Rivers of Thought

Life, Leadership, Business & Technology

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? 

As faithful readers know, my father recently passed away. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but in one final breath, I became the patriarch of the Ton family (going back at least four generations). It is now my responsibility to pass on the stories, to pass on the traditions, to respect the past and those who have come before. 

One of the joys of the last few years has been taking my grandsons, Braxton and Jordan, to visit my dad, Popper (or great-Popper) – to see his face light up when those little guys would bound into his room, show him their new games, or demonstrate their latest artwork. Dozens of images come to mind…Braxton pushing my dad in his wheelchair on the last Thanksgiving he would visit our house, or crawling onto his bed to play games with him when Dad could no longer get up. Jordan telling a story so funny both of them were laughing and giggling, or Dad wearing Jordan’s Easter hat to the delight of the little red-head. 

Two months almost to the day of dad’s passing, we welcomed Jasper Bryant Ton into the world. The second son of my second son. What an amazing joy to hold that little life in my arms, to look into his eyes. I could not help but think of my dad. He did not have a chance to meet Jasper, but I know he would adore him. My heart was overflowing with love. 

Braxton’s and Jordan’s memories of their time with my dad will fade, Jasper has no memories to fade.  Yes, there are pictures, hundreds of pictures, but it will be the stories that provide the connection. I want them to know of his laugh, his smile, his compassion, his goofy sense of humor. Most of all, I want them to know of his love, love for my mom, love for his family, and love for his fellow man and woman. 

I treasure the moments I have with my kids and my grandkids. Even on days when I am preoccupied with work, or too tired and crabby to be patient, or when there thousands of tasks that don’t get done. I celebrate my role as patriarch – to tell stories of Mary Ellen and Gene, Lawrence and Sara, Hallie and Mary and the generations who came before. 

Welcome to the world, Jasper Bryant Ton. You have been born into a family that loves you dearly. You have been born into a family with an amazing story. I can’t wait to share it all with you. 

Paint Your Vision

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! 

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