Courage: Practice ResiliencePosted on March 1, 2020

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

The sure-fire way to learn resilience is to fail often.  That sounds so fun, doesn’t it?  When we can maturely reframe failing, we realize that failing allows us to learn something so we can perform better the next time.  However, more often, leaders “armor up” with perfectionism, where failing is a weakness and one for which leaders should feel shame.   Fear of failure is a barrier to taking risks that could lead to trying new things or having tough conversations. 

What is the case for doing it anyway?

When my step-daughter was learning gymnastics skills, one of the first tactics she was taught was how to fall without getting seriously hurt.  The coach made it clear that she WOULD fall, and it would DEFINITELY hurt, but she shared the positions to place her body in during a fall that would have the least chance for injury. Because of Miranda’s training, she was able to continue to perform increasingly risky skills. At the same time, she knew how to take the hit without injury when the inevitable fall would occur.  This preparation for falling (failing) is something I have not done well enough for myself or other leaders I serve with throughout my career…but I must.  Rather than continually intervening or putting bubble wrap around ourselves or our team, we must actively coach each other through failing and the tips for dusting off and going “all in” for another round.

How can you do it? 

Open yourself to the “reckoning.” When something happens, emotion kicks in gear first.  Emotions engage before rational thought and behavior.  Practicing for resilience requires us to be more aware of our feelings.  We need to be more curious about what the emotions are, why we are experiencing them (what was the hook), how our body “feels” them, or reacts.  At SOMC, we teach leaders to write down our feelings when we realize their presence and use a simple question/answer format to document the experience.  This exercise helps us recognize emotions and their impact on behavior so that we can learn and prepare ourselves for future, similar situations.

Be mindful of your stories. In the absence of data, we will ALWAYS make up stories.  When we are struggling, it is the human brain’s default position to come up with a story that makes sense of what is happening.   This story gives our brain information on how best to self-protect.  Robert Burton explains that our brains reward us with dopamine when we recognize or complete patterns.  Our brains are wired to fill in the gaps of reality with our own stories for a dose of pleasure.  We must be aware of this natural tendency and clarify our stories with other dispassionate leaders before we continue to react.  When we have the courage to own our story, we get to practice resilience by re-writing the ending.  

Join the resilience revolution. The word revolution might sound a bit extreme, but I believe that we need a resilience revolution in our workplace…in our world today.  Choosing authenticity and worthiness is an act of resistance that can be both terrifying and gratifying at the same time.  I am committed to becoming more resilient and sharing what I learn with anyone else who is willing to learn with me.  I will mess up.  I will regress.  And…I will have successes as a result of learning from those failures. We have lots of challenges ahead of us in our organization. Still, I am confident that when we fall, with practice, we will have the courage to dust ourselves off and try again.

What practical strategies have you tried in your career to build resilience? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

1 Response

Sara Gysbers March 2nd, 2020

I love your gymnastics analogy. I, too, learned how to fall through gymnastics and even got the white elephant award for “Best Falls” at the end of the season. What was important to learn about falling was how to absorb or roll with and out of the impact. A lot of it was controlled by the gymnast, but we also relied on the support of our spotters (coaches) and the physical boundaries/mats/foam placed around us.

I think the same concepts can be brought into the work place. An employee must develop the mindset of how to roll with and out of failures. A good leader can support the the employee through the fall to prevent further injury. The culture of the organization can provide the boundaries of the environment with which you are working in. You practice, practice, practice and fine tune skills, correcting when needed and celebrating when you “stick it”

Those micro-corrections are where I can improve the most. Coaches don’t wait to correct form until the final performance when it becomes a much bigger deal. They fine tune all aspects of the routine on an ongoing basis, each and every time the routine is practiced.


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