In Part one of five on our series about Adaptive Leadership in a Time of Uncertainty, we introduced four focus areas that are helping lead us through this time of disruption.

In Part two this week, we take a closer look at Presence and Availability and examine a three-stage framework that helps to provide some perspective on the responses you are seeing in your team and yourself!

Presence and Availability

True presence is meeting people where they are at emotionally. Availability in leadership is about being there when you are needed. In this blog, we’ll explore these aspects of adaptive leadership and elaborate on a three-stage framework that provides some additional perspective for responding to your team and organizational needs with deep empathy.

The words Reacting Adapting Growth with arrows connecting them. So where are we these days?

In response to a crisis, people generally cycle though the three stages of reacting to the change, adapting, and finally growing as a result.  This awareness can help leaders to uphold a vital aspect of their role: making a positive difference in people’s lives.

In the reacting stage, what might come across is anxiety, frustration, and even anger. Our ability to respond thoughtfully during this stage might be compromised. It’s important to give people permission to be exactly where they are in this process. Recognize the patterns of reaction and remember that there is probably far more going on than the reaction to the presenting issue. Try to remain present to the challenges from a space of non-judgement and don’t be afraid to ask people “Where are you at right now?”

As people move into the adapting stage, they often come to a place of acceptance and perhaps even start developing new norms. Although emotions and responses are generally more balanced during this time, it is easy to jump back to the reaction stage, especially if we hear a piece of news about the pandemic that has a direct impact on our current reality. For example, some of us have family members in long-term care and are feeling strain due to school closures, while others have family members who have lost jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. As leaders, keep checking in and be mindful that where people were at yesterday is not necessarily where they are at today.

Lastly, people will move into a place of growth. We need to be sensitive that during the stages of reacting and adapting, it might feel challenging to see the positive aspects of the crisis and it is important not to push people to a growth mindset prematurely. When leadership is present and able to deeply listen, it is easier to intuit where people are in this process. At Overlap, we talk about practical optimism. While we recognize constraints, we also truly believe that better is possible and work toward that aspirational state everyday. Recently, we are hearing some signals from our team that we are moving into this phase of growth as we recognize that our learnings through this time of challenge will help to create a better future.

As we continue to move through this challenging period, the future remains unknown. At Overlap, we are paying careful attention to how our team is responding and offering a non-judgemental ear to support them wherever they are at.

And when is leadership needed?

Availability means more than saying the words, “we are here for you”.  Many of the organizations that we support are facing serious strategic, financial, and operational challenges. It can feel tempting—and seemingly justifiable—to pour our efforts most deeply into the needs of clients. At the same time, we also need to recognize the importance of strengthening and connecting with our own teams.

At Overlap, we believe our people are our greatest asset. Leadership is available at daily stand-ups, regular check-ins with team members, and through informal opportunities such as virtual socials. By being there for the team when they need us, we hope to continue to foster a sense of support and safety for our incredible team.

This increased presence and availability can take a toll on leaders. We need to remain aware of our own well-being in order to sustain our effectiveness in the long-term and support each other if one of us needs to step away.

Ultimately, by being truly present and available, we are strengthening our teams—and our resilience as an organization—to react, adapt, and grow with empathy. We would love to hear how you are being present and available with your teams during this time of uncertainty. Let us know by emailing