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.
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.
How do you build and execute strategy successfully in the context of how we work today? I think that’s a big question for any company – large or small – because the landscape is changing so quickly.
Traditionally, strategy was built by a relatively small number of senior executives and then cascaded down through the ranks to be executed. Roles were clear. Executives developed and monitored. Middle managers made sure work was aligned. Everyone else executed.
In this approach, those senior executives had the best vantage point to know what the strategy should be. Markets and competition were relatively stable. The executives had often spent years in the industry and often grew up in the firm.
Fast forward to markets that change rapidly, competitors who enter quickly and at times disruptively, and organizations where few people spend their entire career. The traditional strategy development model doesn’t work.
In our opinion, there needs to be a very different approach. Here are five ways we need to approach strategy development and execution differently:
- Strategy development needs to involve more than just the most senior executives. Strategy is becoming more fluid and iterative. There is information, data, and people throughout the organization that need to be included. Leaders at highest levels of the organization with years of experience don’t have enough expertise because what created today’s success may or may not create tomorrow’s.
- Mid-level roles – whether it be mid-level leaders or high-expertise individual contributors – need to be redefined. These roles are no longer just about executing strategy but about shaping and influencing it. They have information and perspective that the organization needs to compete.
- Strategic-thinking needs to be a capability that is viewed as necessary at all levels in the organization. The behaviors will look different but it can’t only be valued and assessed at the most senior levels.
- Communication and alignment around the strategy need to be continual. Agility in an organization allows people to be proactive when opportunities arise. Alignment ensures that resources are put behind the right opportunities. Discussions about strategy and opportunities needs to be part of the ongoing conversation at all levels in the organization.
- Risk needs to be part of the plan. Organizations cannot seek perfection at the expense of good. Failure will occur as new opportunities are pursued. For many organizations, this is a real culture shift and one that will need to be approached intentionally and purposefully.
The benefits of rethinking strategy in this way? Increased speed and innovation. A more responsive organization. Improved execution. Higher engagement levels. However, getting there won’t happen overnight. You need a plan.
We’ve worked for over 20 years helping organizations clarify and execute their strategy. We also know how to help you thrive during change. How can we help you?
- Revisit your strategic objectives: Remember those objectives that were set at the beginning of the year? Have things shifted, are they still relevant? If not, what has taken their place? Check-in with your boss, your team, and your peers to ensure you are in agreement on what’s most important to achieve between now and the end of the year.
- Map the next ten days: A few months can feel like a long time or no time at all when you’re thinking about achieving results. I’ve started using a planning system that pushes me to create 10-day objectives that map to key goals and strategies. It has caused me to pause, step back and really think about and then focus on what the most valuable use of my time is over the next two weeks.
- Manage Your Energy . Along with those 10-day objectives will be daily to-do’s that pop up and can’t be ignored. Be mindful of what time of day you are at your best. Allocate your time so that your most important work happens when you are at your best. Use the first 15 minutes of your work day prioritizing and planning for the rest of the day.
- Think sprints not marathons: David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute studied thousands of people and found that we are really only focused for about 6-hours a week and our goal should be short, bursts of distraction-free work. So rather than saying, I’m going to close my door and be focused for the next 3-hours, make a commitment to shut everything else out for 30 minutes. This will give you 5-minutes of transition time at the beginning, 20 minutes of deep focus and 5 minutes to ramp up to what’s next.
- Reward yourself: Multi-tasking is automatically rewarding to our brains. After one of your sprints, take a couple of minutes to do something rewarding. Take a walk, call a friend, grab your favorite coffee and think about how great it felt to have those few minutes of complete focus.