The Victim VS. Hero
Finding meaning in challenging times and why mentoring matters? Written By: Christine Francis, Lead Facilitator, Mowgli Mentoring
In the wake of the pandemic that the world is currently facing, we realise that we are all in the same boat; our economies, businesses and people are suffering. It is with no doubt one of the hardest times in recent history for business leaders and entrepreneurs to navigate. The amount of volatility and uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are beyond measure. It feels uncomfortable to be living in the unknown for such a long period of, especially for many who feel alone.
During the COVID-19 crisis, I have spent so much time trying to find answers that were difficult to find. I have realised that through the best of our intentions to counter what is happening (desperately trying to save our businesses, jobs/incomes and of course keeping ourselves and family safe, we are still pushing to adapt. We are seeking out so much information to help us get a grip on the situation, but are failing to process it and make meaning out of it. We are throwing ourselves into doing things; it’s all about action so that we can maybe feel as though nothing much has changed. Although I am not saying that these aren’t good ways to manage, however, I believe we need to be careful as we might be focusing on what is important rather than what really matters.
What I am personally afraid of is that by doing so, we are not allowing ourselves to stand still, reflect, be creative and find meaning in not knowing. This is easier said than done I know! Change, change, change is what we all keep talking and hearing about and fairly so, everything around us is changing and very rapidly. This is the reality of things. So, as an entrepreneur myself, I decided to take a step back and try to digest what is going on for me.
During this time, I have been asking myself: who do I need and want to be during this time? What do I need to do to step up in this situation to have what I need? How best can I serve myself and others to find meaning in all of this?
Being a leadership and culture transformation coach, I realised that there are so many tools available to me. The first step I decided to take was to revisit my personal and business values and a lot of things surfaced for me that are now guiding my thoughts, intentions, behaviours and actions. However, I started thinking about the Change Curve by Elisabeth Kubler Ross. I love this model, it has served me previously in good and bad times, by helping me to make sense of my own emotions, understand others emotions and overcome a lot of challenges in my personal and business life. So, I revisited the model and was struck by the fact that it was still so relevant and powerful. Yet, I felt that there was something missing.
When we speak about a business, who are we talking about? Who is the business really? It is the entrepreneur and leader behind his business and the people around him/her that create the organisational performance and results. What is happening today is something much bigger and more complicated for any human alone to navigate. It requires a super power to do so.
As I was reflecting, I kept thinking that I needed something more powerful to support me and others in understanding, coping and walking the journey. So, I continued my quest and dug deeper in the tool kits and that was when I had the light bulb moment!
Being a Facilitator with Mowgli Mentoring, a specialised entrepreneur and leader focused mentoring organisation, I asked myself how I could have missed the most obvious and one of the most powerful tools we use to engage participants; the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. Using this tool, we build meaningful relationships, connect each person to their power and their story, remind them of their previous journeys and how they have previously overcome challenges and obstacles and give them space to reflect on the lessons learnt and realise that they are equipped to do so again and again.
I took the Kubler-Ross change curve and started looking at it in parallel with the Hero’s Journey perspective, and it all made sense. The feelings I was struggling with was; “I know I am not a victim of this situation, but who am I to get out of it, how do I want to come out of it and where do I go from here?” Despite having reflected on this model and shared my experiences time and time again, I was reminded that I am the hero who has been on so many hero’s journeys in my life. I realised that through them I have gained knowledge, wisdom and resilience, yet I felt as though I needed my mentor now more than ever. Being an entrepreneur and leader in these tough times can be very lonely and it is by having the presence of a trusted mentor by your side, that you are able to co-create the magical environment where things and growth happen.
Our Mowgli Alumni can I’m sure resonate with what I am talking about, however for those who are not familiar with it, here is a quick summary of the Hero’s Journey and how I see it inter-playing with the change curve. The power of understanding these two models together has helped me, and I hope it helps you, to navigate and counter what we are going through.
Every Hero’s Journey starts with the Hero embarking from the Ordinary World he/she live in. I would like to call it our world as we know it. This is our world and life before the change (COVID-19).
We receive The Call to Change which requires us to leave our comfort zone and it can turn our life upside down. This is the Shock. We can be overwhelmed with fears, insecurities and a sense of loss. The questions and sentiments that can show up are; why me? Will I cope? What will happen to me?
Most often than not, we Refuse the Call. At first, we try to deny it (Denial — feelings of resentment and disappointment) in the fear of risking something, although we are unaware that we have generally already lost it. We get frustrated (Frustration — feelings of anger and disgust), since it was not our choice, yet we know that things are different. We may also feel a sense of hopelessness and loss of control which can make us feel depressed (Depression — feelings of unfairness and powerlessness). We may say phrases such as ‘change, what change are you talking about?’ Followed by, ‘no kidding this is really happening!’ All these oscillating thoughts and feelings invade us without us really understanding what is going on yet all we may want is to do is to resign from the situation and give up.
In non COVID-19 times, we might be able to refuse the call and go back to our ordinary world. However, in this particular time, we simply do not have the option. We need to have someone who will show up for us, take our hand and support us in Crossing the Line; a mentor (Meeting the Mentor). Why is this key? A mentor can remind and re-engage us with what matters most to us (our values, internal drivers and the source of our resilience) and the reason behind our why (our business, our purpose and why do we do what we do). Realizing you are not alone in this, and with his/her support and guidance, you can regain your motivation, build your confidence, gain a higher perspective and understand what options you have that will support you in crossing the line and accepting the new reality of things.
After Crossing the line on this journey, we encounter Trials, Allies & Enemies (like all new ventures we will be tried, we will know who is on our side and on who is not). We start Experimenting (feelings of motivation, curiosity and excitement) and engaging with possibilities as well as trying and testing new things.
The questions that can show up are; What are my options? What can I do now that I wanted to do before but felt I couldn’t? What is feasible? What do I need to do differently to face the new trials? What would be an ally and enemy for me in these challenging times? Who are the people I need by my side? Who do I need to steer away from? How am I going to stand strong when I encounter those who seek to bring me down? What boundaries do I need to set/reset moving forward to serve me and my priorities?
Sometime what we try and our decisions work and sometimes they don’t. However, it’s important to remember that it is making the Decision, (feelings of power gaining control taking) that counts, regardless of how tough and difficult they are. We might need to mothball/shut down our business, lay our employees/colleagues off, accept the loss of something or someone. This will feel difficult and painful and we will struggle, like we have never struggled before. But with the support of our mentor we will be able to learn how to face and deal with this new situation and overcome the Facing the Darkness (the storm) part to rise and emerge again with new learnings. I truly feel that what does not kill us only makes us stronger.
The Journey continues and more often than not, our biggest learnings and growth happen at the lowest times of our lives. Nevertheless, after going through the journey we emerge triumphant with The New Perspectives, confidence and motivation to create the positive change we are seeking, and start integrating the change into our being, hence a new individual or a new paradigm emerges.
Finally, and looking back on this journey, most of us find meaning (Meaning — being grateful for the experience and the growth which usually drives a humanitarian purpose to serve people and the community) along the way through the lessons we’ve learned as we start living in our New Ordinary World and reality. It is often during these times that we become a mentor for others who find themselves in the darkness and need our support. As a mentor, we share our story, our wisdom, our perspectives to enable others to find the hero inside themselves. We then enjoy our New Ordinary World for a while, before hearing the call to change again and embarking on another journey.
Neuroscience has proven that we are feeling beings who think and not the opposite. Understanding our feelings, accepting and managing them is key for us to move forward and it allows us to manage our relationships to get better results collectively. We might find ourselves in many uncomfortable and testing situations and being aware is key, but awareness with no action is not enough.
Below are some of the questions that have sparked my thinking and are helping me to deal with what is going on more comfortably. Remember this journey is different to every individual so choose what works for you:
Which stages of the change curve and hero’s journey do you feel strongly represent where you are at for the majority of the time, as a person and/or as a business? (Bearing in mind, the models are not linear and although we may feel we are predominantly in one stage, we can oscillate between one stage and another)
Are you being still enough to identify your feelings and emotions? How are you acknowledging and accepting them and what they are showing you? How are you keeping them in check so that your behaviours are not negatively affected?
Are you aware of other’s feelings and emotions (your partner, your family, your team) and are you checking in with them with no judgement?
Are you being there for someone else as a mentor, enabling them to raise their awareness and support them in gaining control to co -create the transition?
What were your previous hero’s journeys? What did you learn about yourself and others? What were the new perspectives you brought back with you? How can you use what you learnt to support you in this journey?
When revisiting your personal and business values, which value(s) resonate most strongly with you today? How can you make sure you are living them and using them as a source to build your resilience?
What are the strategies that you need to put in place to deal with the situation from a personal and business level, to allow you move forward on the curve and in the journey?
What still works and what needs to be revisited?
What resources do you have and how can you be more resourceful? What resources do you need?
What are your choices within the current reality?
Who are the people or the team members that can support you through all of this? Are you involving them in the conversation? Are you communicating regularly, authentically and efficiently with them?
What do you need to learn to become more adaptable? What are the skills you need to build your own capability and the capabilities of your team?
Are you taking good care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually?
Did you find yourself a mentor or are you connecting with your mentor in these crucial times?
If you are struggling with your mentoring relationship, what personal responsibility are you taking to address the challenges? Do you need to reset your agreement for the new journey?
What are you doing on the level of making a difference in someone else’s life?
You can find a range of Mowgli developed mentoring and or self-reflection questions that may be of value here.
If there is one learning I have from the COVID-19 crisis, it is that we are all in this together and it is our duty and responsibility to rise up as better human beings. It is time we focus on WE rather than I. It is time to be the hero. You might ask yourself, who am I to make a difference and my question for you is, who are not to?
It is important that we find meaning in times of crisis and uncertainty, and yes, it is difficult., especially on if you are still processing and might not have clarity as to the way forward and how this situation might bring you opportunities. However, and from my experience working with entrepreneurs and leaders, we are driven by our passion to solve a problem, to fill a gap or satisfy a need. It is our second nature and this is what sets successful entrepreneurs and leaders apart from others. It is much easier to find and gain clarity around the meaning when we are of service to others. By doing so, our personal meaning will become clearer.
My story in finding meaning through these times is by helping others. I have written this article with Mowgli Mentoring in the hope that it provides you, the reader, and others, with clarity, focus and courage to move forward. I have offered my coaching and mentoring skills to a task force that are working with individuals who need mental health support in these critical times. I also joined an NGO who is working on food security and sustainable agriculture, who are supporting elderly people by supplying them with local produce as well as seedlings. Focusing on these projects has shifted my being from waiting for answers, playing small and a victim, to enabling others to be the hero in their life. Over and above, I am living one of my core values; making a difference in others’ lives.
They call it social distancing, however, ironically it is physical distancing that has brought us together socially. Look around and see how humanity is shifting back to people taking care of each other rather than just being in charge. We can always lend a helping hand, put a smile on someone’s face, help someone in need and listen to someone’s story to help them feel less lonely. Being human can come in many shapes and forms, mentoring is definitely one of the critical and most impactful ways as both parties benefit from the engagement. How are you going to serve others?
I’d like to leave you with a wonderful quote which is a favorite of mine:
“A meaningful life is not being rich, being popular, or being perfect. It is about being humble, being able to share ourselves and touch the lives of others” Unknown
Christine Francis Biography
An inspiring leader in her own field of Leadership and Culture Transformation with a passion for working with entrepreneurs and advancing women in business. She is a lead facilitator with the Mowgli Mentoring with whom she facilitates accredited 360-degree mentoring programs in the MENA region. Backed with a collective experience of 24 years within the world of business both locally and internationally, Christine is driven by making a difference in the lives of the clients she crosses path with. In her personal journey, she has developed first-hand experience of how to lead and navigate change from within. Be — Live — Transform, is at the heart of the work she does to ensure they are value’s driven both in life and at work, to leverage impact beyond success.
Christine’s qualifications in Coaching and Mentoring is from the Institute of Leadership and Management “ILM” UK which she obtained with distinction. She is a certified consultant specialised in Leadership, Culture Transformation and Change Management, aimed to develop values driven organisations from the Values Centre UK. She is also a certified Social and Emotional Intelligence coach with the Institute of Social and Emotional Intelligence, USA. She is a Certified Facilitator to deliver the Women on Board and In Business Leadership Program with International Finance Corporation IFC, in addition to being certified by Cornell University in Women in Leadership.
Besides her coaching and mentoring career, she is a member of the Lebanese League of Women in Business (LLWB) and a member of the Women on Board committee. As part of her give back she has joined the women committee of CHANCE Association (Children Against Cancer), and the task force of ARDI ARDAK, a national initiative on food security with the AUB (American University of Beirut — FASF) — ESDU (Environmentally Sustainable Development Unit) and the LLWB. She is a wife and a mom to two boys and a girl, and she is continuously growing and contributing.