To me resilience means the ability to keep moving towards our goals in spite of the inevitable adversity that we all face in life. And here’s one thing I love about resilience - because it is an ability, you can learn it and practice it - just like any other skill.
Do you know anyone who was hugely successful who got there at the first attempt and lived happily ever after?
I’m willing to bet the answer is no. If I’m honest with myself, throughout my life I’ve faced rejection, failure, disappointment and setbacks. Many times I’ve taken one step forward and three steps back. That’s true whether I think back to growing up in a tough environment, learning to play an instrument, being a parent, building a career in finance or then becoming an entrepreneur.
Somehow, I managed to move forward, achieve my goals and develop in spite of adversity. I now know that I learned the hard way:
Put simply, without realising it, I developed the core skills of resilience. I have mental toughness, mental agility, emotional intelligence and a core set of change and relationship building skills that are far from soft and fluffy. I know whatever life throws at me I have the resources to think accurately, keep moving towards my goals and that gives me confidence. If you dig down deep and I really mean really dig down, can you say that? I hope you can but many people I meet open up and tell me they can’t and it’s something I wouldn’t have been able to say 24 months ago.
There’s another key reason why I think we should focus on developing resilience in our communities, leaders and workplace and here it is. In a single generation we’ve upgraded our technology, changed the way we live, the way we work and the way we interact but our brains haven’t changed.
Consider that statement just at an individual level. My father doesn’t need resilience training. He’s lived in the same house pretty much all of his life, confidently performed the same job since leaving school, has a large social network consisting of people that he’s known for years and gets his news from the newspaper.
In comparison I have worked in different time zones, moved house and location several times, changed roles frequently as part of my career development and get my news 24/7 through whatever media I choose. I’ve also held multiple roles at the same times such as leader, subordinate, team member, committee member, board member, project lead, subject matter expert, husband, father etc etc….you get the picture. Importantly, mention a 2 hour commute either way to my father and he’d say you were bonkers!
Now let’s look at it from a system level.
Only one generation ago it used to be that you would work your way up from the bottom through the various layers of management. Many of those layers have disappeared as organisations have flattened structures and removed layers. The jump from one level to the next is now greater than it’s ever been and when you arrive there it’s pretty much sink or swim. Your peers are too busy to help you find your feet and are focusing on hitting the numbers, unable to baby-sit the new kid on the block.
Time stretch & Time shrink
“Working 9 til 5” by Dolly Parton was released in 1980 and that’s about where it belongs these days. The 35-hour week may be a reality in some areas but the norm is much more and it doesn’t end on Friday’s either. Though our working weeks are longer, leaders are expected to produce more with less and it’s now acceptable for work to impede on both holidays and family time. Research by the Institute of leadership & Management shows that 41% of managers lose up to a week of their paid holiday, while others continue to work from their laptops and devices during leave days.
The world is getting smaller.
Modern leaders work in organisations that trade all over the world. We say to ourselves that the world is getting smaller but in fact it is much harder managing or being managed across multiple time zones, geography and culture by people who you don’t actually physically see.
The world may be getting smaller but it’s also getting lonelier.
Familiar with the saying it’s lonely at the top? With fragmented support structures and more people living alone than ever before it’s now even lonelier. Few of the people I worked with in the City of London actually lived or were born there. The commute home was long and their extended family, school and university friends all lived miles away once they’d got home.
A modern world brings very modern challenges. New levels of governance, regulation, political correctness, corporate social responsibility in the work place. A sense of entitlement, “you can have it all and you can have it now “culture on our TVs and magazines where we watch celebrities and move with the next trend in our personal lives.
So here’s the point and it’s a very simple one.
We are now, more than ever, expected to cognitively process more than ever before and there is no going back. We’ve upgraded our technology, changed the way we live, the way we work and the way we interact but our brains haven’t changed.
Resilience Training tackles the demand on our brains.
Resilience training from The Resilience Development Company focuses on two parts that work together for resilience.
I’ll end where I started.
To me resilience means the ability to keep moving towards our goals in spite of the inevitable adversity that we all face in life. Because it’s ability it can be developed like any other skill. It’s my view that everyone should be taught resilience skills in schools. It’s my view that the workplace would be much more engaging if everyone from leader to team member had skills to be resilient. It’s my view that it’s a solution to a problem that is only going to get worse if we don’t do something today. It’s my view that if you want to improve your game you should train your brain or it might just be GAME OVER.
5 SIGNS OF A WORKPLACE CULTURE OF FEAR
Working in a learning and development company I get to work with all-sorts of organisations and people. It’s one of the aspects of the job I really enjoy and although the work that organisations do may differ, in the end the people challenges tend to be very similar.
If there is one stand out theme that I’ve noticed it’s this – there’s lot of fear in organisations. Fear of the next re-structure, fear of suggesting a new idea, fear of performance ratings, fear of looking foolish in front of your peers or team, fear of getting it wrong – the list goes on.
Here are 5 signs that might indicate a culture of fear in your organisation.
THE HIGH PRICE OF A FEAR BASED CULTURE
At an individual level, working in a culture of fear is not good for the team. It creates stress and that impacts attendance if left unattended.
At an organisational level, fear in your environment will mean your people will avoid risk. Instead they will look to repeat what’s worked for them in the past, take the safe option and not rock the boat. As Ed Catmull of Pixar said, “ their work will be derivative, not innovative”.
Here’s the paradox. Most organisations would like to see innovation and/or growth through change yet allow fear to exist within their culture.
Bottom line - If you really are looking for change and innovation to take your business forward, you have to create a positive culture that is accepting of failure. As a leader, you need to be alert to the five signs I’ve highlighted and take action to remove it from your team. It will take time and effort although the reward for your effort could be a real game changer for you and the people around you.
Number 3, Carrot, Triangle, Blue, Number 7
If you are a regular reader of my posts (and I hope you are) you will know that I help people improve relationships with each other to get better results. This often requires 1:1 sessions with the team leader to help them think through what contribution they are making to the team dynamics. I’ve found asking the leader of the team 4 key questions brings light-bulb moments, inspiration and direction and I’d like to share them with you. Let’s begin with:
1. What do you think a great leader looks like?
I find most leaders can answer this pretty quickly. I generally hear something like decision maker, problem solver, motivator, keen, savvy, leads by example or words to that effect and I’m ok with that. I’ve led many teams of different shapes and sizes and that’s part of the challenge that leaders face – there’s no one definition of it. Second question:
2. What do you think your team thinks a great leader looks like?
Again most leaders begin answering this question pretty quickly and use the words above and then they stop. Many realise they don’t know the answer. The leader is so caught up with what they think they ought to be that they are not asking their people what they should be. This is so important I’ll say it again. The leader is so caught up with what they think they ought to be that they are not asking their people what they should be.
I really feel for them as they visibly slump when they realise this. These are people who really want to be the best leader they can be and they’ve just forgotten what that means. It’s common and easy to do so, we need another question to take it back up again and remind them what they stand for. Here it is:
3. WHAT do you want to be remembered for around here and what would you NOT want to be remembered for?
This question encourages them as leaders to think about what really matters to them. What do they stand for? What would their lasting legacy as a leader be? Again, people tend to be able to answer these questions pretty quickly and clearly and they should be able to. In essence, I’m asking them what their values are. Next question.
4. So we know what you want to be remembered for, WHO do you really want to be remembered by?
Pause. Cogs whirring. Light-bulb moment. Answer – “the team.” Then it hits them. They’ve been spending the majority of time getting bogged down by management and tasks rather than leadership. They realise that a key to being an authentic leader is in the eyes of the team they are leading not in managing upwards, administration and management tasks.
So let’s put this all together using me as an example:
My name is David Ogilvie and my real strengths as a leader are that I am curious, creative, forgiving, have perspective and give time and energy to everyone on the team. My team thinks the same and I know this because they tell me so when I create opportunities to ask. I want to be remembered for bringing the best out in people and helping them move forward in their careers and life rather than being technically smart or commercially savvy. I can be and I know that’s required of me in my position, but I’m proud to say that I know the challenges and hopes that every individual in my immediate team face. This is what I stand for.
Here’s where the fifth question, the four coins and shank’s pony comes in.
Insight combined with action is a game changer so I ask the leader to put 4 coins in their right pocket every morning. I then challenge them to make a small amount of time every day to chat to at least four of their team and ask them the fifth question, “Do you have everything you need to be fulfilled in this job?” I warn them to be prepared for the answer and just listen. This is a very powerful question and if you’ve not been asking it you may be shocked by the answers you get. Every time they do this they should move a coin to the other pocket and the aim is to move all of those coins from one pocket to the other by the end of the day. It’s that simple.
Couple of final points:
So there you have it, 5 questions, 4 coins and Shanks’s pony can make you a better leader today. Try it and let me know how you got on.
Thanks for taking the time out to read this post and I hope it resonated with you in some way. I would love to hear from you if you’d like to share your insights and lessons with me.
You are also welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter @Resiliencedevco or find me at www.resdev.je.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Ogilvie is an experienced coach and consultant specialising in helping leaders, teams and organisations unlock the power of their people. With a 20-year career managing large teams he knows what makes people tick. He’s a Fellow of The Chartered Management Institute, holds the highest academic qualification of the Institute of Directors and was a shortlisted finalist for the IOD Director of The Year Awards in 2014 in recognition of his ability to transform teams. His personal mantra is people deliver results, period.