Cultivating Your Personal Resilience

Cultivating Your Personal Resilience Photo

Written by: Mary Stacey, Context Consulting

In today’s ‘always on’ environment, leaders experience pressure, information overload and constant distraction. Over time this sabotages many things, from their wellness to their ability to be personally resilient: present and productive during turbulence. Perhaps its because of this that we’re hearing a lot about resilience these days.

Resilient people are more healthy, hopeful, optimistic, and positive, able to learn and adapt more quickly, turn adversity into a growth experience, and flourish in times of change. Its easy to see why they can be effective leaders.

The Impact of Resilient Leaders
Resilient leaders stand out. They boost their team’s performance. They exude spaciousness that allows others to open up and take risks, making it possible to accommodate diverse perspectives and needs. Their emotional self-regulation helps the team work through conflict creatively rather than become polarized. They contribute their resilience to pivotal team conversations where collaboration and collective intelligence are essential, creating a climate that is less reactive and more responsive. Their teams spend less time fire-fighting and more time being proactive.

Google has found that resilient leaders create the most important dimension of team success: a climate of psychological safety. In contrast, non-resilient leaders who are reactive and emotionally off-balance create a climate of threat, triggering the brain’s shut-down fight-flight-freeze response. Threat undermines a team’s ability to form trust relationships, stay goal-focused during uncertainty, and bring their diversity to solve complex problems—all essential elements of collaboration.

Teams of Resilient Leaders
Teams of resilient leaders achieve exponential benefits. Their psychologically safe environment has coherence, things make sense and flow more easily. The team experiences high energy and continuously renews its sense of purpose. Conversations are open and vulnerable, helping the team access greater capacity to lead complex change. At peak performance, the team is collaboratively resilient, able to quickly improvise and adapt in ongoing turbulence.

Building Collaborative Resilience
Here are some ideas for developing your personal resilience and turning it into a leadership act that supports collaboration.

1. Cultivate your personal resilience
A recent Harvard Business Review study demonstrated that even ten minutes of daily mindfulness practice produces improvement in resilience, the capacity for collaboration, and the ability to lead in complex conditions.

Developing a personal practice (journal writing, breathing for relaxation, embodiment exercises) will help you to remain present, emotionally self-regulated, and capable of performing at your best. Over time you’ll spend less time in threat response and be better able to thrive in uncertainty.

2. Turn your resilience into a leadership act
You can translate your personal resilience into a leadership act by modeling presence: the ability to focus on the current moment, be open to diverse perspectives, listen and reflect. When others see that your presence combines with the performance level you are able to maintain, you will be demonstrating how they, too, might contribute to collaborative resilience in turbulent times.

3. Facilitate collaborative resilience in your team
Begin your meetings with a check in. Combine the HBR study’s ‘mindful minute’ with a round-table response to a question as simple as ‘How are you?” This allows team members to settle in, re-connect with themselves, choose their quality of attention, and build trust with others before turning to the issue at hand.

Be aware that your team members’ brains are constantly evaluating what you say and do in relation to threat. Design your meetings and pivotal conversations to maximize creative conflict and minimize threat. You’ll know when you’re in the zone: your team will experience a surge of energy and a renewed sense of purpose. They’ll anticipate disruption with confidence and navigate it with greater ease.

I introduce these strategies, along with many others, during Leading with Personal Resilience, part of the Collaborative Leadership Essentials at the Kingbridge Conference Centre.

One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work with Mindfulness (Hougaard, Carter, and Coutts, 2015)

How to Bring Mindfulness to Your Company’s Leadership (Harvard Business Review, 2016)

What Google Learned from its Quest to Build the Perfect Team (New York Times, 2016)

Kingbridge founder John Abele speaks on collaboration

Measuring Collaboration ROI

In most cases an overall objection to collaboration within organizations is not an issue, however, the where, when and how of implementing collaborative systems is.

Collaboration is an increasingly vital capability for organizations. But when companies just promote collaboration indiscriminately, without the proper culture and resources to support it they create information bottlenecks and actually diminish their organizational effectiveness.

In a 2006 edition of McKinsey Quarterly the article “Mapping the Value of Employee Collaboration” presented an in depth network analysis approach to determining where and how to introduce collaboration initiatives within an organization in a way that is not only effective but measurable against the bottom line.  Despite the article being nearly 8 years old, the issue of how to appropriately leverage collaboration mechanisms is as much a problem today – if not more.

The network approach presented in the article gives executives the information they need to foster collaboration at the points where it delivers an economic return – a key indicator required to allocate resources to collaborative efforts.

It would not do this article justice to attempt to summarize nor would it help you apply any of the methods within (for which you may want to hire a professional!). However, if as a leader you have been searching for a way to both justify and accurately allocate resources to collaboration systems in your organization it is highly recommended to read this article.

Hundreds of Heads are Better than One

Last week we made the important distinction between Social Networking and Collaborative Networking in an attempt to assist you in deciphering which option is better for your organization.  This week I wanted to share an example of  a community using both.

The general rule of thumb for anyone seeking a diagnosis for any condition is to always seek a second opinion.  Well, now you can seek hundreds of opinions!  A number of ‘diagnostic’ medical sites have cropped up across the web, giving patients the opportunity to describe their symptoms to a network of medical professionals and seek diagnosis (This application would be considered social networking as it benefits the individual – see last post).

One such site “Doctors Lounge” not only provides visitors the opportunity to seek diagnosis from a large network of doctors, it also provides the health care professionals a space to collaborate on articles, projects and even patient care issues (This is collaborative networking – see last post).

The medical community seems to be leading the charge integrating Social and Collaborative networking into their practices.  This is an encouraging thought – I don’t know about you but if my doctor was having trouble with a diagnosis or treatment of mine I feel much more secure knowing that he/she has a network to collaborate with on solving this problem.  A diagnosis agreed upon by 100 doctors is by far more reassuring than one prescribed by a single physician.

The question is of course whether your doctor participates in these collaboratives?  It is likely that membership in medical networks will become a qualifier for selecting a family physician and perhaps even a licensing requirement………………………… I know I will be asking mine.

Social vs. Collaborative Networking – Distinctions Revealed

When you think of social networking you immediately think of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, so what comes to mind when you think of collaborative networking?

If you are like most people I have asked this question your response was probably something like ‘aren’t they the same thing?’, and of course the answer would be no, they are not and the primary distinction between them is in the value that is created from each.

Social networks are characterized by one to one connection versus a collective gathering virtually in one space to work on a single project or problem as is the case with collaborative networks.  With the instance of the popular social networking site Facebook for example the value created is to the individual and the benefit of his/her connections.  On the other hand a collaborative network such as MindTouch allows groups of people to collaborate efficiently and effectively to produce results that add value to the enterprise or collective as a whole rather than the individual.

That isn’t to say that social networks can’t benefit your business but rather that they will do so through one to many advertising and one to one contacts rather than through collective decision making and problem solving.

So keep in mind when/if you are considering integrating a networking application into your business enterprise:  If you are looking for people (potential sales leads, recipients of advertising, potential future colleagues) go for a Social Network.  If you want to connect the disparate groups (departments, divisions etc) to collaborate to address issues and projects with tangible results go with a Collaborative Network.