Leading with Resilience Part Two (of Three)
A crucible is an instrument that chemists use to heat up certain elements and change their composition. It is a device that can take a huge amount of heat, and is responsible for new compounds if you get the recipe right. Crucibles can be a metaphor for individuals going through a tough time in their lives. We all go through crucibles at certain points in our lives, and the way we transform ourselves is similar to the new elements that are created in the chemical crucible. In resilience, the crucible is the place where you are physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually challenged in order for you to grow into a better person. Resilient individuals use the heat of the crucible to improve their positions; leaders who use leading with resilience as a mantra do the same. This week, we will look at part 2 of leading with resilience and explore some psychological factors that will help you to become a better leader by challenging the people that you lead.
When you get creative in your leadership, you not only foster a creative environment but you place yourself and your team in situations where they will be forced to adapt and improvise. Nobody wants to do the same old, unchallenging thing everyday. Whatever your job is, the leader is responsible to keep things fresh and challenging. Set high standards and hold individuals accountable to them. Give impromptu training classes that push the envelope of your work, elevating your standards to a new level. By getting creative, your people will be challenged and may even look forward to coming to work to see what’s going to be next. When I worked on oil rigs as a consultant, I would always look forward to going to work because I never knew what was going to happen. It was exciting, and sometimes dangerous work. The goal of getting creative is to have your people eventually become comfortable in uncertainty. That is one of the cornerstones of leading with resilience. To lead with resilience, you must be creative.
Never Quit/Know When to Quit
Quitting is one of those taboo words that nobody wants to think about, let alone say out loud. Why is quitting such a bad word? Because we exist in a competitive society that shuns individuals that give up when the going gets tough. Believe me, I don’t like to quit. However, as a leader, you have to know when not to quit and you have to know when to quit. When a project is tough but you can see that it can be accomplished with the resources that you have available, then you should follow through, rally the troops, and drive on to the end. However, if you are engaged in a project that has lost a substantial amount of money, or is simply impossible to accomplish with the resources that you have on hand or readily available, then you should decide to stop with the project and move on. The consequences of not quitting can be as harsh and dangerous as the consequences of quitting. When you drive your people into the ground simply because you don’t want to quit something, they not only get burned out but you may jeopardize future projects simply because you want to satisfy your ego. Quitting a project because you are tired or want to do something else or another lame reason breeds complacency and your followers will lose respect for you and the company. Taking an honest assessment of what is going on and gathering the powers to be to see exactly what is going on is a good way to give a “sanity check” to you project so that you can move in the right direction. If you want to lead with resilience, never quit and know when to quit.
Leading with Self Awareness
Leading with resilience starts with an understanding of yourself as a leader. When you have an accurate assessment of what you can and cannot do, then you can improve on the “can nots" and maintain the “can”s. There are many psychological instruments that leaders use for self assessment. One such assessment is 360 feedback, where supervisors, peers, and subordinates give criticism of the leader. As you can probably surmise, this feedback only works if the leader keeps his ego in check. Furthermore, the criticism only works if it is genuine and constructive. As a young SEAL, I remember the 360 feedback that I received from my main subordinate, the chief of our platoon. Even though I outranked him, I welcomed the valuable operational feedback that he gave me because he had much more experience than I did. Because of my openness to receive the feedback (a new guy in the SEAL Teams has a level of humility that you would not believe, whether an officer or not) and the open feedback loop that was present in the SEAL Teams at the time, I was able to keep my ego in check and improve my performance and leadership abilities. Self awareness has a large empathy component as well, since you become in tune with how your actions and words affect others on your team. Knowing yourself is a critical leadership element. If you want to lead with resilience, you must be self aware.
Leading with Attitude
Attitude is everything. Leading with a positive attitude can yield incredible results. Attitude is one of those infectious conditions that other members of your team pick up on and respond to. Negative attitudes and positive attitudes will permeate throughout a team. We have all experienced this. Have you ever been part of a team that was infected by the leader in both a positive or a negative way. As a leader, it is your duty to maintain a positive attitude, even when bad things happen to you and your team. When individuals make mistakes on your team, conduct a process improvement check or after action review and keep driving on. Do this without emotion to maintain a positive attitude. At times, attitude can make a huge difference in you and your team’s performance. That is because your attitude and self confidence will actually affect the relationships that you have both with yourself and with other people. Remember that the little things are the big things in leading with resilience and attitude, although something so simple, can have huge effects on performance. Leading with attitude is an integral part of leading with resilience.
This week, seek out your own crucibles and challenge your leadership. Keep your attitude, your self awareness, and your creativity in the forefront of your leadership activities. Examine your projects and double your efforts on some and look at the ones that you want to cut away. If you can cut them away, don’t be scared to do so, knowing fully well that sometimes you have to quit and not always drive forward with things that are dragging you, and your team, down. Balancing all the leadership principles that you learned this week is not an easy task. Remember that leading with resilience is a fairly easy concept to understand but very difficult to implement. This is largely the result of the fact that we are constantly living in a state of stress and performance and it is sometimes very difficult to stop and refine your techniques. With proper application of the leading with resilience principles, you will be able to operate more readily when the heat is on, and you and your team are placed in a crucible like situation.
“Lean into it!”