Johanna Rose

My View from the Ground: Playbook for Managing a Team in Crisis

LinkedIn is rife with posts about the Israel’s current war against Hamas. In my feed, the algorithm naturally presents overwhelmingly more supportive articles than those condemning Israel. One thing I have yet to see is how the professional world is handling the current ongoing crisis.

I have managed teams throughout my career. Yet, never have I needed to dig so deeply to ensure my colleagues are emotionally healthy (the personal side) and up to the challenge of remaining productive (the work side). As this is my first time living in a country at war on the home front, I hadn’t considered the best way to support others professionally while dealing with my own stress and lost sense of security. Is there even a roadmap for this?

Beyond the universal national trauma, I had to consider the needs of each of the four of us as we are all in different stages of life: Morin, a native born Israeli with past national traumas re-surfacing; Chaya, whose daughter was just inducted into the army; Ditzah, grieving the loss of her children’s honorary uncle who was killed in the Nova massacre and whose small rural community has a disproportionate number of husbands on the front lines; and me, leading this bunch as the newest olah chadasha, (new immigrant) who had not experienced an azaka (red alert) siren before.

Here’s how we’ve been navigating through work:

Week 1 Shocked and Awed

Because the situation had been initially shocking and continually fluid, the only resources I had the presence of mind to seek out was to ask the HR leadership for guidance. Unfortunately, they offered little assistance, likely because they too are human—contending with the unknown and their own fear for their children in the army. Well, I turned to my inner creative problem solver and spoke to myself in what my kids lovingly/jokingly call “the calm voice,” an artificially controlled tone I lapse into during perilous situations.

Floundering for a way to be supportive, I initiated a daily 15-minute check-in for the entire team. It was our opportunity to just express our feelings and share the news from our own worlds. Despite the compact size of the country, we all live across Israel’s diverse geography and are affected in different ways.

Three of the four of us could generate no real work product in the first two weeks of the war, except for Chaya, whose attitude was “bring it on.”  She could handle her tasks and any others that would fall through the cracks.

Week 3 ◊ Resetting Expectations

By late October, Chaya and I started our video meeting. Her face had lost all of the earlier bravado and her voice echoed with exhaustion. Ahh, now I understood that she must have been in denial and the trauma was catching up to her. At this point, I realized that we would all need space to grieve and breathe for most of the time and carve out periods of focused work. So as a group, we reviewed our pipeline of projects and evaluated what was realistic to accomplish in the next few weeks. Great. Realistic goal setting in the “new normal.”

Week 5 ◊ Volunteering for the Soul

After the first month of war, with a pause for return of some of the hostages (thank G-d), the “new normal” had become just normal. It was clear that the citizenry was stepping up to fill the myriad gaps in meeting the needs of the soldiers and the economy. If we could assuage our own angst and further pull our civic weight, it would be a win-win. So we started volunteering together. It provided the opportunity to help others, see each other in person, and provide a sense of empowerment. To date, we have gone to 2 different farms and one food pantry. We’re aiming to continue our monthly outdoor farming activities. It has proven to be an invaluable way to reinvigorate our crew and help save our nation’s agricultural industry.

Week 12 and Beyond ◊ Moving Forward

Today, each of us has found our own unique paths to channel our energies and to balance sanity and work. Morin is training with the Home Front Command to be a “light rescue” volunteer. In case of emergencies such as earthquake or Hezbollah missiles, she will be ready to handle the situation before professional first responders can arrive on scene. Ditzah is sourcing tactical gear for soldiers and providing ongoing emotional support for the women in her community.  Chaya is sharing her experiences through her TOI blog and helping displaced families in Jerusalem. I’m involved with myriad activities including lobbying US members of Congress to ensure the sometimes precarious support for Israel.

As we sit on the cusp of the new secular year, what lies ahead? Will the intensity of Gaza in the south give way to a new war with Hezbollah in the north? Will we have a reprieve and celebrate the homecoming of the remaining hostages (we pray)? One thing is certain, the need to support each other—to thrive personally and professionally—will continue.  It is a privilege to work with this talented group of women who also serve to buoy me during this uncharted period. And for that I am grateful.

I would love to hear how you are supporting your colleagues in Israel. Please SHARE any suggestions in the comments below or in a personal message.

About the Author
Johanna made aliyah with her husband and golden retriever during Covid in November 2020. In moving to Israel she is living the dream she has had as a virulent Zionist: 4th of 5 generations of Hadassah life members, a former AIPAC Area Director, and pro-Israel political activist.