3 Ways To Stop Killing Resilience

“The more you understand the human condition, the better you are as a business person. Human depth makes business sense.”  

– Peter Koestenbaum

It has been a rough couple of months. 

Tough enough that we are finally starting conversations about how to build resilience. Tough enough to warrant organizations asking that question, and individuals scrambling to figure it out for themselves. Tough enough to really REALLY need resilience right now. 

And then, in the midst of COVID, with companies struggling and people out of work and on edge, the murder of a defenseless individual threatens the bedrock of equality that defines us as Americans. Or, at least we thought it defined us. We said it did. But the truth is that it didn’t. At least, not for everyone. This is the disorienting dilemma that defines our civil rights movement – the idea that we say we stand for one thing as a country, but in reality, it only applies to some people.

Never has it been more necessary to band together. And never has it been more important to minimize power struggles and equip people to feel safe, heard, and able to give their all. 

Here are 3 steps you can take today to set your team up for success and build a more resilient organization.

1. Have Difficult Conversations

Leaders, let’s get real with ourselves right now. There are difficult discussions to be had and we need to start facilitating them. We need to start inviting alternative points of view and figuring out what values we think we have that make others snicker. Our lives and our livelihoods depend on it. 

How important is it to build resilient organizations? Teams? When has it ever been more critical? 

But here’s the thing, our organizations will fight an uphill battle to build resilience if we let our biases win. In our new book, Resilience: It’s Not About Bouncing Back, Cynthia Barlow and I introduce the notion of derailers of resilience. We talk about biases where one party is marginalized and power is abused. Where we say one thing and others experience something completely different. The point is that when times get tough, organizations need ‘all hands on deck’ giving every ounce of extra effort they have to row in the same direction to emerge from the crisis stronger and more effective. Anything that takes away from that unified effort derails the group’s ability to be resilient. Our filters around race, among other things, falls into that category. 

We have a role to play in understanding and uniting. We have a role to play in how we facilitate difficult conversations and when to bring in outside help when we need to participate.

2. Take A Stand

No one can give their all when one party is fearful for their life. No one. The horror that just occurred shifting our focus from COVID to racism in this country is proof that we need to work hard to ensure that no one on our teams is fearful or marginalized. Ever. This must be a crystal clear expectation, backed up with action. Taking a stand in our own sphere of influence,  one conversation, and one interaction at a time can make a dent in stopping abuse of power before it spreads. Enough rhetoric and lip service – it’s time for action. Zero tolerance for racism, violence, discrimination, and inequality of any kind. 

Do your people know where you stand? Do YOU know where you stand? Do you know where THEY stand? Does every member of your team know that you will have their back, no matter who they are? Will you? It’s time to start talking. And listening to your people and to yourself. It’s time to get help leading those conversations so you can participate in them.

3. Use Power For Good

The following is an excerpt from Resilience: It’s Not About Bouncing Back:

Imagine a world where, instead of aligning around a set of principles (biblical, laws, or any sort of black-and-white rules), we focus on how power is used.

Power can be used to intimidate or inspire. On its best and most adaptive day, power can be used to mobilize and engage people in dialogue that drives learning for all parties. It can be used to drive a healthy organizational dynamic that supports a collaborative exchange of ideas and eliminates distractions – to reduce static caused by internal “politics” and the need for personal agendas. Anything that is not in support of that purpose is either a misuse, abuse, or a lost opportunity to use power for its highest good. 

The muck that sticks to us [when we go through] some of these situations, regardless of where power might have been abused, can cause us to second-guess ourselves, and the “what ifs” threaten our ability to be authentic because the things we know deep inside to be true, suddenly aren’t what they seem to be.

The best antidote is to create an environment conducive to talking, one dedicated to creating transparent, connected conversations that create understanding and ferret out common ground.

This is the very same environment required for Adaptive Leadership and the very same environment that nurtures ideas. It is an environment and a filter that does not judge, but instead, seeks to engage and understand others. It is an environment that understands that good ideas are found and built upon by every level, [every race,] every gender and every affinity. And it lets them flow unhindered.

Everyone deserves to work in a safe environment. That’s good for business; it raises productivity and propels profits.

Most important, it makes us and our teams resilient. [It also saves lives.]

 Next Steps

  • Everyone has a story that will break your heart. Remember that the next time you think something nasty about someone you feel you have to “tolerate.”  Exercise your empathy muscles.
  • We cannot create safe work environments without first addressing issues of injustice, harassment, and marginalization, regardless of gender or race.
  • It is our responsibility as leaders to acknowledge those situations when they occur, address them head-on, and open the door for constructive conversations.
  • These kinds of conversations, and the environments that encourage them, are critical to building resilient organizations.
  • Safety inclusive environments can be created in everything that differentiates people.
  • Resilience cannot exist without trust. It’s a simple equation. No safety, no trust. No trust, no authentic engagement. No engagement, no business–at least, not long-term.

To learn more about how leaders and their organizations can build and increase resilience in the midst of disruption, check out our book Resilience: It’s Not About Bouncing Back.

If you would like to have a conversation about how your organization can build a framework to drive resilience right now, virtually, or if you want help facilitating a tough, high stakes conversation, please call us. It’s what we do.