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.
The definition of insanity has been described as expecting a different result while doing the same thing over and over again. If you are not careful, this could be how your people feel about your employee engagement surveys.
We all know the scenario. You’ve got the employee engagement survey results, the management team have identified key themes and you’ve had follow up (or town hall) meetings with your people. Somewhere along the line you’ve probably congratulated yourself on your improved participation rate and you’ve got some key areas of feedback to work on.
But here’s the thing and deep down it’s bothering you.
You can’t help noticing people browsing recruitment websites on-line or lingering a little too long on that ad in the newspaper. You are asking yourself, do you trust the results and are people just paying lip service? So what next?
Well, although improved performance and productivity is at the heart of engagement it cannot be achieved by some mechanistic approach. People see through these attempts very quickly and can lead to employees thinking you are just going through the motions. Just to make it even more challenging, extensive research shows that there is no one size fits all approach and no master model so beware anyone who tells you there is.
That said, there are 5 key things I’ve observed that when all working together produce amazing results. All of them are unashamedly people focused, easy to see, feel and hear every day in your team. In no particular order people engage when they:
1. Understand how they fit.
Everyone has a strong need to understand where the organisation has come from, where it’s at now and where it’s going. Your leaders have to have a strong narrative that people can understand and just as importantly be clear on how their teams fit in the story. Giving people a real sense of purpose and helping them see how, where and why they fit removes that little uneasy feeling that we all have when we don’t know how we fit.
2. Feel that they have a voice.
Everyone needs to feel heard, able to reinforce and challenge views. If you are doing this right your people should feel central to the solution rather than involved at the end of a process designed by you. All of your people in your organisation have relationships outside work and are fully capable of having a voice in that relationship. How many of them do you think would stick around in a relationship where they don’t have a voice?
3. Know that there is no “we say one thing in our values but do another” gap.
Keep you company values simple but above all make sure everything you do is consistent with them. It’s as simple as that.
4. Work with a manager who is engaging.
Research highlights 80% of the variance in engagement scores is down to a good line manager but we know don’t need research to tell us that. We’ve all worked for managers who cast a massive shadow over the team and managers who cast a shining light over the team. Managers have to be able to focus on their people and give them scope to do their job. Managers have to treat people as individuals and actively put their time and energy into development and coaching.
As a leader this is the biggest thing you can do to boost engagement. Don’t get me wrong, I know from personal experience that line managers have a tough job. They are expected to fulfill all the technical aspects of their job, deal with personnel issues and then, on top of all of that, they also need to be engaging their people and doing the three things I mentioned above.
If you are serious about engagement then have a strategy and a development programme if necessary to ensure your managers are engaging. I can’t stress this enough.
5. Have the skills to cope with uncertainty and ambiguity.
Finally, there’s the resilience angle. You could be working your socks off doing all of the above but something is still missing or you can’t make all the hard work stick. I’d argue that the missing ingredient is resilience – the ability to bounce back and move forward. I’ve managed teams where we had the four enablers above but something was missing. The answer was resilience and the skills that build it.
So here’s my challenge to you…
Step away from the engagement survey and wander out of your office. Go have a conversation with a few people and ask them the following 5 questions:
When I was thinking about leaving my senior role in a FTSE 100 company I was torn between the salary, the continued investment in me from the board and an opportunity to run my own company doing what I love. I sought advice from many people and I remember one of them saying to me, “you don’t owe these people anything. Ask yourself, how many of them are going to be at your funeral?”
So I did and I didn’t like the answer so I left and I forgot all about it until today.
That’s because I attended the funeral of a friend today and was blown away by the number of people that attended to show their respect. Even arriving twenty minutes before the start I had to stand outside with many other people. I found myself wondering how does someone touch so many people and generate so much loyalty? If we could bottle that, surely that’s something all leaders should have? I’d like to share my thoughts with you out of respect for my friend Mike.
Mike was authentic.
His best friend gave an emotional and touching eulogy covering Mike’s life from a young child to the day he passed away. The Mike he described was the Mike that everyone knew regardless of how long they had known him or how they had come to know him. In other words, Mike was authentic. He showed his real self to anyone and everyone, he knew his strengths, his limitations and he wasn’t afraid to show his emotions. He was direct but always had a massive smile on his face, brought humour to any conversation and all of this combined to enable him to connect with anyone within minutes of meeting him.
Mike always made time for you.
He loved a good chat, saw the funny side of life and in his spare time he would do private work for people as an electrician. In fact, that’s how I got to know him. We needed some work done on our property and it turned out he used to live here and had done the majority of the initial work. But guess what? When it came to paying him, he wasn’t having any of it. He said that the chat, the tea and a new friendship were payment enough.
At his funeral today I found out that it was a standing joke amongst his older friends that he never made any profit from his private work as the people he helped were generally in need. He wouldn’t feel he could charge them for the work or he would end up buying them flowers and chocolate. If you needed a favour you knew you could ring Mike and he’d be around on his day off to give you a hand or help out. He always had time for you and he knew that held much more value with people than anything else.
The other thing Mike had in abundance was energy.
I don’t mean physical energy. I mean the energy he gave to you on an individual level. If he was talking to you, he was right there with you. He wasn’t checking his mobile, mind elsewhere, he was right there, listening, nodding, smiling, laughing and offering good advice. And then it struck me.
Mike new the secret of true leadership – time and energy.
Strikes me that the reason so many people attended his funeral was that Mike knew the value of time and energy to generate enormous loyalty amongst the people he interacted with. We all have opportunities to invest time and energy every day - from a conversation at the water cooler to a great coaching session or business review.
People focused leaders know that they can’t buy the loyalty of people with salaries, bonuses and other rewards. They understand that what produces loyalty is knowing that deep down, that leader will sacrifice their time and energy to help us when it matters. The leader that knows this will also expect her leadership team to do the same for their teams and so on and so on.
Mike passing away is a timely reminder that it’s not the job title, the qualifications, the salary or the financial results that make you a leader and leave a legacy. All of these are forgotten in time - some within a financial quarter. It’s what you do for your people that leaves the real legacy and creates sustainable engagement. By ensuring you make the time and energy for the people around you, they know that when it really matters, you’ll be there for them.
The really great thing about all of this is that anyone can be a leader.
Everyone has the opportunity to give their time to the people around them. Everyone is capable of bringing their authentic self and their energy to conversations and interactions. You’ve just got to do it and whatever you give, you’ll receive back in loyalty.
So to Mike, I say god bless. Thank you for your friendship and thank you for showing me the secret of true leadership.