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Developing Resilience At Work Pays Big Dividends!

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If you're leading a team - what's not to like about this small list?

  • More productive people
  • Bigger goals being achieved
  • Obstacles being overcome
  • People succeeding against the odds
  • Stronger, more determined and focused employees

If you want this for your team, then you need to develop stronger resilience in yourself and your team members. The report released by Global Corporate Challenges (GCCC), this month builds on the swell of well documented research, that informs us that developing resilience at work isn't a nice to have - it is a must have.

For the past couple of years I've been running a workshop called "Inspired to be Inspiring " - and a big part of that program is about building resilience and self-belief in leaders, so that they can go on and inspire the same in their people.

One point before we move forward - resilience doesn't mean withstanding. It is more about having the skills that enable your life to flourish. And what the research tells us, is that resilience can be learned!

Below is the model, I use in the 'Inspired To Be Inspiring' program to illustrate the elements that need to be in place for a person to strengthen their personal resilience.

Resilience Model

In this article we certainly can't cover all those topics, however, I want to share with you a couple of the concepts, from the module on Focus and Mind Mastery, that we spend time exploring in the program; which are self-esteem, self-compassion and the growth vs fixed mindset.

As I was running a workshop a few days ago, it occurred to me that there is a lot written about self-esteem (and certainly you can find several articles I've written about self-esteem here on this site), but not so much on self-compassion. Research by Eherte, Joormann and Berking (2014) suggest that self-compassion certainly does have an impact on resilience.

Before we move on to self-compassion, a quick thought about self-esteem. In recent decades, much emphasis has been given to growing self-esteem and somewhere along the way, we lost our way! Self-esteem is about our perceived self-worth - and unfortunately for some it has lead to flawed thinking - that having high self-worth is caught up in feelings of infallibility and superiority.

For the past few decades, we've been teaching kids that they are better than average - that they succeed no matter what. All kids get gold stars; in junior school they play sport with no scoring. And this creates a real problem - in life in general and particularly in the workplace. Who wants a performance appraisal that says you are average!

Tying your sense of self up with a need to feel/be superior and the moment your sense of self comes under fire - either through your own actions, or through the appraisal of others ... you can guarantee you are going to get angry and defensive people.

As part of the Focus and Mind Mastery module as we are examining self-compassion and self-esteem we discuss the linkage between these concepts and the growth vs fixed mindset ... you can read more about this way of thinking in the great book Mindset by Carol Dweck.

A fixed mindset can be reflected in a person who is running on a flawed self-esteem model (don't get me wrong there are great ways for self-esteem to be nurtured - its just that in some arenas we've handled it poorly), whereas a person who is strong in self-compassion is more likely to have a growth mindset.

If you want to take a quick quiz to see if you've got a growth or a fixed mindset - click here.

People who are good at self-compassion (and have a growth mindset) accept that they aren't perfect - that they are part of the learning tribe called humanity - and they don't need to get cranky, oversensitive and self-justifying - (in other words trying to protect their ego) - when they mess up or things don't go quite as they'd hoped. That every situation gives them an opportunity to learn and grow. That if they keep putting the effort in they'll get better at whatever they are trying to master.

Whereas people with a fixed mindset give up easily, turn away from challenges, put in little effort (if I'm not good at it or have no ability in it, why bother), are threatened by other people's success and if they fail at something they feel it has marked them forever! Ouch it's a hard way to live.

When we fail, or mess something up, have most of us have that voice inside our head that says, "You aren't good enough. There you go again, how could you have failed at that" and other such negative self-judgments and evaluations. For some it is just a low murmur that they can control fairly quickly ... for others it is a boom box blaring inside their head and keeps popping up on a regular basis.

And when someone has that boom box banging on it can be very hard for them to perform at their best. They are more likely to go for smaller goals, give up more easily, take it out on others etc. Gaining capability at managing the impact of that voice in your head – getting good at self-compassion - is a critical skill if you want your life and your career to flourish.

Ripping Yourself Apart

So, how do you grow your capability at self-compassion?

Firstly, its about controlling that dialog in your mind. It's about saying things like, 'Sure I made a mess of that, but no-one is perfect. I've learnt from that experience and am stronger and wiser now.'

And, let's be clear here I don't mean be all pollyannerish - when you mess up you need to fess up to yourself. Take responsibility for your part in whatever unfolded in not the way you planned. And then quickly move into solution mode - not rumination mode. See the situation for what it is - not worse than. Understand your role in it - and then guide your self-talk so that you learn from the situation. These are the sorts of skills you need to get good at practicing.

Secondly, if you had someone talking to you the way you sometimes talk to yourself would you hang around them? Likely not! So, become your own coach. When you find yourself ruminating on something that you messed up, ask yourself, "How is this type of thinking moving me forward? If I was coaching and reassuring someone dear to my heart, someone I want to see be kind to themselves and flourish in life, what would I say to them to get them into a growth mindset, to get them into a solution-finding mode?" Then go ahead and write down your answers! Yes, don't just think it. Grab your journal, Notes on your iPad or the proverbial napkin on the bar and write down the positive things you can focus upon. What you've learned, what you'll do differently, where you can go for more information, who you can seek out for help or to apologize to, and so forth.

There is something about writing that makes things real. That gets it out of your head and helps you to greater clarity. Please do yourself a favor, next time you find yourself ruminating and beating yourself up, practice getting it out of your head and down in black and white. Even if the first thing you do is write all the negative stuff you are telling yourself, when you have it down in black and white, you can actually start to refute some of the nonsense you are telling yourself.

I suggest three columns:

  • What I am saying to myself
  • What the actual facts are
  • What I can do to change the situation

For example, you might have a line in the first column that says something like, "I always end up shouting at John and he hates me". In your head you probably nod sagely and say to yourself, "Yep that's right I always shout at John. John hates me". In black and white though, you've got the opportunity to actually start thinking about the times that you haven't shouted at John. The times when John has shown appreciation for you. Then you can start to think about what was different in those times. What did you or John do differently that shouting didn't happen. Then using a solutions coaching model on yourself, you can start to look for ways to build on those successes (the 3rd column).

Once you've done it a few times, writing your thoughts out, you'll be surprised at how much it will change your mindset. Virtually all of my coaching clients have commented on just how much this one small technique has helped them.

Here's why this is so important. If you aren't able to be empathetic and coach yourself in a positive way ... you sure as chips won't be able to positively coach one of your team members when they make a mistake.

If you want to grow a high performing resilient team you need to be really good at coaching up. It's a great skill to have and one that you can master and learn pretty quickly.

There is more to self-compassion and resilience than I've covered in this article, but these couple of tips, if you practice them, are a great starting point.

I finish a lot of my coaching calls with clients by saying, "Be kind to you". So, this article ends with, "Go, be kind to you" do this and you'll start to build your resilience muscle ... and as a great role model to others, you potentially will help them improve their resilience.

This quick video overviews what you can expect from the Inspired To be Inspiring program. Contact us if you'd like more information.


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