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  • Jill Helmer

Week 7: A Time to Sift

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

I have a favorite author who writes of times of crisis being times to sift. I have been thinking of her advice the last few days as we begin to return to some form of “normal.” I consulted my online dictionary for guidance on the definition of sifting. Sifting is the use of a gold mining pan to strain gold from sand; sifting is passing flour through a screen to separate out the lumps; and sifting is sorting through garbage to find recyclable items. 

So what does sifting look like in times of crisis? You have most likely experienced this in your personal life. Perhaps it was a health scare for you or a family member that allowed you to “sift.” Or maybe it was an unexpected job loss that motivated you to “sift” through your professional needs and expectations as you looked for future employment. If you have lived through those experiences or something similar, you are familar with the process of examining your life, your habits, or your work thoroughly so as to isolate that which is most important or useful. The psychological process of “sifting” is important so that the experience you just lived through can provide you with direction for the way forward.


As we begin to transition back into some form of normal, it will be important for us to “sift.” We will need to examine what has worked and not worked for us in the last two months to provide us with direction for the way forward. As a leader, there are behaviors you adopted during the COVID crisis that have worked well for your team. I have heard many clients say that their leader has checked in on them more frequently, and they have enjoyed the consistency of team meetings and communications. Others have told me that their leader has been more human with them, empathizing with the challenges of juggling home and work under one roof. Conversely, there are behaviors you have adopted due to the stress you were under that did not work as well for your team. Those are equally important to explore as you move forward.


So how does one “sift” outside of gold pans ? 


A simple sifting process for your team might be handled in a team zoom meeting, or in your one on ones, or through a simple Survey Monkey. Whichever option you select, you can “sift” with the following questions:

  • What has worked well for our team during this time period that we should CONTINUE as we return to some form of normal?

  • What has worked well for my leadership during this time period that I should CONTINUE as we return to some form of normal?

  • What has not worked for our team during this time period that we should STOP doing as we return to some form of normal?

  • What has not worked for my leadership during this time period that I should STOP doing as we return to some form of normal?

  • As we return to some form of normal, is there anything we should START doing to help make us a more productive and cohesive team?

  • As we return to some form of normal, is there anything I should START doing to make myself the best leader of our team that I can be?

I realize that for most of us some form of normal is still weeks away. Depending on the industry you are in or the state in which you reside, that return will come sooner than later. When it does, it will be all hands on deck, marching forward. There will be little time to sift the gold, as you will be focused on mining for more. I encourage you to take the time that you have with your team and with yourself to reflect “before” the light turns to green. I promise it will make you a better leader and a better team “after”…for whatever “after” looks like for you.

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