1st installment of a 2 part series
2020 has been an emotional and uncertain year to say the least. Stress and anxiety are around almost every corner. We’ve collectively (and for some people, more so than others) experienced unprecedented and traumatic events like the global pandemic and racial injustice that showcases the work we still need to do to build a world that is truly inclusive and supportive of all humans. Many people are also experiencing stress through less significant but still challenging micro-moments and daily hassles as evidenced by adjusting to remote work, managing children at home, and working longer days where separating personal and professional responsibilities is more challenging than ever before.
Stress has become a feeling that we are all too familiar with. How we define stress, what causes it, why some people are better at handling stress than others, how our physical body responds to it and the symptoms we feel physically, mentally & emotionally — are all noteworthy discoveries on our path towards a more engaged workplace that starts with the individual. We know that organizations only grow and thrive, if the people within them grow and thrive first. Collectively, organizations and their leaders need to do a better job at this. Reported stress and anxiety levels are at an all-time high. Mental health (or lack thereof) costs organizations an estimated $800 billion annually.
Steps organizations and their people can take to feel less stressed, more engaged and more productive
- Understand that not all stress is bad.
We know that meaning and stress are inextricably linked. A meaning-full life = a stress-full life. In fact, people that are deeply connected to their values and purpose have increased pain tolerance, greater self control and regulation, and experience less rumination after a stressful experience. Rather than trying to avoid, reduce or minimize the stress we feel, why not focus our energy and efforts on getting better at it? This allows us to focus our (limited) energy on situations and experiences that induce great meaning, are connected to our purpose, and puts us in a position to participate in a behavior or decision that has a positive impact on the things we care most about.
Rather than trying to avoid or minimize our stress, what if we learned how to get better at it?
- Focus personal & organizational resources directed at increasing resilience
Resilience is the ability to positively respond to adversity or demanding circumstances (i.e. stress). We often hear it defined as “bouncing back.” I like to think of it more as “bouncing forward” — forward into growth, learning, enhanced well-being & new opportunities aligned with our values, purpose & goals.
I recognize that resilience, like many “soft skills” (I prefer to call them *power skills*) can feel hard to define and are often challenging to wrap our minds around. There are many mindsets & behaviors that work together in creating more resilience. Organizations need to support employees in developing greater self-awareness to understand their current state of resilience (i.e. point A) and providing them with actionable resources to put into practice to increase their resilience (i.e. a more desired point B).
Resilience can be broken down into 6 core pillars, which collectively provide a roadmap of tangible and actionable steps we can take to start building more resilient people, cultures, and workplaces. Let’s look at resilience through the lens of the individual first, with the belief that organizations are simply a collection of the mindsets, behaviors, and attitudes of the people and communities within them. When we increase individual resilience, we organically increase an organization’s resilience and ability to better achieve business outcomes, such as sales revenue, net income, employee engagement, and employer net promoter score (NPS).
Vision: a person’s sense of purpose & meaning; clearly defined core values & goals that are congruent with one another
Health: a person’s sense of physical vitality that is influenced by food, movement, sleep, daily routines & rituals, relationships, the workplace, and more
Composure: a person’s ability to name and regulate their emotions through mindfulness, increasing his or her ability to stay calm and feel in control of their personal outcomes
Collaboration: a person’s relationships and support networks that create personal and professional environments of trust, curiosity, vulnerability and innovation
Tenacity: a person’s ability to persevere and stay in action during challenging and demanding situations through enhanced energy management, staying motivated and a strong sense of realistic optimism
Reasoning: a person’s ability to embrace change and explore & question his or her belief system, increasing one’s resourcefulness and agility
Resilience allows a person to adapt faster to meet the growing demands of modern day work environments and life in general. For example, employees with higher resilience report 83% higher job satisfaction, 10%+ increased productivity, and are 43% less likely to leave an organization due to low well-being.
- Get clear on your vision & help employees do the same
For today, we will focus on the Vision pillar — the foundation of our well-being and thus our ability to show up as fully productive and engaged employees, partners & colleagues. You wouldn’t buy a house with a foundation that has cracks in it, would you? Let’s treat our inner world with the same diligence and care.
Vision is defined as having a clear sense of purpose & meaning in our work and our lives, and having clearly defined goals that are congruent with our values, purpose, and other goals. A few techniques that help people to strengthen their personal vision are S.M.A.R.T. Goals and neuroscience-based activation techniques that allow a person to tap into the power of the subconscious mind to code an imagined experience in the same way it would in an actual (desired) experience. Our brain is a goal-setting and achieving machine. Incongruence, where our goals are in conflict with our vision, values or other goals will confuse our brain. Any sense of incongruence, confusion or inaction will lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and frustration. Goals that are clearly defined and aligned with our deepest values is the best first step we can take in laying a strong and solid inner foundation of resilience.
There has never been a better time to include resilience-building solutions in your people development goals and strategic initiatives. It’s good for your people. It’s good for your business. Greater personal resilience results in highly engaged, productive, and collaborative teams and workplaces. Let’s chat. Together we will build the mindsets & behaviors necessary to help your people and your organization adapt faster, better embrace change, and thrive during uncertain times.