Saturday, April 13, 2019

Two Perspectives on Building Resilience

As Merriam-Webster dictionary defines:
In physics, resilience is the ability of an elastic material (such as rubber or animal tissue) to absorb energy (such as from a blow) and release that energy as it springs back to its original shape. 

For human beings, resilience is an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

Not so long ago at work, i found myself and team around me in a sort of difficult situation. The project that we were working on went off-track primarily for non-technical reasons. While it's too early to do a post-mortem and give you a prescription to deal with similar issues now (may be later!), I would focus a bit more on the myriad of reactions it generated within the team. 

Some team members got into fault finding mode, some tried to over-analyze the situation, some tried to find reasons why we were in the situation we were in, some blamed the 'forces' tried to detail the project, some tried to work through the way forward, some stayed quiet, some didn't seem bothered.

Political situations at work are ugly and hardly comes with an algorithmic solution that everyone can follow. If there is anything true about such situations, it is that as long as human beings are at play, there will be politics and there is no running away from it.  This post is not a primer on how to deal with politics in an organization but i do want to focus on a small part pertaining to that i.e. what should our immediate reaction to such situations be ? More clearly, how should we build resilience to deal with these situations.

I don't claim to be an expert in the field of building resilience but i do want to leave you would 2 distinct perspectives.

The Sheryl Sandberg way:
Sheryl Sandberg is a high-flying executive, currently the COO of Facebook. A couple of years ago, she was in news for a very different reason. Her husband Dave Goldberg (then CEO of passed away suddenly. She shares the journey of her coming to terms with this loss in her book- Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy

In this book, Sheryl teamed up with Adam Grant to bring forward varied perspectives on the topic of Resilience. Sharing a few quotes from this book that relevant to this discussion.
"Resilience is a muscle that needs to be built not during a crisis but during normal low
stress times."
“I thought resilience was the capacity to endure pain, so I asked Adam how I could figure out how much I had. He explained that our amount of resilience isn’t fixed, so I should be asking instead how I could become resilient. Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity—and we can build it. 
“Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. It comes from gratitude for what’s good in our lives and from leaning in to the suck. It comes from analyzing how we process grief and from simply accepting that grief. Sometimes we have less control than we think. Other times we have more. I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.” 
So how is this relevant in the context of tough situations we face in the organizations:
1. Resilience as a skill can be learned.
2. We need not wait for tough situation to arrive before learning about Resilience. One of the ways is to communicate often with people who are undergoing pain and genuinely figure out how to help them.
3. Resilience comes from improving the way we process the emotions when faced with tough situations. Accepting that we are in an unusual, challenging situation is one part. The other spectrum is to be thankful for what we have at all moments.

The Deepa Malik way:
Deepa Malik is an India Paralympic athlete. She is the first Indian woman to win a medal in Paralympic games. She holds world records in multiple paralympic sports categories. He sports career started at the age of 36 and has so far won 18 international medals.

I was recently to her podcast with Deepak Jayaraman and Deepa shared the following practical perspective on the subject of resilience.

The biggest help that come in dealing from in maintaining resilience or solving a particular problem is to automatically shift into a solution finding gear rather than harping on the problem. So that's what i do, whenever i am faced with a challenge, i immediately start looking for a solution on how to go about it. And solution finding will again come back to learning. Learning about the situation or in other words,  a challenge is a change because you want a thing to happen in a certain way and it doesn't. So it automatically says there is a change. How good are you in adapting to a change, how flexible you are to quickly mold yourself to the situation. I think that automatically sets the bar of your resilience. If you are rigid, you are not adapting to the change, you are not willing to learn about the change, you don't want to find a solution to tackle with a situation, then where will the resilience come from. I am very quick to find solutions or alternatives. I think it goes back to the fact that do you have the contingency planning, which reflects the same way as finding the solution.
Asking the same question, how is this advice relevant in the context of problems we face in organizations. While Sheryl Sandberg taught us on mindset to adopt too enhance resilience, what Deepa Malik is really telling us is to train ourselves to bypass the melodrama and self-pity that is usually associated when faced with tough situations and adopt a mindset that seeks solutions as soon as we are faced with problems.

Our goodness in handling changing situations, she says lies in our ability to mold ourselves to the situation at hand. And what stops us from doing that ? It is our decision, our choice to mull over the problem in our head, beyond what is needed.
Keep emotions aside, find your solution finding gear and commit yourself fully to solve the problem.

What are your ways to build resilience ? Do write in comments and share your learnings.

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