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There’s no time to wait

Posted By Siphiwe Y. Mashoene, Wednesday, 05 August 2020


There’s no time to wait

Shifting Perspective moves us forward


By Barbara Walsh, MHRP


As health professionals, organisations and politicians continuously debate on the appropriate response to Covid-19, there remains enormous uncertainty over the future and a realization that the pandemic is far from over. It feels to me as though we’ve come to accept the onslaught of the virus to some degree, and seem to be in a space of ‘what now?’ Unsurprisingly, in my conversations with clients and colleagues, I hear the overarching sentiment that, beyond a few references to the need for more effective political leadership and better economic conditions, nobody really has much of an idea. This speaks to an undercurrent of powerlessness in the face of the situation in which we find ourselves.  Whilst not surprising given the resultant factors of the global pandemic such as lockdown regulations and the impact on our lives, work and businesses, there’s no time to wait in shifting this dynamic in order to move forward as individuals, teams, organisations and as a society.


There has been no crisis of comparable magnitude within living memory. Individuals, communities, and entire populations are acutely aware of "loss of control" over their health, their finances, and their daily activities. The impact of "loss of control" on our mental health is made even worse by uncertainty over the future that is unprecedented in modern times. ~ Psychology Today


How Locus of Control Impacts Response


Locus of control theory, which originated more than five decades ago, states that the degree to which people believe they are in control significantly influences their attitudes toward difficult circumstances. This unconsciously affects daily behaviour, resilience, and even determines coping strategies. On the one end of the continuum, those internally focused, believe that events that happen to them are influenced by their own response choices and actions, whether or not they choose to exert control over them.


On the other end of the scale, individuals with a strong external locus of control interpret events as imposed by circumstances beyond their control. As a result, such individuals believe that their life experience and reality is as a result of external influences, perhaps a higher power, authority such as government and yes even a pandemic. External locus of control in its extreme sense can become a sense of learned helplessness; a state where people who face a negative situation pervasively believe that situations will prevail regardless of their efforts.


 Response determines outcome

The truth is that none of us are in control of what happens externally. However we are able to choose our response to a situation. As a result, we have the capacity to lessen the intensity of our anxiety and despair by changing our internal narrative in a chaotic world.


It's natural for anyone to experience anxiety during an unimagined crisis like a pandemic.  What we do in response will have a strong bearing on what happens next. Consider for  example an executive who withdraws and chooses to wait for the situation to pass hoping that stability will at some stage be restored. Compare this situation with an executive who chooses to make this an opportunity for developing themselves and their team, and works on shifting the business model to adapt to the changed reality. This may seem obvious - however how many of us inadvertently justify choosing incapacity in scenarios like this?


We are more than halfway through 2020, and so far this year has not delivered much good news. It's time to stop waiting and hoping for things to get better, rather consider what can be done to shift the energy, and find ways to make the rest of the year work better for us and our organisations?


To a greater or lesser extent, we’ve been socialised into looking to a leader, a government or a different time to rescue us from powerlessness and uncertainty. The fact is that in an uncertain world, traction is created through our response. Instead of waiting to be moved forward, we can shift perspective now, seek new learning and growth, and create our own opportunities to end the year in a very much more positive space . Our outcomes are created through our own responses, not through an external figurehead or event.



Barbara Walsh is Managing Director of Metaco Consulting; a bespoke consultancy that works to create opportunities that transform leadership thinking, deliver value and change lives to create a better, more connected world. For more, visit



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