Resilience – 4 Steps to NOT make it another initiative

Resilience is the new word for 2011.  If you have not heard it yet you will.  There is risk in using it because the definition sounds hard.  Mirriam-Webster’s dictionary presents resilience as  an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.  Can you hear the chatter over coffee or lunch already?  This as the potential to be a great Dilbert comic strip or episode on The Office.

So what would be the benefit to your team if people spent 50% less downtime after a major change?  Are you concerned about burning out key people?  Do you see no immediate end to the pace you are asking your teams to work?  It is time to address how an organization can use the resilience discussion to give their leaders more energy and provide their teams with new skills to deal with the realities of a difficult business environment.

  1. Be transparent about your concerns:  If everyone is feeling the stress and strain of an uncertain today or tomorrow then talk about it.  People are more likely to take it seriously if they hear their leaders discussing it openly and making personal changes/efforts to increase their own resilience.  
  2. Focus initially on self awareness / team awareness:  A basic discussion about stress and how it happens for each of us is a good place to start.  Just the knowledge of how each of us reacts to stress and how our teammates react allows discussions to happen in a way that people can help each other as they help themselves.
  3. Bridge awareness to ‘How do I cope?’:  There is lots of research around the effect of exercise, yoga, friendships, and many other things that allow people to relieve stress or gather support.  The key is to have people pick something and do it.  For executives, this is often where coaching becomes a key tool so they can have a safe place to deal with their individual needs and support in making a change into a habit.  For others, the support of a team or a few key friends at work is critical, so assist in building those relationships.
  4. Continue the discussion:  In one on one meetings leaders should follow-up on commitments made to pursue friendships or get exercise.  Maybe even pushing people to leave at lunch or make their 5pm yoga class.  In team meetings – spend a few minutes at the beginning of the meetings hearing about key wins and key stress points this week.  If someone sounds particularly stressed out make a habit to check in with them.

Resilience is a timely discussion given the current economic realities.  Just don’t make it an initiative, make it a habit.  How relevant is this topic to what you are seeing or hearing or feeling?

Is Failure The End?

I went to a class sponsored by our local chamber of commerce this week.  The presenter was terrible and it was two hours of wasted content.  The benefit was that it got me thinking about when we fail, what it means, and what it should mean.

A mentor of mine, Doug Silsbee, once shared the observation that “We have to shift from a success/failure belief system.”  As a startup, I have that posted on a piece of paper on my desk to give me some perspective on viewing good and bad days.  I am not to the point where I want to ban the word because it has power.  It has the power to be positive if we do things with it.  Here are three ways failure can be a building block: 

  1. If it means the beginning of something – In Parker Palmer’s classic book  Let Your Life Speak he shares some wisdom from a Quaker elder.  She said “A lot of way(doors) has closed behind me, and that’s had the same guiding effect.”  Failure should be a guide on a journey, not an end.  The ability to see it and process it this way does take some strength and maturity, but it will make a huge difference on your journey.
  2. It is only part of what defines us – When I talk to groups around career choices and job searches one of the main themes I use is ‘Your Story’, and that any resume, LinkedIn profile, or references should tell our story.  Part of our story are failures in jobs, projects, and degrees.  When I hire I want to hear them and hear how the person has processed them.  It is that part of our story that helps us either not repeat past mistakes or handle the same situation differently to produce a different outcome.
  3. We learn empathy –  Let’s face it, to walk off the stage after a poor presentation, get escorted out of our workplace, or fly home from a failed selling presentation it hurts.  But once we experience it we understand what it feels like and what kinds of darker choices enter our mind when the memory is fresh.  By dark, I mean the emotions or things you want to do to lash out at those you view as responsible.  I will stop here.  If you have been here you know what I mean, and being familiar with this place allows us to guide others past it and on to better places.

The final thought is that failure often needs a friend.  Someone to come along side you, help identify the event for what it was, and help put some positive energy into the event that will allow you to move along.  Gallup did a study that identified the positive outcomes of having 3 friends at work.  Buried in the reasons is the benefit of having someone familiar with you that can help process these moments.  It is not the only reason for building relationships at work, but it is a significant one. 

I hope the presenter makes our time together the beginning of something better.

Self-Awareness 101: Why it matters and 5 questions to get started

A few days ago my 8-year-old daughter shared an observation.  She said “Daddy, when you come on field trips my teacher always gives you the new kids for our group.  You like to meet new people.”  Her comments made me step back because she sees that about me as does her teacher, who I have known for nine years.  I thought about what she saw, and she was right.  It pains me to see someone standing away from a group of people looking alone and lost.  I like to find those people, connect with them, and get them connected.  In my professional life, nothing irritates me more than seeing a poor onboarding program at a company or no resources put towards helping new leaders or teams be successful. 

Moments like this happen every day, but too often we let them pass by.  As our jobs and leaders change more frequently, understanding who we are and what we need to be successful and happy is important.  In fact, it is more than just important, it is critical. 

So here are the five sets of questions that make up Self-Awareness 101.  Being able to answer these will help you build a base of knowledge to use when being approached for a tough project or a new job assignment.

  • What do I do extremely well?  What are my talents?
  • What am I passionate about?  What gets me excited?
  • What do I need from my job?  What rewards mean the most to me?
  • What are the realities in my life right now?
  • What demotivates me?

In his book Mastery, George Leonard teaches us that mastery is a journey, not a destination.  Mastery of ourselves (ie. Self-Awareness) starts with commiting to understand ourselves and seek answers to these five questions, even if the answers come from an eight year old.  Enjoy the journey.

Leadership Time – Chronos and Kairos. Which one guides your day?

I heard something from the pulpit a couple of weeks ago that really got me thinking.  In Greek there two words for time: chronos and kairos. 

Chronos refers to time as we measure it.  It is a quantitative measure.  As a western civilization, we put a great focus on chronos time with productivity tools, phones, emails, calendars, and multitasking.  As leaders we focus on keeping on schedule, preparing as we walk between meetings, and leveraging the help of others to make sure our days are productive and time is well spent.

Kairos refers to time as a right and opportune moments.  It refers to the space in between the chronos or sequential time when something special happens.  It is a qualitative measure.

What are these Kairos moments?  What about someone saying hello and asks us about our weekend?  Maybe it could be a voice disagreeing with something we needed to make a decision on yesterday, or our kids busting into the house to tell us about something exciting that happened to them today.  How about your elderly neighbor who cannot move fast enough to catch you at your mailbox, but is sitting on their porch waiting for a conversation.  It might even be inviting two people working through lunch to come out with you for a bite to eat.

Chronos will get taken care of because we are good at it, but sometime Kairos needs more of our attention.  What can you do as a leader to make Kairos more of a priority?  It is a good time of year to ask this question.

Life Lessons from . . . Bob Newhart?

I had the opportunity to see Bob Newhart speak as part of a series I have annual tickets for at the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan.  I had two reasons for going:

  1. My friend Bob was interested in using my extra ticket – so I had some good company for the drive.
  2. Bob is funny.  Specifically Bob Newhart is funny.  My friend Bob is funny – he is just not Bob Newhart funny.

Learning is often about going into a situation with an open mind and just listening for something that makes you go Hmmmm.  Here is what I carried with me after my evening with Bob Newhart.

  • On retirement –  “I am 81 years old and people often ask me when I will retire.  I make people laugh, and I have a hard time walking away from that and saying that I will not do that anymore.  People need laughter, and that is what I do.”
  • On working at a difficult job – He hosted The Tonight Show 87 times so Johnny Carson could have a break.  “It was a really hard job, and one time when I did it for three straight weeks I was exhausted.  Johnny once said that if he put the same effort into his first marriage as he did his job he would still be married.”
  • Just a random funny comment that made me laugh – “So I was driving down to the racetrack in San Diego with my wife and Tim Conway and his wife . . . . . . ” .  My only thought was that it has to be funny sitting in a car with Tim Conway.  My friend Bob and I giggled at this comment because we shared the same vision of ‘just hanging out with Tim Conway’.

There is learning all around us – and situations that plant seeds that make us think about things.  Just spending 90 minutes with Bob Newhart left me thinking about some significant things.  Here are questions that were rolling around in my head:

  • Careers – What part of what I do would I never want to stop doing because the world needs it?  my note:  What would a workforce look like if everyone understood this about themselves, shared it, and pursued it?
  • Balance – Is any job worth more effort than a marriage?  What is the cost of being wrong?   my note:  I once checked the divorce rate of CEO’s and it was lower than the national average.  I am still processing this – but I was surprised.
  • Friendship – What is your definition? my note:  How about “Someone who will go with you to see Bob Newhart and also thinks Tim Conway is funny.”

It was a good night.