pity because they think that either they flunked or someone cheated them or ignored them.”

So in the midst of a global pandemic, that is a horrible episode in the our national and global history, each of us is experiencing a new form and intensity of anxiety. This is due in part to the continual exposure to charts, graphs, predictions and the realities of sickness and death all around each of us. And there is the increasing frustration across all sociological and philosophical segments with a lack of consensus about what the “best practices” are for daily life.

Those that take seriously the risks of either catching the virus or transmitting it to others are distressed that some segments of our population either deny or diminish the illness.

The persons and groups that are determined to ignore or debunk medical information consider those complying with guidance and mandates to be ignorant or wimps.

The opposite views about major issues in daily functioning is not a new phenomenon. And the back & forth debates, arguments and other struggles will not disappear. Most of the time when such oppositional viewpoints are dispatched…there is not the risk of overselling or underselling becoming a life or death issue for a community or the global population. The Covid-19 pandemic is termed “novel” by medical experts. And those trained to equip leaders other than medically trained ones are enlightened about the affects and effects of anxiety. On the other hand, the intensity and multiplication of anxieties is unique. The same responses are needed; they are just needed in an exponentially increasing manner.

And YES…there is anxiety in the personal experience of those that WILL wear a mask and those that REFUSE to wear a mask.

The training about dealing with anxiety in a system is to be self-aware and self-defined. It is important not to try to have a meaningful conversation with someone who is screaming at you, or accusing you or threatening you.

Simply be aware that the confrontations and accusations ARE NOT as much about you as they are demonstrations of the need to displace or transfer the other person’s or persons’ inner turmoil in hope of achieving a sense of inner peace. Human history and in-depth research clearly report that the person or persons “dumping” DO NOT maintain the tranquility for an extended amount of time.

A peer in my realm shared with me a formula or plan for how to function when confronted by an individual or group with a need to “dump” or displace anxiety.

The strategy is to NEVER R. E. D.

Never REACT when there is a feeling of attack, distress, anger or demands for compliance. Rather, RESPOND with “I” statements: “I am uncomfortable with what I have just experienced.” Or, “I am requesting that we have a 5-10 ‘pause’ so that I can get myself calmed down. And I am requesting that you step out of this space; or I will exit for some time for each of us to take a deep breath.”

Never EXPLAIN when the other person is angry, belligerent, shouting, or trying to intimidate. An anxious, troubled or troubling person will seldom, if ever, be in a position to accept reason or an informed reply.

Never DEFEND when in a situation that is filled with negative emotions or high decibel declarations. Attempting to DEFEND will almost always be assessed as a counter-attack by the confrontational person/group. Defensive statements will only escalate the episode.

This is being written at the end of July 2020. And, at this time there continue to be increases in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths from Covid-19. Therefore, it is important to be aware that there will most likely continue to be an increase in the intensity of anxiety. This multiplication for individuals and across all of society requires not only extreme caution but also a need for self-defined and non-reactive people.

Be observant and take deep breaths of safe air and attempt to be a calming model for those around you.

Adrenaline Fatigue After a Disaster

There is information that is being shared about the mood and spirit of almost every person directly affected by major disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, blizzards and other weather related events.

The concept is that persons directly affected by or significantly impacted by storms and fires, etc., initially respond with energy, determination and the intent of getting everything in their lives restored as soon as possible.  And then, adrenaline fatigue sets in and individuals, groups, neighborhoods, and entire communities depict weariness, and lethargy akin to what has for years been defined as “burnout.”   The rush of adrenaline at the outset energizes or empowers survivors of disasters to accomplish tasks that were never before a part of their personal histories.  But the almost non-stop focus on cleaning up and renewing damaged property and replacing personal possessions drains the supply of adrenaline.  As a result focus is deflected and simple tasks are avoided or ignored and the pace slows to such a degree that short “to do” lists are misplaced or evaded and progress diminishes and then stops.

There is no way to effectively prepare persons, groups and entire populations for the “highs” (adrenaline rush) and “lows” (adrenaline fatigue) related to the experience of the trauma of the event itself and the aftermath of recovery.

Those of decide to go into a setting where there has been a major disaster should be alert to the ebb and flow of morale, energy and accomplishments.

Leadership Tip Sheet: Team Climate

This Leadership Tip Sheet is about team climate issues. The leadership team in any organization is framed against a backdrop of several elements that must be reviewed continuously if a healthy climate is a consideration. The following items are essential elements for a check-up of a team’s functional interactions.

  • Atmosphere — The setting in which the team functions should be measured against benchmarks that assess the stability of the system and whether it is always tinged with chaos or serenity. Neither extreme is the preferred state of being. But too much time spent in one arena or the other can exhaust the participants and dull their individual and collective creativity.
  • Level of Participation — Measuring the engagement of each member of the group in the overall efforts of the team can assist the team to determine who is an interdependent participant or who is a loner or spectator. Although there should never be a goal of making everyone exactly alike there should be some commonality in the eagerness of each to work together for the good of the whole.
  • Focus — Assessment must be ongoing on whether the group has a focus on an agreed-upon priority or whether several priorities are dispersing the time, energy and talents of team and individuals in it.
  • Goal Centeredness — At least annually a leadership team needs to assess how it has done in moving toward fulfillment of its agreed-upon goals. And the team needs to renew or invent a goal for a coming period of time.
  • Listening Skills — The group needs to pause quite often in each official session and several times during a quarter or year to ask itself whether or not the team is listening to one another and to the system that it is serving.
  • Risk Taking — A leadership team can become increasingly effetive if it agrees to take risks in stopping ineffective programs or initiating projects that will usher in change or qualify as progress. In this regard, the willingness of a group to applaud both its victories and its defeats as evidence of having the courage to take risks. This is also a measure of a healthy team.
  • Managing Conflict — The operative word in this item is manage. Most teams waste time and creative possibilities either by avoiding conflict or by existing in an unending state of being conflicted. A group member can assist the maturing of a team by stepping into a tense situation and stating, “There seems to be conflict between some or all of us. I suggest that we reflect and share how each of us collaborated in the tension developing and by stating what we can do to contribute to a reconciliation and resolution that will get us focused on our goal for this time in the project we are working on.”
  • Consensus — Achieving this aspect of group life is difficult because so much of our lifelong training has been devoted to winning rather than cooperating in an interdependent fashion. Invite team members to work on crafting a solution or working toward an outcome that all can support and promote.

Try these effective tips today to improve the climate of your team!

  • Tip #3 — Invite the newest member of your organization to point out at least one way they see that a process, product or project could be improved. Work as quickly as possible to assess and modify the procedure within no more than two weeks.
  • Tip #4 — Work toward efficiency in making certain that part-time employees and occasional but frequent volunteers are kept informed of day-to-day information that the “insider” group has access to on a continuous basis. Strive to avoid surprises relating to personal items about the health of staff members or the fact that the annual staff picnic is being moved to a new and better location.

Did You Know?

If we could shrink the earth’s population to a single village of 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining — that there would be…

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere (North, Central & South America)
8 Africans

52 would be females
48 would be males

70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian

6 people would control 59% of the planet’s wealth (all six would be U.S. citizens)
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death
1 would be near giving birth

only 1 would have a college education
only 1 would own a computer

5 Rules to Live By When Dealing with the Media

This edition of Mentor Online is borrowed from material by Gwen Moran, printed in Entrepreneur Magazine, 2005.

While there’s plenty of useless conventional wisdom about dealing with the media, there are also some rules you should never break:

1. Respond promptly. “Remember that these people are usually on tight deadlines,” says Barbara Laskin, president of Laskin Media Inc., a New York City media training firm. Even if you’re unable to do the interview, say so in a timely manner.

2. Never say “no comment.” If you cannot answer a question, provide a reasonable explanation instead, says David Margulies, founder of Margulies Communications Group, a strategic PR and crisis communications firm in Dallas.

3. Never lie or speculate. “Aside from the fact that lying is wrong and unethical, it will come back to haunt you,” says Karen Friedman, founder of Karen Friedman Enterprises Inc., a media training firm in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. It’s always better to tell the truth and explain why you did what you did, even if your explanation is shaky.

4. Know the medium’s audience. Every media outlet is different, says Margulies. “Every audience wants you to address WIIFM-what’s in it for me.”

5. Stick to what you know. Do not try to be an expert or comment on an issue about which you are not fully informed, says Margulies.

Low Grumbles, High Grumbles, and Metagrumbles

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from material by Dr. Herbert Maslow.

Dr. Herbert Maslow in 1971 wrote about what he termed “Low Grumbles, High Grumbles, and Metagrumbles,” all part of the human condition and tied to our never-ending desires for MORE – no matter how much we already have (even if that includes good health).

Because a satisfied need ceases to be a motivator of behavior, Dr. Maslow, speaking about gratified basic needs such as hunger, sex, safety and shelter (among many others), said that “All the basic needs which have been fully gratified tend to be forgotten by the individual and to disappear from consciousness.” What does this mean? That for awhile, until the previously satisfied need begins to press on us to satisfy it again, “what the person is craving and wanting and wishing for tends to be that which is just out ahead of him in the motivational hierarchy. Focusing on this particular need indicates that all the lower needs have been satisfied, and it indicates that the needs which are still higher and beyond what the person is craving for [self-esteem, recognition, appreciation, self-actualization] have not yet come into the realm of possibility for him,” so we don’t even think about them when our lower level or “deficiency” needs seem paramount and pressing in our consciousness or biology.

“In an authoritarian, industrial situation,” Maslow writes, “lower-level complaint means complaints about cold and wet and danger to life and fatigue and poor shelter and all of these basic biological necessities.” On the positive side, Maslow indicates that “these complaints represent a wish or craving out ahead of what is currently available.” Being fired arbitrarily, for example, fits here.

So, what are low grumbles? “I think we can call low grumbles those grumbles which come at the biological and at the safety level,” Maslow points out, “perhaps, also, at the level of gregariousness and belonging to the informal, sociable group.”

The higher-need levels would be “mostly at the level of esteem and self-esteem, where questions would be involved of dignity, of autonomy, of self-respect,, of respect from the other; feelings of worth, of getting praise and rewards and credits for one’s accomplishments and the like.”

The metagrumbles “are the metamotivations which hold in the self-actualizing life.” These, Maslow says, “might be complaints about not being given the full truth, blocks in the free flow of communication, complaints about inefficiency and imperfections, etc.” What’s intriguing about complaints or grumbles at this leve is that people who have the luxury of complaining about certain systems in place at work, injustice, grumbles about not being rewarded for the time one has spent on a project, about villainy being rewarded, is this: these are much higher levels of grumbles than those we expect to hear from a person who is anxious about their safety and survival.

What this indicates, Maslow writes, is that “human beings will always complain. As soon as we get used to our blessings, after initial delight, we forget about them and start reaching out into the future for still higher blessings, as we restlessly perceive how things could be even more perfect than they are at this moment.”

Which brings up an interesting point. We’ve heard over and over that we ought to count our blessings, but once we’ve counted them we tend to lose interest in what we now know and will likely move on to higher and higher levels of discontent – reaching for what is out ahead of us, what we have not yet attained yet desire.

This is why those who advocate the philosophy of what Maslow calls “enlightened management” are often disillusioned and disappointed as the complaint level rises when better conditions come in. “Disappointed by the lack of gratitude, by the continuation of complaints, their anger seemed justified in light of the money and efforts that went into making improvements in the work conditions.”

“I assumed that there were hierarchies of frustration and that moving from a low-frustration to a high frustration level is a sign of blessedness, of good fortune, of good social conditions,” Maslow writes. “To complain about the garden programs in the city where I live…indicates the height of life at which the complainers are living. To complain about rose gardens means that your belly is full, that you have a good roof over your head, that your furnace is working, that you’re not afraid of bubonic plague, that you’re not afraid of assassination, that the police and fire departments work well…and many other preconditions that are already satisfied.”

This brings us to Maslow’s key point: “The high-level complaint is not to be taken as simply like any other complaint: it must be used to indicate all the preconditions which have been satisfied to make the height of this complaint theoretically possible.”

Maslow claims that an enlightened management “will expect that improvement in conditions would raise the complaint level and raise the frustration level as outlined above, rather than expecting that improved conditions will make all complaints disappear.” What we must look for in any setting, he indicates, is “Have these complaints gone up in motivational level?” In other words, from low grumbles, to middle grumbles, to metagrumbles? Money, it appears, can mean practically anything in the motivational hierarchy; it can mean low or middle or high values or metavalues as well, depending on the level of dissatisfaction or satisfaction/contentment with which a person is living his or her life.

Here are some examples of really bad conditions: prisoner-of-war camps, concentration camps, poorly managed companies, and frankly all too often, our public school system, nursing home systems that warehouse the elderly rather than honor, value, and respect them. Maslow cites the example of an upholsterer who was always upset because his boss whistled for him instead of calling him by name. A complication of good conditions, we should note, is that they do have a positive effect on some people, a bad and catastrophic effect on others – especially authoritarians who cannot handle freedom and trust.

“Don’t think good conditions invariably make all human beings into growing, self-actualizers,” Maslow writes. For example, some people repress their desire to steal until the bank goes liberal, removes guards, and institutes trust. “The honor system still cannot be used generally in situations where the temptations are too great, where the stakes are too great.”

Maslow even observes that “The same thing is true for a marriage and might even turn out to be a way of judging the goodness of the marriage,” as, for instance, when a wife is complaining about her husband forgetting to bring her flowers, putting too much sugar in his coffee, etc. This type of complaint is at a different level from the wife who complains that her husband broke her nose or knocked her teeth out. “The one thing to remember is that no matter how good the marriage or the college or the school or the parents, there will be perceived ways of improving the situation, i.e., there will be complaints and grumbles.” This, while we may not want to admit it, is the essence of human growth and improvement.

“…there will be very quick and sharp complaints about any more basic gratifications which are taken away or threatened or jeopardized even though the person doesn’t notice these gratifications or takes them for granted entirely when they are easily available.” An example of this is that “If you ask a person what’s good about his place, he won’t think to tell you that his feet don’t get wet because the floors aren’t flooded, or that he is protected against lice and cockroaches in his office, or the like. He will simply take all of these for granted and won’t put them down as pluses. But if any of these taken-for-granted conditions disappears, then of course you’ll hear a big howl. To say it another way, these gratifications do not bring appreciation or gratitude, even though they do bring violent complaints when they are taken away.” Positive grumbles, by contrast, “are generally comments about what is just higher in the hierarchy of motivation, what is just out ahead, what is the next wish wished for.”

In collecting examples of bad conditions in the extreme, Maslow suggests that “collecting this sort of treatment…might be the basis for making up a checklist in order to make…workers more aware of their blessings (which normally they won’t even notice, which they will take for granted as normal). That is, instead of asking them to volunteer complaints, it might be desirable to have a checklist of really bad conditions and ask them if any of these things happen; for instance, if there are any bugs or if it’s too cold, or too hot or too noisy or too dangerous or if corrosive chemicals spatter on them or if they are physically hurt or attacked by anybody or if there are no safety precautions on dangerous machines, etc….Any man presented with a check list of two hundred such items could then realize that the absence of all these two hundred bad conditions was itself a positive good.”

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Need (Pyramid)

The Most Common Reasons People Disengage, Disappear or Exit…

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from The Bored and Apathetic Church Member, by John Savage.

Failure Perception – the constituent thinks or feels that they were failed in some way:
By God
By a pastor
By another participant

The failure may be real or imaginary but is totally important and very personal to the person whose perception is that they have been failed, ignored or slighted in some way. The emotions expressed most often in this instance are anger, bitterness, sorrow, dismay or grief.

Failure Perception – the exiting constituent thinks that they are the one that has failed:
A pastor or others in leadership
Another individual, program or priority

The failure may be real or imaginary but has been known to be so overwhelming to the person that perceived they failed that they can name the day, hour and minute that the mistake, oversight or error occurred. The emotions expressed most often in this instance are shame, guilt, embarrassment, shock, sorrow.

Regardless of the flow if someone does not notice and within the first three weeks acknowledge and act upon a person distance themselves from a congregation that person will likely NOT return.

Another hard concept to deal with is that after the initial three weeks of “testing” to see if anyone notices and nobody does the separating person(s) will not return—UNTIL

A person transitioning out of a congregation either because they were failed or they failed will not return UNTIL. Until something critical (most often something negative) occurs in their life and they feel a stronger need to resume participation than the strength of the hurt or shame that brought about the departure. No amount of begging, pleading, encouraging and bribing or cajoling will speak loud enough for the departing person to actually return UNTIL that significant emotional event occurs in their life and they are drawn or compelled to return. And, sometimes those that exited will return to a community in Christ… but not the one from which they departed.

The key to all of this is monitoring participation and seeking to establish contacts within the very narrow window of opportunity to listen and seek, as appropriate, forgiveness and move toward reconciliation or offer forgiveness and move toward reconciliation.

Five Principles for Leading Church Groups

This edition of Mentor Online is borrowed from material by Richard J. Hull II, printed in the July 1996 issue of Net Results.

1. Participation is as important as information

  • Use ice breakers to get people talking
  • Ask sample opening questions that give everyone a chance to answer
  • If one person dominates ask a one-word-answer question and go around the group for response
  • “What do others think?” is a good question to bring out quiet participants

2. Facilitators should facilitate

  • Clarify expectations
  • Keep time
  • Summarize discussions
  • Advance discussions

3. Accomplishment happens through relationships

  • Interpersonal — relationships with others
  • Intrapersonal — relationship with self
  • Transpersonal — relationship with God

4. Church groups should be church groups

  • Respect differences
  • Expect emotion
  • Encourage God-talk
  • Pray

5. Evaluation improves satisfaction and results

  • Ask the group, “How is it going?”
  • Ask yourself, “What is being accomplished?”

The Conflict Triangle

This edition of Mentor Online is original material by Rev. George Brookover.

Most conflicted or turbulent situations first appear at Level 1. Almost all matters can be resolved that first appear in this stage of any issue or concept divergence. But the issues need to be addressed for what they are. Timid or testy people are prone to “misread” this stage of conflict and there is an escalation to Level 2.

Level 2 is a time when the person who is being addressed by a disturbed or disgruntled person really needs to be defining the problem so that clarity can be achieved. What may be just a matter of “business as usual” for the person being addressed may misread that the complainant may perceive the matter at a much deeper or serious degree of importance. Defining what is being communicated can help bring resolution.

Level 3 is a tricky stage of turbulence, especially if the person bringing the problem or misunderstanding is troubled about something elsewhere in their life and may be trying to exert influence or solve something in this setting that they have carried from elsewhere. The antagonistic individual, even if upset for a valid reason, will have a tendency to invest a great deal more energy (and stamina!) into the confrontation than those who are on the receiving end.

In Level 4 attempts to bring reason or calm to a moment of turbulence are usually deflected or rejected by a person or persons who are into a “win-lose” mode. This does not mean that reasonable or sensible people should not work for “win-win” outcomes. And yet, the reality is that if satisfaction has not been achieved in the first two levels and antagonism has not “won the day”…then a conflict of wills in almost inevitable. Some folks like to stay at this level in all aspects of their lives by being chronically antagonistic.

In the fifth level there is some good news: fewer folks stay engaged to this point in the life span of a conflicted situation. Either the issue or concern has been settled or participants have withdrawn. But there is also bad news: if combat occurs it will be memorable if not significant.

Change in a Congregational System

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from the PREPARE/ENRICH program.

Change in a congregational system is never linear: It is naïve and often leads to frustration if constituents think and act as though it is simple to get from Point A. to Point G. we only need to move through B., C., D., E., and F.…

What happens in all systems, and especially in congregational systems, is an invisible force known as homeostasis takes over and ever so gently or with chaotic upheaval tugs, yanks or pulls a system back to a time when of normalcy or balance that was acceptable and accepted. Some congregations have shown a preference to returning or restoring times of absolute chaos rather than risk or accept anything new or progressive.

Leaders that are unprepared for the affects homeostasis are destined to be frustrated disappointed and feel like failures or victims or both.

Change viewed as progress or improvement in faithful is more cyclical or uneven and seldom straight-line (for long!).

Wave theory

Cyclone theory

While leaders of improving or enriching faithfulness seldom lack clarity of purpose others in the system may be prone to be examples of the corny joke: “How many Methodists (Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc.) does it take to change a light bulb?”

Often the answer in congregational systems is “What do you mean change!? That is one of our favorite light bulbs and I can remember when my grandfather (uncle, cousin, best friend, etc.) installed it. It has given long years of service and should not be changed!!!”

Thus as a congregation approaches a time of change, progress or enriched faithfulness there is a need for wisdom, patience, stamina and immunity to returning to or restoring some past time of perceived greatness or comfort.

A Ten Step Process for Discussing and Resolving Issues in Systems

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from the PREPARE/ENRICH program.

Every system has times when there are differences and disagreements. But healthy systems find ways to resolve differences or disputes without turning them into warfare. Individuals who accept and appreciate the fact that others in the system have the right to opinions tend to reach successful and satisfying resolutions.

When there are issues that are ongoing, use this following approach to deal with them. The exercise may boost your success in ending issues that resist resolution.

When an issue emerges (erupts!) again and again individuals are prone to either flee or fight to the death. Many such times of turbulence are really not about the particular matter that pops up. The emotional component is really about something else and the topic or issue of the moment simply carries the flow of the tension among those engaged in the troubling moment.

As simple as this exercise looks, remember it is not a game. Take time to work on all of the steps. Focus on one issue at a time and you will discover new solutions to old problems.

1. Set a time and place for discussion.
2. Define the problem or issue of disagreement.
3. How do you permit each participant or constituents contribute to the problem?
4. List past attempts to resolve the issue that were not successful.
5. Brainstorm. List all possible solutions.
6. Discuss and evaluate these possible solutions.
7. Agree on one solution to try.
8. Agree on how each individual will work toward this solution.
9. Set up another meeting. Discuss your progress.
10. Reward each other as you each contribute toward the solution.