Wednesday, May 13, 2020

"Be Not Afraid"

An article on individual responses to times of crisis, and a free personal assessment

    Wanderer above a Sea of Fog - Caspar David Friedrich (1818) In the Public Domain

    “Find a way to transform your anxiety into action” - Aanchal Dhar


We can make headway by reducing ego, being honest and gentle with self at the same time as making tough, disciplined choices. 

Part of this means being brave and determined - There is a way forward during this pandemic. 

Another part is the overcoming of fear.

Another part is the philosophy of seeing each other through, rather than seeing through each other. 

And still another part is letting go and letting come what is new and uplifting.

When faced with crisis and threat to humanity (such as the coronavirus) most of us are initially reduced to a state of fear (a common denominator) that serves to melt away individual differences. 
Fear of loss, real or expected or imagined – whether of health, money, control, a loved one – is real suffering. These fears may be magnified by unhelpful media (social and other), by too many tiring Zoom conferences, by too many emotionally-draining uncertainties and unknowns, by our own untamed minds. 

At this particular time in our lives we are all challenged more than ever perhaps, to rise above our fears, to gather ourselves, and move towards a higher purpose. This requires that tell ourselves different stories, and use the power of an intent that is consciously followed through.   

The Friedrich painting that introduces this article captures this point of being faced with obstacles, challenges and stormy weather on the road ahead to a destination that is less than crystal clear – and the loneliness and inner work that we need to do to muster the will, energy and actions needed to go on the required journey.  A journey where we curb our rush to DO (strategies, agendas, processes, technology) and add a meaningful dose of BEING – for ourselves and our people (who enable all the doing-tasks anyway).  

(Of course if we are in business we need to be agile, to jump-start a fast feedback loop mode of operating in an ever-changing business world, and so on …. But people must continue to be our top priority throughout the sort of crisis that we are experiencing). 

And people (every person unique) in different situations, with different personalities, temperaments, resources and needs, do respond in different ways. A one-solution-for-all simply won’t work here.


A path from being a victim in a psychic prison, to learning to accept, cope and move forward, to reach a situation of positive growth that can lead to beyond self-actualization (serving of others) is available. 
Let’s face it, that path has always been there – as life’s very unpredictability and variability nearly always exceeds our ability to cope with and overcome every circumstance. 
Dr Sarah Mckay, an Australian neuroscientist, underlines how much we fear the unknown and long for predictability. She offers sage advice in a downloadable PDF on her website: 

She believes as we do, that all of us can take charge of our own attitudes and choose steps that will move us along the path that lies ahead. 

Gabrielle Treanor has produced a wonderful model. A template that we and those we mentor, coach, counsel and relate to, can use to good effect to take stock and navigate their path forward.

used with permission

In undertaking our journey, we are called upon to make important life choices within an overall matrix (decision framework), aimed at what state we would ultimately like to aim at reaching :

So we can choose the state we wish to strive to attain (from victim mode in an ‘impossible’ and unfair situation, to a state where we flourish no matter what. The place we will reach is dependent for the most part on the determination and strength of our response. (It is probably better though, to refer to these ‘stages’ as ‘states’. We all jump in and out of different states all of the time. This is not necessarily a linear model! Nor is its purpose to place anyone into a ‘box’ that defines them)


If we find ourselves in the trying to survive/ victim state at any time, this may have been brought about by a wide array of variables coming together – the particular event or threat, a specific ‘button that is pressed’ that reaches a wound, a memory, an attachment circumstance … or it may be an accumulation of happenings that bring us for a time to ‘the last straw’. 
So we can try and tame our lizard brains, panic state, evolved human way of imagining with anxiety or remembering with regret and resentment. Without being harsh on ourselves. And we can take little steps to help us get through one little step at a time.  

We can soothe ourselves by taking heed of Kristin Neff's helpful self-compassion practice:
  • Be non-judgmental of yourself, be kind to yourself
  • Be aware that everyone is in the same boat/ this is the human condition. Everyone suffers. Nobody survives easily all of the time. You are not alone!
  • Simply accept painful thoughts mindfully without over-identifying with them

If in the coping/ surviving/ accepting state you may work at ‘playing positive mind-tapes’ to yourself (personal pep-talking), reaching out to a trusted friend or support group that provides psychological safety but not criticism. 

Use self-discipline and live deliberately in the present moment. Constantly remind yourself of what you can’t control (which includes the unknown and the unpredictable) and you need to let go of; and of what you can control and do something about proactively.

And if you are in the growth/ flourish state, have a growth and learning mind-set, be grateful for that and reinforce it at every opportunity. A truism is that when feeling down you make a point of lifting someone else up you help yourself. The same applies when you are financially challenged – invest a little money, time and emotion in someone else. Whatever is threatening to pull you down, find a way to help someone else. To give. A prosocial, other-oriented mind-set is a surer way to happiness, a surer way of empowering yourself than is hedonistic pleasure, possession, position, positional power …       

None of this comes easy to most of us. The road ahead will continue to be full of ups and downs, and the following may provide some ‘back of mind’ perspective that we can learn from as we travel:


Elisabeth KÜbler-Ross did amazing work with the dying, and she developed a model that serves also to describe the typical stages of dealing with loss.  Not necessarily linear, after at first being stunned – basically immobilised, we tend to go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance -  before moving back into the flow of life and being ready to grow as a result of our experience.

Patangali alerts us to the power of having a clear, higher purpose for living in a meaningful way.

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be”. (Patangali. 2006)

(It is valuable tapping into motivational fingerprinting – a methodology we use to assist people to discover their basic motivational thrust or area of unique giftedness, that when activated puts them into their ‘flow zone’. They then know clearly the nature of the situations or events that trigger their motivational thrust, the subject matter that most attracts them, their preferred relating role in a team or group, and mastering their special gifts or abilities). (Miller, AQ and Mattson, R. 1977)

Kazimierz Dąbrowski, a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist, developed the Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD), and described the psychological factors that he believed to be related to positive growth outcomes after a crises or trauma, in those individuals who experience the trauma intensely, sensitively, and with full alertness. His work was a forerunner of the concept of post-traumatic growth.

Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy is primarily an existential motivating force - our search for personal meaning. Hope in the future provides stability in the present. 
Beyond (and a part of self-actualisation) may come an enlivening, inspiring realisation. A simple yet profound realisation. As happened to him in his concentration camp ‘lock-down’ situation, 

“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set to song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which ‘man’ can aspire”. (Frankl, V.E. 1984)    And our focus abruptly shifts away from self, and towards others.

So putting this all together: the depth of our initial response, our capacity to move forward, and our individual rates of growth (and magnitude of growth) all differ, as do the degree of actualisation or transformation that we may ultimately reach:  

And we are fragile beings, full of foibles, faults, fallacies, frailties and fears. And full of potential. 
“We live in a world of fragile things: fragile selves, fragile psyches, fragile loves. One of the most distinctive features of human existence - what makes it recognizable as human and what gives it its characteristically bittersweet quality - is that we tend to be acutely aware of its precariousness even when we are more or less courageously focused on taking advantage of the various opportunities that it affords”. (Ruti, M. 2009)


This article is background to and post-reading for a comprehensive self-assessment that will direct your understanding and choices you make in determining what you would like your own journey to be, and to not sinking, but swimming (at least some of the time!) in the waves of change and uncertainty that wash over us.  

The assessment is available at:

Bibliography and References

To assist people during this time of upheaval, change and adversity, to help facilitate the development of appropriate mind-sets and resilience, we have recently posted articles that cover aspects of coping during the Covid-19 pandemic. Certain of the questions included in the work-from-home assessment were triggered by these articles:









(We have also contributed a chapter to the Knowledge Resources publication “Managing During the Covid-19 Vortex”, and contributed to the upcoming "Virtual Storytelling Conference: Storytelling in a World Shaped by Coronavirus-19" that takes place in mid-May)

All of the above material contains suggestions and tips on how to cope better, in both crisis and ‘normal’ times, and with the challenges of work-from-home that have arisen with the advent of Covid-19.  You may wish to explore them after taking the online work-from-home assessment offered above.

Other advice comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Rosner, B. 2020. March) and Søren Kierkegaard (Rosner, B. 2020. April). See the links in the references below. 

Other references:

Frankl, Viktor (1984) Man’s Search for Meaning Rider, London
Miller, Art and Mattson, Ralph (1977) The Truth About You; you were born for a purpose  Fleming H. Revell Company: New Jersey 
Rosner, Brian (2020. April) Coping with coronavirus anxiety: Four lessons from Søren Kierkegaard ABC Religion and Ethics 30th April, 2020 
Rosner, Brian (2020. March) Coping with coronavirus disappointments: Five lessons from Dietrich Bonhoeffer ABC Religion and Ethics 30th March, 2020
Ruti, Mari (2009) A World of Fragile Things: psychoanalysis and the art of living SUNY SERIES IN PSYCHOANALYSIS AND CULTURE Henry Sussman, editor. State University of New York Press
Rutte, Martin (2006) The Work of Humanity: project heaven on earth citing Patanjali (in Seeking the Sacred: leading a spiritual life in a secular world. (ed. Mary Joseph) ECW Press, Toronto, Canada

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Coping with Coronavirus – A Moral Response

What is the moral response to the Covid - 19 pandemic for organisations and individuals?

The Challenge

The coronavirus pandemic of 2019/2020 presents contemporary society with a unique challenge. It directly attacks the links which make society cohere: social interaction; people working together to get things done; the unimpeded movement of goods; the timely and unhindered provision of services.

Suddenly we are instructed by our governments to keep our distance. Visiting offices, shops, factories, farms, or anywhere where we normally work closely with one another is abruptly ‘out of bounds’.

This is a shocking and unpredicted disruption to everyday life. Not only are we faced with the threat of ill-health and a potentially lethal illness; our livelihoods are also endangered.

How are we to react?
A common response for both businesses and individuals is to go on the defensive – to seek to protect ourselves and our own, at no matter what cost to others.

Individuals hoard, with fights breaking out in shops and markets over limited supplies.
Businesses ‘cut costs’, sacking employees, reducing overheads and postponing payment of what they owe. 

With these reactions we risk a free-for-all: everyone out for themselves. So how are we to maintain our moral compass in the face of such disruption and adversity?

Our Moral Compass

In my book Intelligent Ethics I identify three simple moral objectives, which I base on a commitment to life – to the very essence of what we are – and to the living world. They are:

To nurture others
To nurture our species as a whole 
To nurture all life

These are simple and uncontroversial moral aims and reflect the core elements of many of the great ethical traditions of the past. More than this, their simplicity makes them an ideal tool for addressing the moral dilemmas of the modern world – and of the coronavirus crisis in particular.

An Individual Response

All the great ethical systems demand of us an element of selflessness – of putting those around us on an equal footing with ourselves. This is particularly important when it comes to health and healthcare. The clear moral implication of the imperative ‘to nurture those around us’ in the face of this pandemic is that each of us, as individuals, must take every possible precaution in regard to the safety and health of others.

A best practice response to Coronavirus is gaining traction amongst the scientific and political communities of the world. It suggests that if there is coronavirus in your community you should:
  • Avoid mingling with others outside of your household
  • Keep a two metre distance between yourself and others when outside your home
  • Wear a facemask or scarf over your nose and mouth whenever in public (this is less for your own protection than to ensure you do not act as a carrier and transmitter yourself)
  • Regularly wash your hands with warm water and detergent
  • Do not travel between communities or localities: every journey we make is potentially a journey for the virus also.

It is important that you take these measures even if you think you are healthy and strong, for others may not be so fortunate…

All the elements of this advice comply with the moral objective to protect and nurture others, but they do have a singular weakness. What of more communal or crowded communities, or communities with desperately limited resources? What happens if you live hand to mouth and the disruption being asked of you presents you with a stark alternative: complying with the coronavirus advice versus jeopardising the food on your own and your family’s plates?

This is where we as individuals must raise our game. We must use our maximum creativity and imagination to combine compromise with innovative solutions: striving to restrict transmission amongst those in our family and community while also protecting the livelihoods of ourselves and those around us. A difficult balancing act.

This is a great deal to ask of us, and we will often need help. Communities, organisation and governments must provide assistance (as we are seeing them do in many countries across the world). After all, what is the point of these social structures (e.g. local authorities, town councils and business committees) if they cannot look after their own? We must ask for help, and we must help each other.

Governments and local authorities need to provide safe locations for self-isolation; support for families facing hardship; food parcels and medical assistance where needed; the provision of face masks and (hopefully before too long) testing kits. The elderly and the frail must be protected and supported.

Yet there remains a brutal hierarchy of need, where food, water and shelter come before precautionary actions to protect health. We must inevitably prioritise these needs and then take the measures outlined above if we possibly can.

An Organisational Response

What of organisations and businesses? What does the moral response look like for them?

Even here a fine balance must be achieved between preserving and protecting livelihoods and protecting health.

Businesses must demand assistance from the state in order to protect jobs – while remembering that the priority is preservation of employee wellbeing rather than protection of cash reserves or profit. Health must always come before wealth – despite the free-market ethos that has prevailed in much of the world for the last forty years. The coronavirus crisis presents us with an urgent reminder: people must be the primary objective of any organisation.
So businesses across the world must ask themselves some profoundly moral questions: 
  • How are we to protect and sustain our employees?
  • How are we to protect our customers, our stakeholders, and the communities within which we operate?

Governments, too, have a key role to play. They need to ensure the integrity of the statistical evidence that they use for decision-making purposes. The use of faulty models and algorithms may well result in overkill measures or inadequate responses. And it is critical that governments do not impose control and compliance measures that are questionable in terms of necessity and may directly impose on the freedoms and rights of citizens.

Coronavirus presents us with a powerfully disruptive challenge – but it is important to remember the incredible successes of which businesses are capable. No process, practice or procedure need be set in stone. Now is the time for lateral thinking, for imaginative and even radical solutions. Are there ways our businesses can continue operating but with dramatically altered methods or objectives? Are there new methods of contagion-free delivery that we can explore? Are there new demands from the pandemic to which our business can be partly and/or temporarily repurposed? Can our organisation or business help provide solutions rather than merely adopt a reactive or defensive stance?

If, for at least this short period, profit-seeking can be relegated to second place – this exposes a raft of possibilities… In this pause to ordinary business, can we open ourselves up to new horizons and perhaps achieve long-lasting change which may benefit us all?

If, briefly, money ceases to be our primary objective, then perhaps we can gain a firmer grip on better and more moral objectives, such as the nurturing of others, the nurturing of communities all across the Earth, and the protection of the biological world.

There will be loss and tragedy arising from this pandemic, but let us at least use this to learn lessons which may be of benefit to us all.

A useful tool for moral decision-making and leadership in times of crisis can be found

Luke Andreski Based in Bristol U.K. BA (Hons), is a certified, widely experienced programme and project leader. 

He is the author of Ethical Intelligence and Intelligent Ethics, both available from Amazon. 

They offer a valuable 
toolkit for ethical survival in our tumultuous times.  Andreski Solutions: la[at]andresksolutions[dot]co[dot]uk

Monday, May 4, 2020


We are busy traversing an unpredictable, somewhat uncontrollable and fragile web of circumstances. The Covid-19 pandemic. And we are no longer travelling the safe, secure path that we were on not too long ago. Maybe it’s time to throw away our old tickets?

In engaging with new threats, challenges and opportunities, new mind-sets, ways of thinking and ways of making progress are needed. I believe that this applies at all levels - at the nation-level, organisation-level and personal-level. As we watch what unfolds I believe that two of the approaches we can learn from are:
  • how scenario planning and implementation can guide us to a desired, emergent future  
  • how collaboration, insight and good behaviour are helpful during difficult transitions


In South Africa in the lead up to 1994 and the possibility of a non-racial democracy so eloquently envisioned and described by Nelson Mandela, and which many still hope for, four scenarios were constructed by top level stakeholders. The chosen scenario was:

FLAMINGOS represented a beautiful ideal where everyone takes off together, flies together to the same destination and lands well, still together as one flock.

Built on inclusion, participation and collaboration this scenario required the overcoming and discarding of any harmful focus on differences, and instead harnessing the richness and power of diversity in all its forms, to bring about the desired end. A cohesive and cooperative way forward to the goal meant casting aside unilateral decision-making followed by imposed ‘solutions’ and control and compliance measures to ensure blind obedience.

For a flamingo transition to work, we need to let go of egoic thinking and acting, and narrow self-interest; and devote time to healing divides and building bridges not walls, and stay true to agreed and espoused values. In short, to diligently put “we’ above ‘me’

To borrow an idea from Swiss-French psychologist and psychoanalyst Charles Baudouin, we have a tendency to (often unconsciously) hold onto our bus ticket for a long time after we have left the bus.  

A planner promoted to general manager may over-emphasize the role of planning in his multiple-faceted leadership challenge, a freedom fighter turned politician may continue to display limiting beliefs and resentments, managers may continue to employ tools and techniques no longer suited to the new world we that inhabit. The head of a department conditioned to a control and compliance way of operating and being an “authority” may believe herself unable to adopt a collaboration and cooperation mind-set.  Economists, psychologists, medical doctors, business leaders, theologians, the rich and privileged, the poor and disadvantaged all develop their own worldviews, have their own “bus tickets”. The challenge for leadership at the highest level is to insist on and bring about a flamingo culture and journey. All other tickets must be thrown away.  Can all strata of South African society do this? 

The LAME DUCK scenario (a ticket to be thrown away together with Ostrich and Icarus scenarios) is where restricted powers or mind-set renders government, leaders or people without the freedom to decide and act, impotent. The lame duck situation may come about through continuously creeping corruption, division, incompetence, being seduced and blinded by temporary and immediate gratifications, inability to permit any other worldview than one’s own. 

A sure way of shooting ourselves in the foot is when we get so entangled in political and other power struggles, arguing to win rather than to learn, that the end is lost sight of, and our means take over. So the desired end is lost. 

OSTRICH is a scenario where an authority arrogantly or as a result of unconscious bias, sticks their heads in the sand to hide from problems, from the possibility that they may have erred, and from a reality that they wish to avoid. Whether this is the possibility that the model, algorithms and robustness of data being used to make decisions may be faulty; from the extent of social discontent that could bubble up into anarchy, terrible violence and severe upheaval; or from the immediate and longer term implications of further hurting an ailing junk-status economy - the outcome is not good.   

Dualistic thinking fuels ostrich behaviour. A stubborn mind-set that insists on fallacious choices signals a pending failure – no matter how many self-given plaudits, wishful thinking or patting each other on the back (defensively?) happens.

Mature non-dualistic thinkers are able to see that two opposing ideas can result in a superior, third way. So crises and opportunities can co-exist, high tech can accompany high touch, losing/ letting go often also signals a win, compassion and power belong together, higher efficiency does not have to mean poorer service, people and profit and planet go together …and ‘and/both’ does trump ‘either/or’ in the situations that we now face. 

Our choice as we traverse the coronavirus pandemic web is NOT that we must do our utmost to save lives OR that we must save the economy, OR that we must preserve the whole-person well-being of our people (physical, emotional, social, spiritual).
We are not dealing with simplistic, mutually exclusive opposites or priorities.
We do need an ‘and’ mind-set and approach.

The Flight of Icarus (Gowy, Jacob Peter The Flight of Icarus Madrid, Museo del Prado 1635/7 In the public domain)

Mythological ICARUS remains a cautionary-tale. For a government furiously bent on initiating “reforms”, “corrective legislation”, or re-engineering society, land ownership, pension investment, economic participation  – sometimes justified, at other times based on dubious premises and harshly, unilaterally imposed retribution, restitution or restoration - flying too high too soon, so that the already ailing, junk-status economy goes into melt-down and crashes, is not good.
In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, the Dalai Lama said “Our struggle must remain nonviolent and free of hatred”. That is more relevant and critical today in South Africa than perhaps any time since 1994.

Good effective action was initially taken, and many quickly became aware of the implications of the virus, and the necessity for protective and preventative measures. But now rushing ahead and basing future decisions on faulty models, hastily developed algorithms and insufficient or unreliable and valid data for decision-making – and imposing severe control and compliance measures (some based on dubious reasoning and dualistic thinking) carries similar danger. 
Let’s throw away this ticket and not prevent our ability to fly.


Change is an event – something happens. Transition is the journey or process that follows a change event.
One way to understand transition is to use the model developed by William Bridges: 'In transition there is an ending, then a neutral zone, and only then a new beginning’.

(Source: Bridges, William (1992) Managing Transitions Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. Inc. New York)

Outside of any narrow religious context, the journey of the Israelites, from captivity to the promised land, illustrates the transition process quite well. Read this account with an awareness of our current Covid-19 transition.

After 430 years in Egypt, the process of getting to the land of milk and honey ultimately took a too-long 40 years , because the people failed to plug into flamingo mode. 

The vision and purpose were good, understood and shared by all; things of value were carried forward from the past (customs, traditions, Joseph’s bones – representing an oath he had made); and before the advent of new ethics, governance frameworks and ways of living and working, came – like it or not - many endings.
(Alchemists in the Middle Ages believed that every ending is a beginning. In the same way that individuals learn to cope with losses by working through feelings before coming to acceptance and restarting, so too can organisations and nations accept that a new beginning requires saying good bye - to old processes, technology, markets, ways of working, ways of behaving, political standpoints and worldviews, ways of running an economy ... No pain no gain). 

In unknown territory, the neutral zone of the marriage of chaos and creativity, the “stiff-necked” Israelis were often unhappy. At one stage they complained about the manna they were provided with (entitlement thinking) and some took more and others less than their due (There are always takers and givers and some who try and even things out). Many refused to throw away their null and void tickets.  One command was to appoint leaders who were competent, trustworthy and not corrupt. Cool heads, strong nerves and fiery bellies are a prerequisite.

Inevitably mistakes are made and these need to be quickly acknowledged and fixed. (Agility)
There is temptation to backtrack, yet resilience, more appropriate skills and attitudes, innovations come about as we persevere with what is right. Harrison Owen has said that “High learning as an intentional way of life, begins with embracing chaos … To avoid chaos is to avoid growth, is to avoid life itself...”. 

As new beginnings emerge and the vision starts to become a new reality, challenges continue. Some scouts in the Israeli vanguard reported that menacing, fearful giants lived in the land ahead. Positive, determined thinking was needed. Moses wasn’t to enter the promised land. That task and privilege fell to Joshua.
Says William Bridges, 'Beginnings are a psychological phenomenon, not simply practical ones. In practical terms things change quickly... Beginnings follow the timing of the mind and the heart”. 

In this transition story the lessons are self-evident. As is the overall imperative to stick to the right path to implementing the right scenario. 

Who wants to be in a country or organisation of ostriches, Icaruses or lame ducks?! 

Let’s throw away those bus tickets that we no longer need.