You Can Develop Resilience

I chose to use this quote to talk about resilience when the world is on edge due to the Coronavirus.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” 

Chinese Proverb –

No, the irony is not lost on me.

In its own way, this proverb says a lot about resilience.

As leaders, we cannot stand up one day and say, “Today, we are going to be resilient.” It takes time, it takes effort, it takes practice.

I’ve been involved in Information Technology disaster recovery in some way, shape, or form for over 30 years.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you must be prepared. Being prepared means:

  • planning ahead.
  • putting processes and procedures in place.
  • testing the plan.

These same principles apply to personal resilience, team resilience, and organizational resilience.

Is your organization ready?

Is your team ready?

Are you ready?

Five Keys to Resilience

Building resilience in your team is much like building resilience in yourself.

Your team needs to learn when:

  1. faced with insurmountable odds, change the narrative;
  2. a retreat is not an option, face their fears;
  3. they are physically and mentally exhausted, take time to rest;
  4. each day brings new challenges, reflect on the day but move ahead; 
  5. mistakes occur, don’t hold grudges – instead forgive. 

Change the Narrative

We’ve all heard the axiom, usually attributed to Einstein, that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. Nowhere is this truer than in the practice of building resilience.

To change the narrative, try changing your perspective as you look at a problem.

We tend to get myopic as we struggle with a problem; by elevating our view, we get a different perspective (picture climbing a hill to observe the landscape ahead).

Many times this process reveals a different path forward.

Face your fears

Our brain has a way of showing us the worst possible outcome of a situation, even if that outcome isn’t all that probable.

Many times retreat (or procrastination, or avoidance) is not an option, and in fact, can lead to a worse outcome. Take that step and move forward with confidence.

By facing our fears, we build confidence; confidence builds resilience.

Facing our fears does not mean we are not afraid, but it means we are strong enough to move forward despite being afraid. 

Rest

Sounds simple enough.

Our bodies and our minds get tired. We need time to recharge and our teams need time to recharge.

When faced with a challenge, rest can be just what we need.

This may be taking a break from an intense project by sending your team home early or even giving them an extra day off.

It may seem counterintuitive to rest with a deadline looming, but you and your team will come back the next day reinvigorated and ready to attack the problem head-on. 

Reflect

Reflection is not the same as rest. It helps to spend time reflecting on the day and on its challenges.

Some may use journaling (or blogging), some may use meditation, and some may use yoga or running.

The key is to think back over your day. What worked – and what didn’t? How did you react and why? What would you do differently the next time?

Writing down your reflections enables you to review them and learn from them in the future.

As your perspectives change, so too will the lessons in your reflections. 

Forgive

This may seem out of place in a post about resilience, but not holding grudges – and not letting others’ mistakes eat you up – will help you be more resilient.

This is true for us as individuals and for teams.

Others are going to make mistakes.

Others are going to let us down.

Holding grudges merely serves to build walls and silos in an organization.

Forgive and move on! 

Do You Feel Resilient?

If you don’t feel resilient, or you don’t believe your team is resilient, now is the time to develop the necessary skills.

Don’t wait another day.

Resilience is something you should continue to develop: learn the skills; put processes in place; and practice, practice practice.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

How do you practice being resilient? 

 

Employee Engagement = Vision

It’s a topic that continually comes up in conversation with business leaders. How do I get my employees engaged? How do I keep them engaged? It’s all about vision.

Most people want to be a part of something larger than themselves. 

In my video post on LinkedIn last week, I posed the question, “Do you have a vision so compelling that people want to join you on the journey to achieve your vision?”

To me, it’s a fundamental question of leadership.

I believe we all want followers who:

  1. are engaged
  2. want to achieve what we want to achieve
  3. are so fanatical about our shared vision that they spend every day moving toward that vision. 

As leaders, we need to learn to paint. Yes, paint. 

Start with your vision

You have a vision.

You DO have one, right?

Is it aspirational?

Does it serve as a guide for current and future initiatives?

Is it compelling?

Does it go beyond the numbers?

I read a great blog post a few years ago. It was titled something like “Your ROI is Not a Vision”. In it, the author explained why your vision must go beyond the numbers. Profitability, revenue, and EBITDA may get you up in the morning, but for most of your team, that is not what gets them:

  • engaged
  • excited, or
  • up in the morning. 

Your employees want something to believe in – something aspirational.

If your vision doesn’t give them that, they will never be fully engaged.

You may need to reexamine your vision…right now. 

Learning to paint

You have a vision! Now, you have to communicate it…to everyone… every day.

You have to paint a picture of your vision so compelling that people want to join your company just to be a part of it. Painting this picture takes time – often more time than developing the vision itself. 

Let’s play a game of word association. I am going to say (okay, type) a word. I want you to respond with the first word that pops in your head.

Ready? 

Ball.

Ok. How many thought “game” or “bat” or “basket” or a “fancy party”? All great “pictures” in our mind’s eyes of a ball. But, we aren’t on the same page.

Let’s try again…

Baseball.

Ok, now what came to mind? “Stadium”, “Cubs”, “Cardinals”? Some may even have thought “boring”. Again, we are closer, but we still have different pictures in mind. 

What if we spent time as a group talking about our baseball? It’s brand new. It comes in a box. When we open the box, it is wrapped in that white crinkly paper. The smell of the leather reaches our nostrils.

As we unwrap the ball, the leather is bright white. The red stitching literally pops in contrast. As we run our fingers along the stitches, they feel like a washboard. The leather is soft, but the ball is hard. We see the major league baseball logo, the commissioner’s signature. 

Now, when I say “Let’s play ball”, chances are great that we will all see the same image in our minds. That is painting a picture. That is putting your listener or reader into the picture. 

I would love to hear from you. What is your vision?

Have you painted a picture for your followers?

Can they see themselves in that picture?

Post a comment, send an email, or give me a call!

I want to hear your stories! 

Time To Pause?

Here we are.

February Groundhog’s Day Valentines Day Super Bowl. Also the month of yours truly’s birthday my youngest son’s birthday my mother-in-law’s birthday AND we are expecting a new grandson any day now and it promises to be another crazy month. 

[should I leave myself a second to catch a breath and add punctuation? No, no time…] 

All this after the hustle and bustle of the holidays shopping parties family the beautiful chaos of grandchildren. Then before we have a chance to breathe, the new year upon us. Everyone, everywhere urging us to hit the ground running new goals new budgets. sales kick-off.

Every other post on LinkedIn about setting goals for personal and professional growth: get up earlier and stay up later to get stuff done. Out-hustle the competition, drive focus. life hacks. 

I’m just as guilty.

I have a morning routine to send a text to my two adult sons.

As I look back on the texts, they are filled with “Make it a great week”, “Let’s rock this thing”, do-this do-that. Push Drive Focus. 

Just. Push. Play. 

It might be time to… 

….Press Pause. 

We all get caught up in the:

  • day-to-day.
  • drive to succeed (whatever your definition of success may be).

We forget to pause, reflect, re-charge. 

For me, the reminder came at a time when I needed it most. 

In addition to the whirlwind that is the holidays and the start of a new year, my father passed away in mid-December.

Planning the services (yes, we had two), making arrangements for his cremation, holding the services, family events, notifying his bank and investment firms, dispersing funds to his heirs…all the details and tasks that must be given attention.   

And then the reminder came… 

…in the form of a note from a colleague:

I know the clashing feelings of relief that your loved one is no longer in pain and also missing them terribly.  And I know the bewilderment of watching the rest of the world breeze right along at an absurd pace while you are like, “Wait a minute, can we all pause please.  This deserves a pause.”

I hope you find time to pause.  This does deserve a pause.

The reminder.

You.

Deserve.

A.

Pause.

The power of a pause.

You don’t have to be grieving the loss of a loved one to benefit from a pause.

Your:

  • body needs it.
  • mind needs it.
  • heart needs it. 

Ask a personal trainer.

They will tell you one of the most important parts of working out is the pause between reps; the pause between intense workouts; the pause away from the gym.

Our muscles recover; the tissue regenerates; and bodies come back stronger.

Not only is it beneficial, but it is also required

Ask a professional speaker.

One of the most effective ways to make a point is to pause. To stop moving on stage. To hold silence for one, two, three seconds or more.

The silence grabs the audience. It causes them to pay attention. It gives them a moment to reflect on the point. 

Ask a doctor.

Our health is dependent upon pause.

A pause in the form of sleep is needed to restore energy.

A pause will help our bodies heal from an injury and recover from an illness. It will help to prevent illness in the first place. 

As leaders, we need a pause. Our followers need one. They also need us to pause. 

It’s a powerful thing.

It gives us time to rest.

A time to reflect.

And, it gives us time to recharge. 

My challenge to you today is not to do more.

Rather, my challenge to you is to do less.

Take a timeout.

Put aside the to-do list and all the things that must get done.

Put down the phone.

Clear your mind of the thousands of issues you are trying to solve.

Build a fire in the fireplace and just watch the flames.

Take a walk and listen to the sounds around you.

Find a peaceful spot to sit. and. just. be…still. 

Rivers of Thought

Rivers of Thought passed a milestone of sorts in November. Eight years ago I launched Rivers of Thought as a platform for blogging and speaking. It started with a whisper (I love that song by the Neon Trees, don’t you?) but has grown to so much more!

Eight Years of Blogging

Welcome to Rivers of Thought!

In this space you will find my musings about sustainable business practices, sustainable lifestyles and general observations about business, life and the world around us. For those that know me, you will not be surprised when I throw in the random Lewis and Clark story, or perhaps overuse a river analogy to make a point. I hope you find the postings interesting, worthy of comment and that they will stimulate some helpful dialog.

That was it, my very first post on November 26, 2008. I created Rivers of Thought when I started my sustainability consulting firm, Confluence Dynamics. I was new to using social media, heck, everyone was new to social media in 2008. My plan was to use it as a platform to promote the business. After a couple years, I made the decision to close the business (I preferred a paycheck over starving) Rivers of Thought was put on ice.

Fast forward a few more years. I was CIO for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana. I held a firm belief that CIOs need to embrace Social Media. Not knowing exactly how to start, but wanting to be seen as a thought leader, I reached out to Rachel Nelson. Rachel was our Online Marketing Manager and social media guru. With her help Rivers of Thought was resurrected, given a facelift, and re-launched.

I now write for a variety of platforms in addition to Rivers of Thought. What started out as a blog about Rivers of Thought - Bloggingsustainability and environmental causes has morphed into a channel for stories about family, life, love and music. Some of the posts will make you chuckle, some will bring a tear. I hope in some small way, they generate reflection on your own life and loves.

On the Intel IT Peer Network, I focus on the role of the CIO and it’s continuing evolution. I am in the midst of my third series on that platform. “The Path to CIO: Profiles in Leadership” is a series of interviews with CIOs from around the world and in a variety of industries. The focus is on the steps they took to reach the office of CIO, while at the same time providing insights and advice to others on the path.

As a contributing author for People Development Magazine out of the UK, I write about leadership and staff development. My series, “The Roosevelt River: Lessons in Leadership from Theodore Roosevelt”, originally posted on Rivers of Thought was republished in People Development which greatly expanded its readership. In fact, the post “Blue Bloods’ Frank Reagan Paddles the Roosevelt River” remains my widest read post of the past eight years.

When LinkedIn launched its blog platform, I was among the first ones asked to be a contributor. On LinkedIn, I write about general interest business topics such as vendor management or collaboration. Among my most popular posts were “D’ya Want Fries with That?” and “You Want to Sell Me What?”.

During 2016, I was accepted into the Forbes Technology Council providing access to publishing on Forbes.com. Thus far, two of my posts have appeared on Forbes. On this platform, I write about technology trends and how they impact business.

Most recently, I was nominated to be a Fellow for the Institute for Digital Transformation. The Institute is a non-profit organization whose mission is to train IT leaders to help their companies grow and thrive in the digital economy. As a Fellow, I will be writing on a variety of topics under the Digital Transformation umbrella.

Through these various outlets I have been able to meet and interact with some incredibly talented people. Their willingness to share their insights and thoughts has been vital to my continued growth and learning…Chris Peters, Charlie Araujo, Isaac Sacolick, Will Lassalle, Christina Lattimer, E.G. Nadhan, and many, many more…I can’t thank you enough!

Eight Years of Speaking

At the same time I launched Rivers of Thought, I started down a parallel path (or stream) of public speaking. I had always been petrified of getting in front of people and talking. However, I knew to achieve my career goals, I would need to get over it and “put myself out there”. I had experience teaching college and professional level classes in computer programming, computer science and green building techniques, but somehow public speaking was different in my mind.

My “big break” came, when my mother-in-law, Judy Hollander became the District Governor for Rotary International in our area. She invited me to speak at their local chapter in Attica, Indiana. She even requested my favorite subject…Lewis and Clark. So, with that I began to develop a talk (with a LOT of help from my wife Carmen) on our adventures along the Lewis and Clark Trail. Aptly titled, “The Lewis and Clark Will Never Die Tour” it chronicles our trips to mark the 200th anniversary of their exploration.

You might say my public speaking also started with a whisper…I rehearsed a million times…until I was almost hoarse! Over the course of the next couple of years, I presented the same talk to dozens of Rotary Groups across Indiana. Several even asked me back, so I wrote part two, covering our trips to visit Lewis and Clark sites from their return trip back to St. Louis.

During that time, I was asked to speak at a corporate annual meeting for a local company. They wanted the them to be around leadership and creating an environment of transparency and candor. So…I developed “Everything I Learned About Leadership…I Learned from Lewis and Clark”, an exploration into leadership using the expedition as a backdrop. Hey! Go with what you know, right?!!?

Rivers of Thought - SpeakingOver the last eight years, I have spoken to a wide variety of groups on topics including Lewis and Clark, leadership, Information Technology, the role of the CIO and Innovation.
These groups have ranged in size from a half a dozen to almost a thousand. And. Yes. I. Still. Get. Nervous. But, instead of dwelling on it, I am able to be energized by it and the audience and channel that energy into the talk.

While I can remember each and every talk, there are three that really stick out in my mind. The first was at the annual convention for Mended Little Hearts. a non-profit, volunteer-led program providing hope and support to children, patients and families affected by congenital heart disease. Leading up to the keynote, I was able to meet and talk with many of the members of the organization. I was struck by their passion, their dedication and their caring for each other and their mission. I truly believe I took away more from the experience than they did.

The second was a graduation ceremony for the Excel Center in Anderson, Indiana. As an executive of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, I was asked to speak on behalf of Goodwill at the commencement (Goodwill is the owner and operator of the Excel Centers, high schools for adults who had dropped out of school, but want to come back and earn their diploma). I struggled with what I could say that could have an impact. I finally realized this day was about them and their families. My talk was brief. I thanked them for allowing me to share that day with them, I thanked their families for supporting their efforts, and I thanked the faculty for their dedication to the mission. You can read my thoughts and the transcript of my talk from that day in the post “56 Stories, 56 Graduates, 1 Amazing Night!” Their stories were indeed the stories of the day. Again, I took away more from the experience than they did from my words.

The third and most recent was at another graduation ceremony. This one was for Eleven Fifty Academy. Their mission is to help close the nation’s growing technology skills gap through its mission of creating an ecosystem of coding talent that benefits the individual, their employer, and their community. Students range in age from teen to mid-life and beyond. My role was to tell my story, provide my thoughts on technology careers and then do a bit of Q&A. What an amazing group of students! I had some time over coffee to speak with several of them and learn their stories. Some are just starting their careers, others are re-inventing themselves for a second or third career. All incredibly inspiring. And yes, I think I took away more from the experience than they did!

Final Reflections

You’re getting the idea by now. What I love about blogging, what I love about speaking, is the interaction, the sharing of insights, the learning I am able to participate in through those pursuits. The people I have met (virtually and in person) have made my life richer, and they continue to shape my thinking. I am looking forward to listening, reading, learning and growing through the next eight years of writing and speaking.

I would love to hear from you. What’s on your mind? What’s on your heart?

Connect with me on LinkedIn.
Or Follow me on Twitter (@jtonindy)

Find my posts on a variety of platforms:

 

 

2014 was an exciting year for Rivers of Thought: from Maranatha, The Final Chapter to Funeral for a Friend(‘s Mother), most of the year delved into the #RooseveltRiver, my journey into leadership by studying the life of Teddy Roosevelt. Thank you to all who read, followed, commented and supported Rivers of Thought, a special thanks to my editors-in-chiefs: Carmen Ton and Brad Ton.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for Rivers of Thought.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Wow! Where has the year gone? Seems like only yesterday we were kicking off 2013 and now we have said goodbye to it as we jump into 2014. To wrap up the year, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and do a year end review of my own. Using a secret formula of views, Facebook Likes and Shares, Twitter re-Tweets and Favorites, LinkedIn Likes and Shares and website links I ranked the top 10 posts and just to be different, the bottom 10 posts. 2013 was a year of incredible highs as well as incredible lows, many of which I have shared here. Throughout it all, I’ve enjoyed the process of writing Rivers of Thought and I hope you have enjoyed my musings.

crop380w_iStock_000022454598XSmallSo, without further delay: the TOP 10 in order:

Living in a Virtual World – Big Data in 4DX

How Arlo Guthrie Saved My Life

Mary Ellen Ton 1933-1980-2013: The Woman with Two Dashes

An Old Dog Goes Back to High School and Learns Some New Tricks

My Mother Was a Jesus Freak

Take Your Vendors for a Ride – A Hay Ride

One Bourbon, One Shot, One Beer

The Curse of the Black Walnut

VMWorld 2013 – One person’s somewhat skewed experience

N.C.I.S Indianapolis: Episode 1 – Networks

And now…the Bottom 10-from lowest of the low to highest of the low (my editorial comments in () ):1366381892920304628free-violet-button-arrow_bottom_left-md

N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 4: Systems   (Cindy I told you we didn’t have to worry!)

N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Series Finale: The Results  (Attention span, what attention span?)

N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 2: Communication and Collaboration

N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 3: Information

5,000 Views   (Granted, this post and the one you are reading are really self-serving)

Shades of Grey   (Still my favorite title!)

Go and Get Your Google On – Our Journey to the Cloud   (Still one of my favorite Brad Real lyrics)

N.C.I.S Indianapolis – The Pilot    (Can’t blame this one on attention span!)

I will never take notes again!    (Still not taking notes!)

The Donut Hole  (Perhaps no one reads blogs during the holidays!)

Thank you again for the honor and the gift for moments of your time to read my thoughts! Here is to a better and brighter 2014 for us all!

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.