Podcast Ep. 85: Navigating Uncertainties Within Our “New Normal” with Christy Erbeck

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Episode Description:

Joining the podcast once again is one of Dan’s favorite return guests, Christy Erbeck. In this episode, they are exploring the topic of uncertainties.

There’s a lot of uncertainty going on in the world right now with COVID-19. We’re in an awkward gray zone that Christy refers to as “the muddy middle.” And, as much as we’re getting used to this “new normal,” there are still adjustments and daily changes that can be very disruptive to our psyche.

So, in today’s conversation, Christy provides the tools and tips you need to better adapt and make the most of this confusing time.

Listen on Google Play Music

Key Takeaways:

  • What is the “new normal”:
    • The “new normal” can refer to “the new better” in reference to organizational transformation or change (because with these new changes come new ways of working and new ways of thinking that create a better outcome than what was previously in place)
    • In reference to what we’re currently experiencing, “our new reality” may be a better phrase
    • “New normal” is a concept of accepting the current disruption as our new reality to have an easier time adapting to the new way our day-to-day lives look
    • The sooner we recognize that this is our reality, the better we will be able to adapt, grieve our old reality, and find a way to make this current reality the best we can
  • Christy’s tips and tools for adapting to the “new normal”:
    • First, recognize where you are personally and take some time to reflect and go inward and ask yourself: “Where am I? How am I feeling?”
    • Christy uses a journal to track her mood every day so she’s better able to reflect on where she’s at
    • Recognize that we cannot, at this moment, move into comparative suffering (i.e. saying that your suffering is worth more than someone else’s and vice-versa)
    • Own how you feel
    • Dig deep into your ability to empathize and seek to understand how others are experiencing the “new normal”
    • Be overly generous with yourself (which will give you the space and capacity to be overly generous with those in your circle and community)
    • Adopt the concept “assume good intent: because, as you take care of yourself, you’ll have more space to assume good in others around you (which gives extra grace with your interactions with people)
    • Come together and allow everyone to share their voice and stories
    • Reach out for help if, in your process, you are still struggling (because you don’t have to do this alone)
  • Anti-patterns/How we should not respond:
      • Comparative suffering
      • Competitive storytelling
      • Listening to respond

About Christy Erbeck: Christy Erbeck is a principal transformation consultant at AgileThought and a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator (CDTLF). She has over 25 years of experience in domestic and international consulting, training and coaching, and has worked in both software development and non-product-focused environments, including manufacturing, (discrete and process), distribution, and sales and marketing.

Mentioned in this Episode

Transcript [This transcript is auto-generated and not completely accurate in its depiction of the English language or rules of grammar]

Intro: [00:03] Welcome to Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought, the podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host coach and agile expert, Dan Neumann.

Dan Neumann: [00:17] Welcome to the Agile Coaches’ Corner, I am your host Dan Neumann, and joined today by Christy Erbeck and we’re going to be exploring some uncertainty. Welcome Christy.

Christy Erbeck: [00:28] Thank you, Dan.

Dan Neumann: [00:29] And in true form, I think there’s some uncertainty about the exact path we’re going to take. So this is going to be fun.

Christy Erbeck: [00:37] It always is with you. We don’t know exactly where we’re going.

Dan Neumann: [00:42] Yeah, well, you know, I was in a Professional Scrum Foundations class and I think, I don’t know it was a different class, but it was the metaphor of using a GPS to get somewhere. And I’ve never been super fond of that example. Cause I still feel like GPS’s remove all the uncertainties. I don’t know. I, you know, when we take a cross country road trip now Waze tells me where I’m going, et cetera. But I got, um, I think a better metaphor is, is running, which I like to do. And I saw that a buddy of mine had run a 17 mile loop. He did it three times. So he did it 51 miles around it. He’s attempting six loops starting tonight, but that’s a scroll. Yeah. So he’s attempting as a virtual a hundred miler. Um, but I saw the loop and thought that looks like fun. Like, Hey Jonathan, tell me a little bit about it. And he’s like, you know, you just, you kind of it’s called the Pottawatomie path. And you know, at some point like some of the turns aren’t marked well, which when you’re on a 17 mile loop, having a turn that’s not marked well can make it a 40 mile loop really fast. And so I felt like that was a better example of uncertainty for me because I generally, I had a, a, I dunno, a four inch by four inch square of the map and there’s a loop that goes this way, but boy, when you get out there, the path diverges, and there’s not a clear indicator. Should I go left or should I go? Right. Um, and so part of that was just going a little farther down the path and making sure eventually I saw a marker that indicated I was on the right one. So, you know, sometimes just having to move and then look for markers that tell me if I’m, if I’m doing the right thing. So anyway, squirrel man, I have got running on the brain cause I’m going to be heading out to that same path, but running it the other way. So I have to make sure I get there, but there’s a lot of uncertainty going on in our world right now.

Christy Erbeck: [02:28] There is, and it seems to be getting more and more uncertain. Like we think that we’ve landed on what our new normal is when in fact it’s just another step through the muddy middle and the new normal and the muddy middle or the neutral zone are, um, a reference back to William Bridges, uh, model of change and change management. And it starts with loss. It starts with the loss of something, something that we did or knew or understood. And we have to let go of what we knew and understood to be reality. And as we start moving through and letting go, we’re in this neutral zone, as he would call it, I like to say, it’s the muddy middle because it’s really gray. And there’s a lot of uncertainty. There’s a lot of unknowns, new ways of having to act and behave and understand and even think, um, and it can be a long path to that new normal where, okay, we’ve, we’ve stabilized and we now know what every day looks like. So in some ways we have stabilized, we have a better understanding of what everyday looks like. It’s vastly different for most of us than it was three, three months ago. Um, and yet it can still be unsettling and we continue to see adjustments and change that is disruptive to what we think is our new normal.

Dan Neumann: [04:09] Yeah. I’ve always not always, cause I don’t think I’ve heard the term new normal really until six months ago. So maybe that’s that’s new, but I, I think that term for me, I don’t know if I just resist the concept that it’s new or feel like there’s something else that is going to be cropping up to disrupt that too. You know, I think back through the big disruptions, the, um, thing where it’s like, Oh, we’re not going to invest in companies that lose, you know, crap, tons of money and don’t show profit. Well, uh, Uber, right? So, I mean, they’ve never turned a profit and people are whistling zippity du-da, about the chance to invest in a company like that. Um, and then there’s 2008, Oh, we figured this out the market, the shock tests where our banks are going to be ready and then poof COVID, um, and you know, the governance writing multi-trillion dollar checks just to give people something to spend, which is, you know, it’s almost like, is there a new normal or yeah, I dunno.

Christy Erbeck: [05:15] Well, and I think we use that term to help people kind of get their heads around what this is because it is so different and it is so disruptive. Um, we typically use the concept of the new normal as the, the new, better place of being, especially an organizational transformation or change. We’re looking to institute new behaviors, new ways of working new ways of thinking that inspire, help, um, create, uh, a better outcome than what we had previously in this case, in this world. I don’t know that new normal represents that because it, it still is to your point, it’s just as it’s incredibly disruptive and it’s not necessarily better than what we had before. And it’s, and we have to be really careful in the judgment that goes along with, well, this is better or, or worse. Life is difficult. Life is difficult is one of my favorite quotes from a book by M. Scott Peck called the road less traveled. And it’s the first sentence in that book. And he goes on to describe that once you realize, and just really get into your inner spirit, that life is difficult and life is unfair. The easier you’re going to have of accepting what happens and adapting to what happens along the way. And so from a standpoint of this situation is difficult and it is new. I would not say it’s normal, but it is our reality. And I think maybe, maybe that would be a better phrase, our new reality versus the new normal. I don’t know that anyone wants what we have today to be normalized. Um, and the sooner we recognize that this is our reality and we live and find our place in this reality, the better able we will be to adapt a resilient, go ahead and grieve our old reality, what we knew to be true previously and find a way to, um, come out of this reality or make this reality as best we can.

Dan Neumann: [07:58] Yeah. One of my dad’s least, well, yeah, it might’ve been one of his favorite things to tell us, but, uh, nobody ever said life was fair, you know, as a child I’d protest, well, that’s not fair. Well, nobody ever said life was fair, you know? And I think I kind of found myself channeling him just a little bit. We were, Oh, I don’t know. I saw a news headline that I had a gut reaction to, you know, 60 groups won student loans, erased. I’m like, you know what? You bought something you can’t afford tough, whatever. And my son was like, Oh, they’re just supposed to find better jobs. I’m like, you know what? Yes. Or deal with your bad life choices, you know, bad life choices don’t have to work out. Okay. So there are people maybe will get angry tweets about that, but you know, what, if I buy a car, I can’t afford, nobody’s going to pay for that for me anyway, but I’ll get off that soap. It’s a little different than can’t exactly repo an education.

Christy Erbeck: [08:57] Well, but what I like about that line of thinking is the concept of personal accountability and Don Miguel Ruiz says in his book, the four agreements, talks about be impeccable with your word. Don’t take any anything personally. And within those four agreements are, you are personally accountable for your choices. Don’t assume that any, anyone is going to do anything for you or that anyone is responsible for the choices that you make. Um, that, and I know that this we’re on a little bit of a tangent, but within, within what we’re dealing with today, I’m not taking anything personally and being personal personally accountable for the choices that we make in these moments, um, is incredibly important.

Dan Neumann: [10:08] To bring it back because I think there’s a connection here and we’ll see if we can find them. You were talking about the new reality or the current reality. And I think that that is the tie in. Does it kind of suck? Sure. Does it really suck for some people more than others? Yeah, it does. Um, I know, um, the field that we are in has been impacted by not nearly as much as if I was wait staff. Right. Um, and I love my servers when I go to the restaurant and, um, and it it’s wonderful, but if the restaurants aren’t open, you can’t make money that way. Um, now there may be other things you can do, right? Target’s hiring, Amazon’s hiring, people are hiring, but if you have a view that I’m this, and then you don’t look up over there and see that there’s another thing maybe that you could do, and it might kind of suck for awhile. Um, but it gets the muddy middle, um, feels more threatening when, when you don’t see options, right. When you don’t, when your path ends and there isn’t a choice to go left or right. It’s just like, Oh my God, my path ended.

Christy Erbeck: [11:16] Absolutely. And what’s interesting is we were in the middle or we were what we thought was maybe the middle of the, one of the strongest economic, um, eras we’ve had that just locally and, you know, within the U.S. But I think globally, and all of a sudden it was like a big Mack truck came into completely sideswiped us. And so we are still processing the shock of that unexpected trauma, both individually and collectively, the human experience has been forever changed as a result of how COVID hit and how, how drastically we reacted to the situation. And, and so there’s these, this after effect of the trauma and the grief that we may not even be aware of in this moment, I can tell you that earlier this week, I had a conversation with one of our colleagues and he said something. And in a moment I was overcome with grief. It just washed over my body. And I had to take a moment to say, what is this? Where is this coming from? And it was the reality or the, the realization that on March 12th, when I left our offices, um, you know, that was the last time my old reality was in play. And I have spent the last three or four months in survival mode and with some armor and with some facades to protect my psyche, to be able to process and get through the, the initial disaster. And I’m, I’m intentionally using these words, um, to make, make clear the enormity of what’s happened to us. Um, and what I realized was I, I haven’t stopped to process the grief and the loss and the loss for me, of being with our clients, being in person and collaborating and traveling and, and helping our clients in the moment make a difference, make a change, or, um, have an impact on their employees for the better. Now, have we still been able to do that to some extent, yes, we have great remote tools and ways to collaborate. And yet for me as a human and somebody who, who deeply connects with our people and our clients, um, it’s a huge loss. It’s a huge loss to have to sit in my chair and interact with people over a screen. It’s just not the same. And so I’m having to figure out what is my new norm, my new reality look like, and how do I, how do I do this? And still be happy and still be fulfilled and still take care of myself. And then you add, well in Florida, we’re in hurricane season and it’s supposed to be a really difficult season. We’ve already seen, um, crystal ball do a lot of damage to our friends in central America. Um, and then we have a social unrest and all of the challenges that are happening in society. And so these, like you had said, things are just coming at us in these massive waves and hitting all kinds of, um, aspects. And I heard somebody say the other day, um, that it’s like a rolling wave of impact. And is this what we need to unseat some behaviors and some systems that are no longer serving us. So I’ll stop there.

Dan Neumann: [16:03] We’re not going to break that up by the way, we’re going to risk it to let it roll. But I think it’s, um, it’s important to think about the change. Yeah. So we’re in this current situation and who knows how long it’ll be as it is, you know, at least here in the U.S. I know whatever a group of people decided that part of whatever city I said, I guess I should watch more news, but Seattle or Portland, or one of those got a bunch of people that decided they were going to call it a, their autonomous zone and run a chunk of the city. I mean, I don’t think that’ll go on forever, but who knows. Um, but at some point there’ll be yet another change in, in one after that. Um, and I think I’m, I’m the King of not stopping to process. I get bad news. I’m like, Oh, that sucks. Can I get back to work now? Like, it’s, work’s a good place for me. Like, it’s like, I don’t have to deal with that stuff out there. I can deal with, I can deal with the work stuff much, like the trail running. It’s like, guess what’s not on the trail? News. There’s no protests on the news and not say protesting is wrong or inappropriate, but they’re just not there. I can take a break. I can get away from all the noise of things. So let’s talk about some of the, how to respond to that. So, um, obviously there’s a lot going on. Um, everybody’s experience is going to be a little bit or meaningfully different, um, based on where you are, demographically, socioeconomically, life experiences, what countries people are in, you know, I saw posters America just given up on COVID, right. You know, we, we locked down for a while and I don’t think Americans are generally very good at um, moderation. So we went from, in our hoses to like, let’s go out and a beach party. Oh, it’s Memorial day. Let’s all rub against each other at restaurants or wherever they help people. And we’re seeing in some places, big bumps in other places, not so much. So, um, yeah, rumor has it. There’s a lot of square miles in the U S so to say, one thing is happening everywhere is, um, typically untrue. There’s lots of different experiences going on. So anyway, so given that…

Christy Erbeck: [18:16] So given that a couple of things come to mind, one is first to recognize where, where you are personally and, and take some time to reflect and go inward and understand where am I, how am I feeling? You know, I, in June, I, for whatever reason, I started a new planner that allows me to track my mood and I love it. So every day I’m kind of, I’m waking up and I’m saying, well, how do I feel today? And I’ll, I it’s all colored. I can do colors. So I have my markers out and it’s beautiful. Um, so I I’m recognizing, and just taking stock of how my feeling when I wake up. And I have the option of tracking that at different times of the day. Um, number two, recognize that, um, there, we, we cannot in this moment move into comparative suffering. And what I mean by that is saying that my suffering is worse than yours because of my situation or vice versa. My suffering is my suffering. And again, going back to personal accountability, I need to own how I feel, and that does not negate how you feel or how anybody else in the world feels. And if we can come at, come at this with empathy for, I may not feel exactly like you and my situation may not be exactly like you. I know it’s not going to be exactly like you and I can still come aside, come alongside you and feel for you and empathize with where you’re at, based on where I’m at. And it’s not a comparison. It’s not a judgment of my sufferings, worse than yours. Um, we need to dig deep into our ability to empathize and really seek to understand how others are experiencing this and share how we’re experiencing this. So the word, because we’re in this together, um, the third thing that I think we can do is be overly with ourselves. And by being overly generous with ourselves first, we’re going to have this space and the capacity to be overly generous with others in our circles and in our community and in our world. One of the things that I love about our practice is we adopted intent-based leadership. You know, I think back in 2016.

Dan Neumann: [21:14] Whenever David Marcaes book turned the ship around, it was not necessarily when it first came out, but when it was, was socialized AR VR practice, um, several people read it. And now it’s the, I intend to do X, Y, or Z. You know, maybe here’s what I looked at or here’s what I considered. And here’s why I did it, you know, stop me, stop me if it’s a bad idea, but otherwise off we go. Yeah.

Christy Erbeck: [21:37] Right. And along with that, and it may not come from the book and may come from elsewhere. But along with that, we also adopted the concept of assume good intent. And this, I think this is important in, as I am generous with myself and I am caring and my cup is full. I am taking care of myself emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally. I have more to be, to assume good intent from others around me. And so give a give that grace, that extra grace in our interactions with people, um, in texts, inner interchanges, maybe even on social media, like on social media, there’s just so much.

Dan Neumann: [22:25] No, I turned into a, I trolled yesterday. I totally did. And I knew I was doing it and I did it anyway. Yeah.

Christy Erbeck: [22:34] And, and that very large, but sometimes anonymous platform can bring out the worst in us. And when in fact it could be an opportunity for us to bring out the best in each other, if we were to be generous and assume good intent.

Dan Neumann: [22:52] I assume, I assume, good intent. We just disagreed. And I couldn’t.

Christy Erbeck: [23:00] I love that. I would say that’s the next thing is that it’s okay to disagree. Respectfully. Your opinion is as important as someone else’s opinion. And if we cannot come together and have a voice for everyone to share their experience, their stories, um, that it, and, and have the space for there to be differing views, then we’re in a whole world of hurt and trouble.

Dan Neumann: [23:37] So you said kind of recognize how you’re feeling and, and own that feeling, um, be over and related to that. There was there’s empathy, listening for empathy, which is different than listening to respond or what I heard once described as competitive storytelling, which I love that description where somebody says, Oh, I, you know, this is going bad in my life. You to the, you go, Oh yeah, well guess what’s going bad in my life. And it’s, uh, you see this in bars a lot. And typically amongst dudes, I don’t know, maybe, maybe ladies do it too, I don’t know, but I know, I feel like dudes are really good at competitive storytelling and then being overly generous with yourself was the other part, sorry I stepped on you.

Christy Erbeck: [24:21] No, well, I was just going to say that competitive storytelling is very similar to comparative suffering. So I like both phrases. Um, competitive storytelling is probably maybe a little bit more tangible because we see that happening, but it is, it’s the same thing we are comparing and saying, well, we’re trying to one up each other, the level of suffering or the stories that we were sharing, and that is not healthy competition.

Dan Neumann: [24:53] I wonder if the difference is kind of the goal when I think of like competitive storytelling is to typically agrandjurize. I don’t know if I just made up a word self-aggrandize. There we go. I found it self-aggrandizement, like, Oh yeah. But look at me. And, and the, um, the comparative competitive or comparative stuff is almost like it’s, it’s the, it’s almost the other one. It’s almost like a race to the bottom to see who can generate the most empathy, um,

Christy Erbeck: [25:20] To generate the most empathy or the most pity?

Dan Neumann: [25:22] Pity is a better word. Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. Okay. So, uh, being generous with oneself and what, what else is on your mind for how to deal with this current reality?

Christy Erbeck: [25:36] So then another way I think is important to consider is reaching out for help. If you, in your process of recognizing where you are being generous with yourself, you are still struggling, whatever that means you’re struggling with um, decision-making, you’re struggling, you’re feeling some depression. There are professionals out there, whether it’s through your employer program or, um, licensed clinical social workers in private practice, clinical psychologists in private practice, um, there are, um, help lines available that are free either via texting or phone calls. It takes an enormous amount of courage to reach out that first time. And, and yet it is so worth it because on the other side of reaching out is being heard, being seen and being helped. And it’s okay to ask for help. Um, you don’t have to do it alone, right. We’re in, we are, as Dr. Brené Brown would say, we are hard wired for love, connection and belonging. And in that we need to be affirmed for where we are and receive receiving help is a sign of strength, not a weakness.

Dan Neumann: [27:08] Yeah. And I think I’m going to guess that most people’s Facebook audience or Twitter followers or the TikTok or whatever platform is being used right now by the cool kids. They’re probably not equipped to do that, you know? And, and hence the reaching outside of your, your social circle in this case to somebody actually skilled with and equipped to help through the challenge.

Christy Erbeck: [27:31] Yes. Um, you know, the American psychological society, uh, in 2019 received 1,760 texts, uh, requesting help. Uh, and in 2020, just in the month of March, they received 20,000. So there, there are places for you to go or for people to go to that that are outside of your circle of friends, because you’re right. They most likely are not equipped to help you in the way that you need. If you are, are suffering, we don’t, we don’t want you to suffer, right? We don’t need you to suffer.

Dan Neumann: [28:12] Yeah. Well, and two things come up with, to mind when you stated those numbers in the massive increase. Hey, I’m really curious about how that internal response was able to be handled by that organization. Um, that’s for another day. Cause I, I don’t know. And the second part of that is, uh, lots of people are doing it. And so it’s it’s okay. Right. It’s that you wouldn’t be the one person doing it, it being reaching out for help.

Christy Erbeck: [28:40] Right. Right. And it’s anonymous often. And whether it’s through your employer program or, um, you know, nobody, nobody in your, if you feel you’re going to be judged by your inner circle or by the people in your family, they don’t need to know that you’ve done this. There are there, you know, that it’s a private pathway to help. Um, now I would hope that you, you have an inner circle that’s going to support, um, support you and, and maybe even together, you know, you could reach out and ask for some help. Family therapy is incredibly powerful, um, and can, can bring you and your family to the other side. I am not a clinical psychologist. I’m not going to be the one that you call. There are licensed professionals for that. I just know, you know, personally, I, I, I started therapy when I was 18. I needed it. Um, I needed to, um, figure out a bunch of things in my life. And so I reached out and I asked for help. And, um, it was the best thing that I ever did because it helped adjust my, my viewpoint on reality and, and give me different insights and give me a safe platform to explore feelings that I didn’t know how to process at the time.

Dan Neumann: [30:10] Thank you for sharing. That leaves me with I’m not sure where to go next though. Admittedly. And that’s not a, that’s not a bad thing. That’s just like, Ooh, that’s heavy. I mean, heavy and light. I mean, it’s like…

Christy Erbeck: [30:25] Yeah, I wouldn’t say I’m far enough away from Ann and I, you know, that’s, that’s a topic for another day, how much therapy I’ve had in my life, but it’s also made me a better person. It’s also made me able to come alongside people and relate to them in a way that they probably don’t realize that I’m relating to them. Um, and, and so I would say, give it a chance if, if you’re afraid, leap and the net will appear as Julia Cameron would say, and it may be the thing that, you know, transforms you into, uh, you know, something that, or into a person, or, or gets you through this experience so much more gracefully and effectively than if you didn’t have the help. I mean, why are we agile coaches? Why, you know, we come alongside clients who are struggling to do something that they have tried to do themselves, and they cannot. So them asking for help. That’s not a sign of weakness, that’s a sign of strength and that we realize our limitations. So it’s a very powerful process to go through whether it’s a personal transformation or professional.

Dan Neumann: [31:46] Wonderful. Yes. Agreed all kinds of transformations. So let’s leave it there. Typically we would have a conversation about what we’re reading, but as we were kind of prepping for here, it’s like, yeah, there’s not a lot of extra energy or mental capacity or willingness to sit in a chair in front of a computer, more et cetera, I think was the sentiment we were reflecting. Correct?

Christy Erbeck: [32:14] Yeah. Yes. At least for me, I find that, um, I need to get away from my desk. I need to go outside. I need to, um, be in a different space and I don’t have the capacity to read the books, read workbooks the way I have in the past. Um, I’ve, it doesn’t mean that I’m not doing that. Like when I need to pick up a book, but I’m using them more as reference material than I am as to sit down and, and really dig into something, I’m, I’m picking it up, Oh, this will really help for this particular thing.

Dan Neumann: [32:55] So seeking out the piece of information you needed, as opposed to general exploring of long form texts. Well, good. Well, we’ll say, we’ll save reading for another day. Alright. Cause I trying to think if I’ve read anything lately and I’m pretty sure the answer’s no other than just short articles of some kind. So well, thank you, Christy, for joining and exploring some of this uncertainty and some different ways to respond to it.

Christy Erbeck: [33:21] You’re welcome, Dan, thanks for having me and being willing to explore it.

Dan Neumann: [33:31] Once there’s a path I get bored. Once it’s like super well-defined stuff. Exploring is fun. Thanks so much.

Outro: [33:37] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought. The views, opinions and information expressed in this podcast are solely those of the hosts and the guests, and do not necessarily represent those of AgileThought. Get the show notes and other helpful tips for this episode and other

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