By: Ernie Philip
Ernie Philip is the Senior Vice President of Document Outsourcing for Xerox Canada and is responsible for all aspects of Xerox’s document outsourcing business in Canada.
When I first started my career in sales, I worked for a small printer company in Canada. If I say it was tough-going, it’s an understatement. We were selling printers out of our vans. We had to explain to customers who we were, and we needed to carry printers out of our trucks and into our customer for a free trial – we could not get business any other way.
We shared a PC in the office to write proposals and we looked at paper-based files. We needed to make 30 cold calls a day, and at the end of each day we would count out our business cards in the office. There were times I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. I lasted one year – a lifetime in that role, and it was an experience that I have never forgotten because it taught me about a simple but vital resource: resilience. It’s easy to say, but once I recognized my own resilience, I began to see it in others. From my vantage point, the best people in all roles demonstrate a resilience that separates them from their peer group.
So, what is resilience and why is it so important in our workforce?
Resilience is about getting back up when something knocks you down. It’s having the stamina to stick with something in the long run, and the ability and agility to keep going against adversity. It’s that quality you see in the hero in a movie who has the passion and fortitude to win the game.
It’s an important skill, but one that we don’t spend enough time talking, or even thinking about. It’s applicable across all lines of businesses, all roles and in every industry in the world.
Let me share an interesting stat with you. The psychic industry in North America today is a $2B industry – and has grown steadily over the last 5 years. It’s not because I believe in fortune telling that I share this, but because it demonstrates the effort and resources people put in trying to predict the future.
I’ll share a secret with you – and help save you some money – the only thing we can predict about the future is that it will change.
We all know that today’s world is changing at a faster rate than ever before. An IBM study in late 2015 looked at more than 5,200 business executives from 21 industries in more than 70 countries, and all of them reported that the “scope, scale and speed” of their businesses were increasing at an accelerated rate in response to competition, disruptive technology and new business models.
I believe that change is a good thing. It’s through change that organizations evolve and grow and that we as individuals learn and develop. But when you look at this whirlwind of change within an organization, it can become overwhelming for employees.
According to a Harvard Business Review article from this year, an increased or constant rate of change creates a frenetic way of working for employees and being continually connected and responsive to work anytime – and anywhere – can play a negative role in employee’s health and overall productivity.
In fact, a quarter of all U.S. employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This prolonged stress has a tangible impact on productivity, employee engagement and talent retention.
Rather than trying to predict the future or shelter our employees from this inevitable change, as leaders we need to focus on equipping our employees with the resilience and the mental agility to adapt and thrive in this ever-changing world.
There are a few ways we can do this.
The first way is to flex our own resilience muscles. As leaders, one of the most important things we can do is to lead by example and inspire resilience in others. I draw on my early experience often as a coaching example. I’m not perfect, and like others, it’s a muscle you need to use and continue to practice.
The next way is to actually teach resilience. Yes, some people are born with natural resiliency and we can probably all think of someone who seems to shine in every moment no matter the circumstance. But for the rest of us, resilience is a skill we can learn and practice.
Dr. Martin Seligman has spent the last 30 years studying resiliency to understand why some people rebound after a setback and why others fall into a state of learned helplessness. He and his team at the University of Pennsylvania created the Penn Resiliency program. They train businesses in resiliency and reduce the number of those who struggle in adversity and increase the number of those who grow.
There are three key things Dr. Seligman and his team recommend to help employees become more resilient, think optimistically and to learn strategies to stop the downward spiral that follows failure or extreme change.
The first step is to build mental toughness. I like to think of this as fine tuning your immediate, knee-jerk reaction to a proposed change or a failed project. Your immediate internal dialogue may sound something like “I can’t handle this” or “I am such a loser.” Building mental toughness means recognizing that your emotional response to failure is based solely on your own beliefs about what it means to fail. If you believe failure means not getting something right on the first try, you’ll stop trying. Being mentally tough means you know this moment is temporary and you have the emotional sophistication to shake off negative thoughts and try again.
The second step is to help employees build and recognize their unique strengths and how they make a positive contribution to the project or the organization. This helps give employees the confidence they need to continue to innovate and push forward, even after temporary setbacks. If a writer believes that they have the ability to tell a good story, they will keep working to get their book published even after they receive the dreaded rejection letter.
The last step is about changing the way we communicate and respond to our colleagues. My mother used to say “You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” She was right. Responding to employees in an active and constructive way versus a passive or dismissive way will help them become more resilient. Think about the manager that merely says “Good work” on your performance review versus the one that praises your specific achievements, their value and your personal growth. Employees of the second type of manager will rebound much quicker from a set back because they have an active and engaged relationship and can see their value.
Studies have shown that resilient people are happier and have higher life-satisfaction. In the workplace, resilient people experience less stress and are able to grow in their careers from what they have learned from their challenges or setbacks. They take less time off, are more productive and can adapt more quickly to change. Angela Duckworth is a psychologist and a former teacher. She became fascinated about why certain students would succeed in the classroom and why others would not. She began to study this phenomenon and she realized that what she termed “grit” – or resilience – was the true determining factor of success. She expanded her studies into all areas and industries and she saw the same thing – more than IQ, education, background or experience, a person’s resiliency level determined who would fail and who would succeed.
Thinking about the great leaders and colleagues that I have worked with, a strong resilience level is something that has been common in all of them. It’s a skill that I have tried to hone and develop in my team and one that can help create future leaders.
From my personal experience, thinking optimistically and being resilient has made all the difference. Do not confuse optimism with unrealistic expectations – I have seen a lot of optimistic outlooks in my career. Being venerable – telling the truth – talk to how you will mitigate risks, tell what you learned and how you will do things differently in the future.
Winston Churchill once said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
In this time of great change for all of us, we need to flex our resiliency muscles. We all want to be happy, productive, successful, and deliver incredible value to our customers and the people we work with. Our success is not guaranteed and our failures don’t need to define our careers. It’s our optimism and resilience that will help us respond positively to challenging situations and will give us the opportunity to dream big and push forward.
As leaders, we can help create resilient employees who can steer through change, pressure, uncertainty and ambiguity and have the coping strategies to manage stress, overcome setbacks and continue to innovate.
This article is condensed from a Tedx Talk hosted by the Xerox Women’s Alliance group in October 2016.
Source:: xerox news