6 Tips for Building Resilience

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend time with job seekers at the Harvard EdPortal. We were discussing the importance of being change ready and resilient. We talked about how important it is during a job search. And, how important it will continue to be once they land their next opportunity.

Here are the five tips I shared with them on being resilient in the ever-changing world we live and work in.

Stay positive — what is the opportunity?: The natural human reaction to change is to think about what you are losing or have lost. Instead, think about what opportunities a new or unexpected situation is affording you. How can this benefit you even as you help the organization? What skills do you bring to the table that will help you thrive? What will you need to do differently to make that happen?

Focus on what you are learning: Every experience in life allows us to learn something, and nowhere is this more true than in a changing environment. It may be we learn more precisely what it is we like to do (or not do). Or where we excel and where we struggle. If we remain open-minded, we often find new ways of seeing and doing things. New experiences can also tell us what we need to unlearn. What is it that is no longer serving us well? What mental models are getting in the way? The greatest skill development comes when we are faced with new challenges – if we face them with energy and intention.

Change ‘either/or’ to ‘both/and’: Too often, we look at situations as “either/or.” For example, I may think that I either stay or I go. It’s either good or bad. More often, especially in the complexity we face today, we need to move to thinking “both/and.” Both/and thinking would be more like “How can I stay and contribute while preparing for the possibility of leaving?”

Identify what is not changing: Even though it may seem like everything is changing, there are many things that are not. Who you are as a person, what you bring to a situation, and the skills, experience and capabilities you have are not changing. In a more tangible way, there are probably many things about your organization that are not changing. Does it have the same mission? Are its core values immutable? Is what delights your customers the same?

Focus on what you do control: Usually we have more control than we initially recognize. Too often people feel like change is something being done to them. They feel there is no option but to just accept it as it is. In some ways, this can be true. For example, if your company is being acquired, you can’t stop the sale from occurring. You do, however, control how you think about and respond to the change. You can choose to resist or make the best of the situation. You can ask how to best contribute to the new organization. You can seek out information, education, and new projects that align with the changes. You can provide constructive feedback in a positive way at the appropriate times. You can reach out to help others make adjustments. Ultimately, if the new situation isn’t to your liking, you can opt to move on – maintaining your relationships and reputation as you go. Control is much more of an internal state of mind than an objective, immoveable reality.

Build a support system: The most resilient people are not resilient because they can face any situation on their own. They are resilient because they have a network and support system that helps them in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s emotional support. Sometimes it’s resource support. Sometimes its expertise. Sometimes it’s something you don’t even know you need yet.

Resilience is a multifaceted skill, which can be purposefully developed over time. It’s also a state of mind. As either a job seeker or a leader looking to develop resilience where you are now, it begins with how you think about the challenges and changes in front of you. What are you focused on?

We’d love to hear your tips for building resilience. Share them with us by clicking here.


Tough Questions to Ask About Your Culture

Bad behavior. Harassment. Assault. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a tidal wave of reports of sometimes unbelievable behavior by leaders in politics, media, and many other industries. None of this is new. It’s just coming to the surface. And, for those of us who are old enough, it’s not surfacing for the first time.

These incidents and behaviors didn’t happen in a vacuum. The ones that don’t get media attention don’t happen in a vacuum either. Whether in a corporate, government, educational or non-profit setting, organization cultures have either implicitly or explicitly permitted them to happen. You may look at your organization and say, “that doesn’t happen here.” but I think far more of you would say, “yes, it does or could happen here.”

Now is the time to take an unvarnished look at your culture and ask some difficult questions:

  • What does our culture reward? If someone gets things done or gets great results, are bad behaviors ignored?
  • Are some powerful people’s behaviors the elephant in the room? Is it common knowledge that they behave in an unacceptable way but no one addresses it?
  • When concerns are voiced, are they ignored or shrugged off as “just how that person is”?
  • Is favoritism common? Is it an unspoken rule that some people can say some things while other people can’t?
  • Is it a significant concern that, if someone raises an issue, there will be retaliation?

These aren’t easy questions. Your company may currently be very successful (making money or impact or enjoying a great public reputation). However, answering yes should be viewed as a warning sign that your culture may be permitting very bad behavior and your good reputation may be short lived.

5 Things the Eclipse Taught Us About Building Companies People Love

In the U.S, on August 22nd there was a total eclipse that traversed the country.  It was an event that captured attention, created interest and built excitement.
As I was hearing about it and waiting for our partial view in New England, I was thinking about why this was such a big deal for so many people. Almost everyone I know was, at a minimum, interested in it and many were almost giddy with excitement.  What if we could create this kind of feeling every day in our companies, to build companies people love?
I believe there are 5 things we can learn from the Great Eclipse of 2017 about how to think about building companies people love:
  • The experience is multi-dimensional: People experienced the eclipse through what they saw, the temperature of the air, the sound during the total eclipse, and more. Companies people love aren’t just defined by a vision, mission statement or set of values that are posted on a wall.  That vision, mission and values are experienced in a multi-dimensional way, from what you see in the office design, to what you hear people saying, to the buzz you feel when you walk around.
  • It’s rare or at least unique:  Companies people love provide them an experience that is difficult to replicate. Others often look to these companies to try to recreate the culture.  What they find is that it’s not something you replicate. It is something the company needs to define as uniquely theirs.
  • There is a sense of meaning: The eclipse was meaningful to many people for many different reasons. Some were drawn from a scientific perspective (a group of scientists boarded plane so they could be among the first to experience it). Some were drawn because it was an event they could share with millions of others.  Some viewed it from a spiritual perspective.  Companies people love create a connection with what their employees (and potential employees) find meaningful.
  • It’s a shared experience: Those who work in companies people love have shared experiences that define who the company is. In some, it’s the way they onboard people (I wrote about my brother’s experience at Apple a few years ago). In others it’s the way people are recognized no matter their level.  For some, it’s meeting the patients their therapy impacts. Those shared experiences live on after people in these companies move on to other jobs. You see them in active company alumni networks.  They share common stories. And, they often say working there was one of the best experiences of their work lives.
  • It creates anticipation about what great thing we’ll do next: After the eclipse, many people described it with one word – wow. And, at least in my house, we were talking about when the next one would occur.  When you experience an event that takes you out of the ordinary, as many companies we love do, you want to know what the next great thing is and how you can be a part of it.
At NextBridge Consulting, we help our clients work at becoming companies people love.  We help them define or refine and then operationalize their mission, vision and values.  We help them develop leaders who make people say “I want to be part of this,” even when the company is moving at a dizzying pace. We work with them to develop teams and organizations that create alignment.  How can we help you?

Focus on Effort not Difficulty

 Focus on Effort not Difficulty

You know, I’ve occasionally caught myself saying ‘change is hard.’ I’ve recently seen an interesting new insight into the power of language during change or transformation. In an article on, Nick Tasler discusses the negative bias we create when reinforcing that change is hard.

For decades, we’ve heard statistics about how infrequently change initiatives and transformation are successful. We hear that 70% of them fail. We hear that 50% of mergers don’t achieve their desired results. In addition, we’ve all had our own experiences with changes that have had varying degrees of success. The message this reinforces is that change must be really hard.

What Tasler argues is that part of the reason change is often not successful is that by saying it is ‘hard’ we are creating a negative bias that impacts the actual outcomes.  He recommends that rather than focusing on the difficulty of change we should focus our messaging and conversations about the effort involved in change.

Let me give you an example. We all know that part of success in any endeavor comes from the effort you put in to it.  Some pursuits are more difficult and require more effort than others. Completing a marathon takes more effort than jogging around the block (although for some of us, they both seem daunting). However, we usually believe something is achievable when we focus on putting in some effort rather than simply focusing on how difficult it is.

At NextBridge, we focus on helping our clients successfully change and transform. We help clients think about the effort needed for successful change and help them achieve it.  I encourage you to think about change that is impacting you. Are you focusing on the difficulty or the effort?

Over-Collaboration: Solution #3: Designing for Great Collaboration

Our last three blog posts have outlined collaboration challenges and solutions.  In this fourth and concluding post, we’re talking about the role the organization plays in making collaboration work. The way you design your organization — your rules, tools and people practices — has a substantial impact on how effectively you and others collaborate.

What is the collaboration culture like in your organization?  Are the ‘rules’ about collaboration mostly unspoken or informal? They shouldn’t be.  Organizations that thrive in our fast-moving business environment tend to be intentional about how collaboration takes place.

A good place to start is to look at your decision rights – your framework for the decision-making process in your organization that includes who makes what types of decisions.  Effective decision rights/governance structures include guidance about who and how people collaborate on decision-making. A lot of collaborative effort may not seem to be directly linked to organization-level decision-making. But embedded in the day-to-day collaborative work everyone does are numerous decisions which should follow from and support those higher-level decisions. Being intentional about decision-making clarifies, streamlines, and improves collaboration.

I’ve run into many organizations over the years who, when I ask them to describe their culture, use the word collaborative as one of the first descriptors. What that means need to change as your organization grows. Small start-ups often thrive in a culture where everyone is involved in everything. Different perspectives and viewpoints create energy and momentum. However, as the organization grows, continuing to live by the ‘involve everyone’ mantra actually slows momentum, delays decisions and creates roadblocks. You need to establish and adapt your culture’s norms around collaboration.  The more complex your business, the more you need formal decision rights.

Some questions for further thought…  Is your organization structure designed to facilitate the right level of collaboration and drive effective, timely decisions? Are your senior leaders all explicitly on the same page and do all your leaders have the right knowledge and skills to leverage decision rights?

There is no shortage of technology tools designed to facilitate collaboration, with more on the way. And with good reason.  Used effectively, such tools can improve collaboration, enhance productivity, and accelerate innovation, among other things.  We’re not experts on specific tools, so we’ll leave questions like functionality, platform and scalability to others. However, there are significant ramifications for what you choose, and some consideration for how you do it.

(1) How does your choice align with your business strategy?  Are you looking to acquire businesses over the next few years?  Are you looking to rapidly expand globally?  Are you about to take on new products and services that impact what types of projects you run or the talent you hire?  Make decisions based not just on your current challenges, but on your future ones.

(2) What problem(s) are you trying to solve?  Or put another way, what are you trying to accomplish?  More effective sharing of resources?  Better decision-making?  Improved communication?  It’s easy to say “all of the above,” but what specifically does that mean?  This should be one of the first questions you ask, and then dig deep on the answers.

(3) How will your choice impact users?  Is the tool great for one group, but not another?  What will the transition to the tool require of users?  What do they lose in the changeover and how will it impact their work?  Does the new tool fully compensate?

(4)  How important is it to standardize your tool set?  Issues arise when the organization allows every group or business unit to determine what its tool of choice is.  Then you have certain groups that can easily collaborate while others either have to spend time learning multiple tools or work around tools which don’t integrate effectively. Even organizations that don’t want to mandate tools and technology will benefit by standardizing or integrating their collaboration tools.

People Practices
Not only are high-performing organizations clear about decision rights and what that means for who and how people collaborate structurally, they tend to be clear about what it looks like behaviorally.

When you consider all the practices that we could discuss here there’s enough fodder for multiple pages.  Boiled down, here’s my mantra… Define it. Communicate it. Integrate it.

Define it.  The most important consideration is this: what does good collaboration look like?  What does a good collaborator do and say?  We covered some basics in our “Solution #2” blog post.  But what does it look like in your business, specifically?  Identify role models.  Break it down to finite behaviors that can be easily understood and replicated.

Communicate it. Starting at the top, let people know what’s expected of them. “Here’s what our company believes in and expects when it comes to collaboration.” Make it a formal part of things like project charters, personal goals and feedback discussions.

Integrate it.  From competency development and selection to performance management and training, ensure that the organization places the appropriate priority on collaboration.  Furthermore, it’s critical not to send mixed messages across practices.  In high-collaboration cultures, it’s not uncommon for goal-setting, development activities and formal recognition programs to reinforce collaboration. And yet, performance management and compensation practices don’t always support it. Research shows that about 20% of an organization’s “stars” don’t collaborate. They hit their numbers (and receive kudos and raises for it) but don’t do anything to amplify the success of their colleagues.  That hurts the business in the long run.

In a world where collaboration is increasingly essential for business success, how you collaborate can create competitive advantage. If you’re mired in slow decision-making, faced with abundant project bottlenecks or losing good talent because of “collaboration burnout,” then you’re not staying ahead of the curve.

Properly leveraging rules, tools and people practices makes a huge difference in how well you collaborate and how smoothly your business functions.

To read the other blog posts in this series go to:
Collaborate The Right Way and Free Up 20% More Time
Solution #1: Over-Collaboration:  Be More Intentional About Meetings
Solution #2:  Over-Collaboration:  Better Skills and Behaviors