Reclaiming the power to choose with resilience

Time to scan back all those weeks and months to the very start of the pandemic, with the prospect of lockdown and WFH looming large – remember that! Last week we were examining the implications of both with a long-standing client of ours, tracking back on their initial thoughts and reactions. Although very little was actually known at that stage, one thing our client was absolutely clear about, even then, was the need to grow and build resilience across the organisation – to help individuals and teams to find the opportunities in what was about to happen, to acknowledge the negatives and challenges too but to then be able to move on.

It’s thanks to their prescience that the first of our digital workshops landed in time for the fall-out of Covid 19 with its focus on how we define resilience, what we look and feel like at our most resilient (mentally, physically and emotionally), some of the myths associated with resilience and, most importantly, how to build it. All in a high-energy, interactive 90 minutes. Critically, it is not a knee jerk reaction either – as we were told; ‘this focus on resilience is here to stay’.

Those ‘teachable moments’

The conversations generated in these workshops have been positive, insightful, and honest. Leaders, both new to the role and those more experienced have shown remarkable levels of self-awareness when asked to reflect on what might trigger a move into resilience mode for them personally. In most cases it’s not any one single demanding or intense experience but rather the cumulative effect of numerous small and often random challenges – the sorts of things that can easily sneak up on us when we’re least expecting it.

Of course, the scale and pace of change has pushed most companies to limits they didn’t know they had, but this in itself has built resilience and the workshops we’ve delivered have enabled individuals to reflect on what they’ve learned as part of this process. As Barak Obama would say, these are important ‘teachable moments’, but only if we know how to recognise and use them positively. To change how we respond in the moment, equipping us to react to similar situations that come along to test our resilience in the future.

In sharing these moments as part of the workshops, not only have delegates come to appreciate the value of their own personal trials but also those of others, through deliberate and considered self-examination learned helplessness can be avoided and learned resilience achieved.

What our clients thought

“I wasn’t entirely sure how much I would take from a 90min video-conference. I was surprised by how much I did take in and also the value it added.  One of the rare training events where the content was still resonating some days later.”

Help or hinder; making team and individual choices to protect our resilience

In a recent podcast talking about her book ‘Bounce Back; How to Fail Fast and Grow Your Resilience’, Dr Susan Khan, business psychologist and coach, asked if the choices we make help or hinder our resilience? In a recent download session with an Exec team around resilience and ‘what next’ the overwhelming sense was one of having almost emptied their reserves; ‘frazzled’, ‘draining’, ‘relentless’, ‘tiring’. They all realised they needed to not only make some individual choices but some team ones too – aligned resilience became the goal. We have the choice to say no, to ‘protect’ our resilience when needed. But how many of us exercise this right? Either individually or collectively.

It’s something Greg McKeown talks at length about in his book ‘Essentialism; The Disciplined Pursuit of Less’. He argues that:

“Our ability to choose cannot be taken away or given away, but it can be forgotten.”

Choosing what we take on, what we do (either in our personal lives or at work) requires us to be confident in knowing what matters, because in striving to ‘do it all’ we will almost certainly achieve very little longer term.

In the workshop we remind delegates that resilience is neither constant or limitless – we all have a finite amount of ‘grit’ and so how we choose to use it is important. Choice being the key word here – if we say yes to things that we know will use up ‘grit’ but actually deliver little or no gain we are stretching what could already be depleted resources. You may be forgiven for thinking that in these most difficult of times very few choices are available to us – at times we are having to deal with the choices others are making on our behalf. Our options might be limited, true, but many choices are genuinely still within our agency.

Finding strength in the collective

In encouraging delegates to consider ways in which they can protect and grow resilience the discussion invariably lands on the importance of networks and social connections. As one delegate described it:

“Sharing your resilience to help others when you’re feeling ‘strong’ but they might not be – and leaning on them when the opposite is true”.

Networks not only offer support but also a different perspective when needed, a more balanced view and alternative ways to move forward. They offer choice. Our favourite quote this week compared collective resilience to ‘herd immunity’ – by tapping into the power of the collective we can mitigate the worst of the lows and build momentum on the back of the highs.

Photo by Fabio Bracht on Unsplash