An Astronaut’s Guide To Social Distancing In COVID Times
COVID-19 pandemic has brought the entire world to a standstill. While hashtags like #StayHomeIndia and #StayAtHomeSaveLives are trending on Twitter, we came across another gem of a tweet thread. The thread was by Anne McClain, the first openly LGBT astronaut from NASA. In her tweet, McClain told the world how astronauts survive in isolation and shared some of her pro tips. In her 16-tweet long thread, she tells of how 20 years of successful space career had a lot to do with great survival skills in isolation, which they call good expeditionary behaviour, aka #GoodEB.
These good EBs have been narrowed down to five basic skills. McClain has given a layman’s guide for each skill and how to excel at them. Here, we bring to you her pro tips.
SKILL 1: COMMUNICATION
By definition, communication means to talk so you are clearly understood. To listen and question, to understand. One should actively listen, pick up on non-verbal cues. Identify, discuss, then work to resolve conflicts.
To be good at the communication part of Good Expeditionary Behaviour, you should share information or feelings freely. Make sure you talk about your intentions before taking actions. Use proper terminology. Discuss when someone’s actions were not as expected. Debrief after success or conflict. Listen, then restate the message to ensure that it is understood. Admit when wrong.
When your mom asks you to do something and you refuse and she says “Do whatever you want to”, you think of this definition and pick up on her non-verbal cues. Yes, that look on her face! That means you need to stop being so lazy and disobedient and start moving that lazy ass. See! You aren’t that bad at it!
SKILL 2: Leadership or Followership
Leadership/ Followership means how well a team adapts to new situations. A leader enhances the group’s ability to execute its purpose through positive influence. Follower (aka subordinate leader) actively contributes to the leader’s direction.
To practice Good leadership/ followership, you should take responsibility. (High time you should begin doing this anyway). Adjust your style according to the environment. Assign tasks to everyone in the team (including yourself because nobody likes a leader who does nothing) and set goals for everyone. Lead by example. Give direction, info, feedback, coaching + encouragement. Ensure that your teammates have the resources to execute their assigned tasks. Talk when something isn’t right. Ask questions. Offer solutions, not just problems because most probably, they too know the problems, just can’t think of a solution alone.
SKILL 3: Self-Care
Self–care means accessing how healthy you are, not just physically, but mentally too! It includes everything from hygiene to maintaining your mood. You should know how to manage your time and personal stuff and should make sure that you are getting proper sleep. Self-care is the ability and willingness to be proactive to stay healthy.
To be good at self-care, one must realistically assess his/her strengths and weaknesses, and how they influence the group. One should learn from his/her mistakes. It is really important to take action to mitigate stress or negativity (and to make sure that you do not pass your stress/negativity on to the group). Be social. Seek feedback. Balance work, rest and personal time. Be organized.
1/ One thing astronauts have to be good at: living in confined
spaces for long periods of time. Find yourself in a similar scenario? Here are
some pro tips…a thread.
— Anne McClain (@AstroAnnimal) March 22, 2020
SKILL 4: Team Care
Team Care means keeping a check on how healthy the group is on psychological, physical and logistical levels. Recognize that this can be influenced by stress, fatigue, sickness, supplies, resources, workload, etc. A team and most importantly a team leader should know how to nurture optimal team performance despite the challenges.
To show good EB, team members should demonstrate patience and respect for each other. Encourage others. Monitor your team for signs of stress or fatigue. Encourage participation in team activities. Develop positive relationships. Volunteer for unpleasant tasks. Offer and accept help. Share the credit, take the blame.
SKILL 5: Group Living
Group living means how people cooperate and become a team to achieve a goal. Identify and manage different opinions, cultures, perceptions, skills and personalities. Individuals and groups demonstrate resiliency in the face of difficulty.
To be good at group living, people should cooperate rather than compete. All the group members must actively cultivate a group culture (use each individual’s culture to build the whole). Respect roles, responsibilities, and workload. Take accountability, give praise freely. Work to ensure a positive team attitude. Keep calm in conflict.
We should all work on these skills and we are good to go. We can all be successful in confinement if we are intentional about our actions and deliberate about caring for our teams.