Mastering Resilience: Thriving in Disruption

Resilient people immediately look at a problem and say, “What’s the solution to this? How can I learn from it?”

resiliency weatherMother nature has been testing our resiliency this spring …. Winter storm alerts, freezing rain, ice storms, flooding in the streets, high winds, and foggy days!

Our weekly Monday morning “goal setting” group meeting this past week mirrored the dreary weather outlook.  The usually upbeat, high-energy and goal-oriented group was subdued and disenchanted.  Forget a coffee jolt …. What we needed was a dose of inspiration!  As a result, the focus of our roundtable discussion evolved from our usual weekly goal setting (which we still did) to include ideas and best practices that help build resiliency.

During the session, I couldn’t help but to reflect back to a leadership-psychometric test I had taken a few years ago.  Interestingly, it revealed that my very strength also happened to be one of the biggest challenges I faced as a leader.

You easily inspire and motivate those around you; your high energy drive and charisma can light up a room” …. Then came the kicker ….. “however, because those around you are drawn to and inspired by your energy, any downward periods in your energy levels and motivation can have a spiralling negative effect on your team“.

No one can be “ON” all the time, we all face adversity and experience periods of both peaks and valleys in our every day lives.  The solution was not simply “putting on a fake smile” or signing up for acting classes.  It needed – I needed – to be authentic!  From that moment forward, building and maintaining resiliency became a key personal and professional development goal of mine.

Resilience (noun) or Resiliency (noun)

“Able to recover quickly from misfortune; able to return to original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched out of shape. A human ability to recover quickly from disruptive change, or misfortune without being overwhelmed or acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways.”  — Al Seibert, Resiliency Center

In his best selling book, “The Resiliency Advantage“, Al Siebert describes resilient people as:

  • flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly and thrive in constant change;
  • they expect to bounce back from adversity and feel confident that they will;
  • they have a knack of creating good luck out of circumstances that many others see as bad luck;
  • they are adept at seeing things from another person’s point of view.

Given the pace of change that’s taking place in all aspects of our lives, resiliency and adaptability is no longer a “nice-to-have”, but a core foundational skillAs leaders, we not only need to ensure we are resilient, but we also need to ensure we build resilient and highly adaptive teams.

Building Resilience

resilience

Mother Nature may be having a good laugh at our expense, but I’m not letting a winter storm in spring break me!  Here are some tips from my “resilience playbook” that I’ve come to rely on.

1.  Changing the Narrative:

This is my “glass half full” outlook.  I want to emphasize that this is NOT about ignoring stress and adversity and pretending it’s not there … trust me, I am very much a realist.  However, rather than focusing on the problem itself, I try to “reframe” it and instead focus on solutions.  As a leader, this is a non-negotiable for me, as it’s my responsibility to set the direction and build a culture of looking forward.

    2.   Be Prepared:

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails” — William Arthur Ward

We cannot control change, eliminate stress and wish-away adversity, however, we can prepare ourselves.  Maybe it’s the former Girl Scout in me, but I work very hard at making preparation and planning a “habit”, rather than an outcome.  I set weekly goals for myself – both professionally and personally – and devise my action plan to achieve these goals (depending on the goal, this can take the form of a simply mental outline or a formal action plan).  It has now become second-nature to me, that when adversity does surprise me, I quickly revert to reframing the issue, establishing a vision/goal and an action plan towards achieving it.

  3.   Volunteering in the Community:

For me, volunteering in the community and challenging myself “outside the office” has always played an integral role in my professional development.  Not only is it inspiring and motivating to help others thrive, the learnings that I have been able to take-away from my volunteer activities have far outweighed my contributions.  I’ve been able to gain new experiences and “build my resume” through community work in ways that I would never be able to do had I not volunteered …. and it’s these experiences that have given me the confidence to “bounce back” when adversity strikes.

I also encourage those on my team to volunteer with organizations and causes close to their heart as well … I make time during our feedback/coaching discussions to learn about their volunteer activities, and incorporate this community building into their professional development plans as well.

  4.   Self Care:

One of the most important facet to building resilience is self-care and specifically, our physical well-being.  This entails healthy eating, regular exercise and sleeping well.  We always admire the resilience of children …. When they fall, they get up, brush themselves off, and get back to it! We can learn a great deal from children. Look no further than a classroom, where recess (mental and physical break from the curriculum) is not only encouraged, it’s mandatory!

As adults, we often feel time-crunched and overwhelmed with our stress …. I acknowledge that I have been guilty of foregoing physical activity to stay in the office and work.  However, this strategy usually works against us.  According to a research study out of Princeton University, “physical activity reorganizes the brain so that it’s response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function”.  Today, irrespective of how overwhelmed and busy I feel, I carve out time for exercise, which for me, usually takes the form of walking daily and attending dance classes …. after which I almost always feel more energized, confident and ready to take on challenges!

   5.  Celebrate:

“Work hard, play hard”!  Make the time to celebrate successes, and as leaders, make sure you always take the time to recognize those on your team for their successes!  In fact, why not “celebrate failure” rather than dwelling on our failures?!  Take some time to reflect on what we’ve learned from the failure …. and in doing so, you’re essentially “preparing yourself and your team” for future success the next time around!  And while you’re at it, have a good laugh!  Laughing truly is the best medicine for stress!

   6.   Be Present:

This one is a new one for me, and I will be honest, I used to laugh and dismiss people who talked to me about meditation.  I’m no longer laughing!  In a nutshell, mindful meditation is about focusing on the present, rather than dwelling on what went wrong (past) or what could go wrong (future) …. and by doing so, it becomes much easier to see things from other perspectives and focus on solutions rather than problems.  Meditation may not be for everyone, but I encourage you to give it a try and see if it’s right for you.

  7.   Be Authentic:

Finally, resilience is about being authentic and showing up as your “real self” …. and by that, I mean perfection is NOT required!  When you accept and forgive yourself, you’ll find that you no will longer dwell on the “what if’s”, and instead will embrace learning and exploring new ideas and approaches for moving forward.

I’ve shared some activities that I do (and recommend) to build resiliency.  I’m taking some of my own advice now and heading outside for a walk …. Resiliency does pay off, the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful spring morning! 🙂

Feel free to share your tips and best practices …. I’d love to hear them!

 

New Year, New Beginnings: Navigating Transition!

Transition and uncertainty are not the end, but the start of a new beginning. Today is my tomorrow – I have a blank page to work with and it’s up to me to set goals and be the author of my destiny!
Happy New Year … Here’s to new beginnings in 2018 and enjoying the journey ahead!

Never has a new year truly equated to new beginnings for me as 2018. For the first time in my professional (and academic) life, I start the new year with a completely blank sheet of paper!

Change and transition is definitely scary, but it’s also exhilarating and empowering.  I am the author of my 2018 story …. it won’t just be my story to tell, but I will be crafting it from scratch!  When navigating through uncertainty and transition, goal-setting (“new year’s resolutions”) takes on new importance.

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into visible.” — Tony Robbins

 

1. START WITH A HIGHER PURPOSE:

When you’re in career-transition, you answer to yourself.  There are no formal performance metrics, quarterly reviews, sales targets, etc. to track against.  There’s also no one to hold you accountable to your goals and resolutions, other than yourself …. it’s no wonder people fall short and give up on new year’s resolutions.

One of my favourite gifts that I received last year was a “gratitude journal” that a friend gave me.  Initially, I started writing 5 to 10 things that I was thankful for each day.  Eventually, I evolved journal to also include a 1 or 2 “contributions” that I made in the day … be it to the contributions to the community, loved ones or to myself.  I started to notice the correlation between the two entries ….. it helped me understand “my purpose.

This purpose in life – ensuring that I live each and everyday with a goal of making a contribution to myself or others – has been vital for me in managing through this period of professional transition.  It’s helped me stay focused, disciplined, self-motivated and energized.  Purpose and clarity of values provide us with a compass to navigate an uncertain future.

In today’s vastly changing world, where managing through uncertainty is necessary for success, more and more organizations are crafting “purpose statements” to inspire employees and express the organization’s impact and contribution on others.

2. JUST DO IT:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” — Mark Twain

Another goal that I’ve set for myself for 2018 is to “just do” …. not just look to the future, but actually move forward!  To pursue progress instead of chasing perfection.  I know it seems simplistic and intuitive, but it’s so easy to be paralyzed by fear of failure or rejection.

“I hope this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.  You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” — Neil Gaiman

This transition is my opportunity to go for it, and pursue challenges and new goals.  However, it’s not enough just “to do”.   It’s also important to track these activities against our goals/purpose to ensure we’re on the right course, and know if we need to pivot and adjust along the way.

3. BE PRESENT:

This next goal is a key one for me: “Truly be present”.  There’s the old adage that the problem in communication often occurs because “we often listen to reply, rather than listen to truly understand” …. Well, the same can be said for how we live our life.  Sometimes we are so focused on how the particular activity or event leads to our goal or what learnings we should be gathering, that we actually inhibit growth.

As I’ve shared with you from previous blogs, I am taking ballroom/latin dance lessons – something brand new to me, with which I have absolutely no background or experience in.  It drives my dance teacher crazy sometimes because I’m not always present, even though I think I am.  For example, when he’s teaching a new step or choreography, we usually start by watching first … simple enough, right?  Well, not in my case!  Often, as I am “watching”, what I am truly doing is trying to guess where this all leads, that in the end, I completely miss the actual step.  So when it’s time for me to repeat the step … I’m a complete blank.  As it turns out, I am so focused on what I expect “the learnings” should be, that I miss out on the actual experience, and inhibit my learning and progress.

enjoy the journeyYou can’t solve for a problem or attain a goal in the future, if you don’t truly understand or experience it today!

Yes, a GPS can provide you with directions to your destination, but unless you are present and take in the route along the way, you’ll not only always be dependant on that GPS to guide you – but more importantly, you’ll miss out on the beauty and the experience of the journey!

 

4. PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION:

Understanding your strengths and building (and maintaining!) your self-confidence is very important in times of transition.  What’s equally – if not more – important is practicing “self-compassion”.  Self-compassion is NOT self-pity, nor is it shrugging off ownership and responsibility for our weaknesses and failures.

Dr. Kristen Neff has identified Three Elements of Self Compassion:

  • Self Kindness vs. Self Judgment – Accepting (and acknowledging) our mistakes, and focusing on what we can learn from our mistakes rather than being self-critical and judging ourselves for not being perfect.
  •  Common Humanity vs. Isolation – Being open about our vulnerabilities and evaluating ourselves with honesty and objectivity.
  • Mindfulness vs. Over Identification – Understand that everyone makes mistakes and encounters failures and roadblocks along the way.

Self-compassion builds resiliency.  Without the pressure to be perfect and view mistakes and weaknesses as negative, it’s easier to accept feedback and criticism …. and thus, it’s easier to move forward, improve and stick-handle roadblocks as they come along.

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day.  A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” — Christopher K. Germer

the adventure ahead

Who knows what the future holds, but I’m going to put a stake in the ground and not be afraid to declare 2018 as my year!  Today is my tomorrow …. It’s up to me to shape it and be the author of my destiny, and enjoy the journey along the way!

Happy New Year … Make 2018 YOUR year, too!