Twisties, anyone?

Dizzy, disoriented emojiIf you’ve been paying any attention at all to this year’s Olympics, you know that Simone Biles, considered the greatest gymnast of all time, withdrew from the all-around and, as of the time I’m writing this, is uncertain for the individual competitions.

The public reaction has been predictably … intense. From those condemning her (I’m not going there) to those applauding (I’m with them!), there’s been an avalanche of comments and opinions.

Let’s start with this: the twisties. If you’ve been following the story, you probably know that this is a term gymnasts use for when they’ve lost their orientation in the air.

Just typing that gives me chills. Can you imagine leaping into a vault and suddenly … becoming disoriented?

Can you imagine the kinds of injuries that could result?

Can you imagine the courage it took for her to say no – no, I am not going to take that risk, to myself or for my team?

Okay. Why is this relevant to leadership?

We’ve had an 18-month “vault” into a whole lot of wild unknown. We’ve been twisting and spinning in many unexpected, new, intensely demanding directions. And with the resurgance of the virus in the delta variant, we’re suddenly disoriented all over again.

Leaders – especially first-line and mid-level leaders – are caught in mid-air, uncertain about which way is “up” and which way is “down” and how in the world to “stick the landing.” They’re in a tough spot between their teams, who desperately and deservedly want to know what to expect, and their executives, who … well, let’s face it: they desperately and deservedly want to know what to expect as well. But there’s not a whole lot of support or information available for anyone.

What does the Olympics have to do with your office, your leaders, your people? Well... the twisties, of course. Click To Tweet

Who on your team needs to step back and breathe for a bit?

Who needs help to regain their orientation in the midst of upheaval and uncertainty?

What do you need to regain your orientation?

There are people shouting from the rooftops that we’re about to have another pandemic: mental health.

Let’s not wait until it actually arrives. Let’s stop, pause, breathe, think about what we can do, how we need to prepare, what help we and our teams might need.

It’s so tempting to just keep pushing, pushing, pushing onward. It’s what our work culture has historically (and often tragically) demanded.

Let’s just not, okay? Instead, let’s be as strong as Simone Biles: say no, say “I need a break,” say, “Time out!”

And when our people say, “Wait. I need a break, I need some time,” let’s listen instead of pushing, pushing, pushing.

Okay? Can we give that a try? Please?


With thanks to my colleague Gary Applegate of CenterPoint CFO, who suggested this idea.

Here’s an article explaining “the twisties.”

And as always, drop me a line if you’d like to set a time to talk about how this is impacting your business.