I have a direct report who has high standards, is really great but depressed and easily overwhelmed…what can I do to help her focus? N.D., Alpine, NJ
Feeling overwhelmed is often caused by mentally “spinning your wheels” e.g., speculating about issues/situations that are difficult, if not impossible, to resolve or to answer. This futile, out-of-control thinking gets us nowhere. It just accentuates the feeling of being overwhelmed. Your goal is to stop her ruminating by keeping her focused on the present and things she can control.
Leverage her commitment to high standards. We usually react to overwhelm by being frantically busy, by procrastinating, or by inefficiency—all of which work against delivering on her high standards. Pointing this out gives her a powerful, personally relevant reason for focusing.
Remind her of the goal of the project/activity and reiterate it in conversations. When she starts slipping back, get her to state the steps she’ll be taking to achieve the goal. It will help her keep her feet under her when under pressure.