Principle 5: Think both Deep and Fun
Leaders in our experience often assume that resilience is all about the deep psychological stuff. Yet this lets them off the hook of responsibility to take practical action, which is most often what is needed.
Deep psychological issues may in fact be present. Some of the barriers to resilience are about enabling healthy boundaries. And if a person does not keep healthy boundaries, they will be rescuing or pleasing others, or indeed over-valuing being a kind of martyr for others. This all can lead to quite stuck, unhealthy behaviours, driven by a muddle or incoherent set of values. The result? A resilience drain, under performance, ill health, dissatisfaction, and often exclusion. This is deep stuff.
But from the Resilience Engine’s work with thousands of people across all kinds of sectors, this isn’t the most common cause of not coping. The working population do not get wholly hijacked by these kinds of drivers. Sometimes yes, but not all the time. So what drives a lack of coping?
Normally it’s fatigue as the primary source. This leads to a lack of perspective, which in turn leads to a loss of criteria for what is priority, and that leads to lack of connection with meaningful goals. What a cascade! The result? A resilience drain that appears exactly like not coping but from a different source.
No matter what, when you’re not coping, it all looks heavy and difficult. But from this second place, the solution isn’t about matching the heaviness with deep psychological support. It’s about recognising that a practical and lighter approach is more fruitful.
Take Fiona. An individual deputy chief officer, an extremely high performer. The organisation is a high pressure, high performing one but with current massive dysfunction due to cultural and structural issues. Fiona feels she is holding all of it together. Her Chief Officer has checked out of the situation, maybe are struggling with their own pressures.
Fiona is just not coping and feels like she is drowning. Home life is also massively demanding, with the care of both parents in different care homes and teenage kids. With little support at work, she is ending up being involved in lots of rescuing (yes indeed a deeper boundary issue), working 80-90 hours a week. Her family is annoyed with her, her staff are not coping because of the dysfunction, and she is disappointed with herself for not managing well. She is low, weary, heavy, teary and feeling awful. And she is resourceful enough to ask for help.
The solution involved a focus on the practical and feeling lighter. Fiona engaged a Resilience Engine coach who offered short bursts of practical and laughter-filled coaching in 1 hour slots. They focussed on the need to be present, re-energise and be very, very simple about the day – focussing only on what is the job today? They then moved to coaching on boundaries including leaving times, home times, saying no, still with a light and practical approach.
Two weeks later – a very high functioning individual making massive impact on their organisation. Still with quite long hours but dropped to 60-70, and with a view to dropping within a week to something more normal in the 50 range. Feeling much better, much more themselves, and with really good delegation that is working.
How did this happen so quickly?
Because a high performer who is resourceful can be encouraged to connect with the best of themselves in very, very practical and resilience-enhancing ways. Including laughter.
This kind of approach can easily be applied with individuals, teams, groups and whole organisations.
The ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource. Laughing is good for you and your resilience and wellbeing! Laughter stimulates the immune system and counteracts the effects of the negative stress reactions when stress hormones hijack your brain and your body. It is a natural stress reducer that has been related to improved health, increased life expectancy, and overall wellbeing. Being able to get at this marvellous resource needs leaders to connect with this idea, and bring it into the culture every day.
Want to enable resilience? Think both deep and fun.
Author: Jenny Campbell, CEO of The Resilience Engine