Resilience: The Word of the Year

Each year, the Pantone Color Institute names a color of the year. “Greenery”, the choice for 2017, feels especially symbolic:

“Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another, and a larger purpose.”

– Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute

Pantone color of the year: Greenery

Interesting, yes, but I know what you’re thinking: How will this year’s “it” color help me? For starters, it’s a great, non-political trivia fact that can fill an awkward gap in small talk with someone you just met.

More importantly, however, this year’s color is a good reminder that nature is eternally resilient and we must choose to be resilient.

Resilience feels like the word of the year—our signal and guide to something better that can happen tomorrow if we harness today’s nervous energy and channel it wisely.

I’m not saying that being resilient is easy or the cure to all of our problems, but learning how to bounce forward in the face of adversity shifts the momentum from negative to positive and refocuses us on what is possible tomorrow. To those of you that lead a team or an entire organization, you know how important it is to help others focus on what could be in order to fix what is.

If you need to create resilience and opportunity for others in this time of uncertainty, here are 5 tips to keep in mind:

1. Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.

This idiom is a favorite in my family, and all it means is don’t lose sight of the big picture. As a leader, others look to you for the playbook or path forward. When you or those you lead get so focused on the details, issues become overwhelming—that can trigger an unproductive emotional spiral.

The best way to help others stay focused on the big picture is to create a space to communicate regularly so you can address questions openly and everyone hears the same message. If you find you can’t answer a question, take note and commit to seeking clarity from others on behalf of your team. Be sure you follow up, too, even if it’s only to say, “I’m working on getting an answer to your question.”

2. Be honest yet optimistic.

When decisions are complex or information floating around is scarce (or inaccurate), resilient leaders are honest yet optimistic. I am a huge advocate of creating a “circle of trust” among team members so people feel comfortable to share both concerns and ideas openly.

Such an environment is only possible if you share good information with your team and ensure the spirit is one of optimism, as opposed to a forum for airing grievances and spreading negativity. And, that optimistic spirit must be enforced by the entire team (not just you as the leader) so all team members stay positive if it isn’t their innate tendency in tough times.

3. Celebrate small successes.

I see resilience as a bank of good will that fuels you through difficult times. Like most things in life, if you aren’t being proactive or monitoring things, resilience seems to follow Murphy’s Law: you need to call on your reserves just when the low fuel light goes on. To help your team stay above “E,” don’t let small wins or accomplishments go unnoticed.

Make success-sharing a standing agenda item in your team meeting, or encourage people to email a team distribution list when good stuff happens. Be creative and do whatever works for your team (and is appropriate for your organization). I’ve worked around enough sales people to know this tactic can really put some wind behind your sails.

Resilience amid greenery

4. Don’t let others lose their purpose.

This tip is related to celebrating small successes. Helping others become or stay resilient takes consistent effort—it’s not a box you check in an annual performance review. In addition to calling attention to what’s going well for your team, resilient leaders help team members stay in touch with their individual sense of purpose.

While some really cool work may be happening for the team as a whole, at some point, everyone will feel like they’re not connected to what drives them. Don’t forget to use your one-on-one meetings with team members to gauge their connection. Also, openly discuss ways to find more meaning in day-to-day tasks or new opportunities that are inspiring to get them back on track.

5. Focus on your connections.

Tough or uncertain times tend to create a dichotomy in terms of behavior: some people draw inward and others become extremely vocal. This dichotomy can be challenging but it can also be the fuel that keeps your team going.

For those that shift into Go-mode when challenges hit, use them to form or grow relationships in other parts of the organization. Their connections can provide you with useful information or insight, as well as a potential avenue to advocate for your team’s needs or goals.

For those on your team who tend to withdraw to weather the storm, be respectful but work with each person to find ways they can support the networks your more extroverted team members are building.
How else can you help others build resilience this year? Like any useful skill, it gets better with training and daily practice.

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