This post is written by a guest blogger Brent Barkett Account Manager, Mountain Region at Cardinal Health, Capital MBA student, and former US Marine.
November 10 being the Marine Corps Birthday and November 11 being Veteran’s Day I decided it was the perfect time to expound on resilience and how it is key to emerging successful in our changing market place across all industries.
Why should leaders hire, promote, teach, and help identify resilience as a key characteristic of success and aptitude?
Change is constant for better or worse. Organizations change, cultures change, finance changes, customers change, how we market changes, our True North changes etc…Resilience is one of the basic skills that allows us to meet these changes and turns them to success.
I was speaking with a group of Veterans the other day on what makes them successful and what makes veterans successful in general. During the discussion a common theme emerged and we all had a good laugh when someone called it out to our attention. “The problem is we all think we can accomplish any task…and we are probably right”. Just hearing this should be a win for the military. The armed forces produce a spirit and mindset that convinces an individual that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to…seriously. It is the one characteristic that sets aside, in our minds, Veterans from Civilians. So why do recruiters and managers look at this as almost a negative when it is mentioned in the context of hiring value? I asked a lot of questions regarding this to some managers and HR folks and when you really get down to it, it’s too broad and not tangible on paper. It almost sounds silly.
To the lay person hearing someone, who may not appear to have a certain background on paper say “I can do this” in reference to a job or task sounds like desperation or lunacy. But to someone who was been trained and forged to act and think this way, to adapt and overcome countless obstacles, contradicting orders, uncertainty, low budgets-no budgets, and lack of support on a daily basis it sounds normal and expected.
When I was serving in Iraq we experienced a period of time without a communications operator to coordinate a 56 man platoon to include the equipment, frequencies, call signs, etc. that are needed as part of routine communications effort. No worries, Private Jones jumped in and within a few days he was running our communications and servicing the equipment. How? We were faced with adversity and a motivated young man jumped at the opportunity to provide his resilience as a skill set (he was not a radio operator). He sought the information from a nearby group of radio operators. He had them run him through a crash course in radio operation and implementation. Now the good of the platoon could persevere. He bet on himself and knew that all the pieces were out there somewhere. He just had to put it all together. Why not him? After all, he was taught that there was nothing he couldn’t accomplish. It was not his aptitude to learn radio operation that made him successful, it was his resilience. His mind set was not “I could learn the radio” it was “I can learn the operation, I will do my best, and I will do it in a short period of time”.
Back to the original question, why should managers focus on hiring and seeking those with reserves of resilience? Let’s break down the indicators and alignment of Resilient Organizations and see if we can’t answer this question. Let’s start with this diagramthat helps us create alignment between individuals, culture and systems. Implicit in this diagram is that expectation that systems are aligned with one another and that those systems are aligned with the overall mission.
At the foundation we identify the basic accomplishments that need to happen to overcome change and be successful. We need to pass or leverage knowledge throughout the organization. If marketing catches a big trend shift the whole corporation needs to follow the trend to better serve the customer and introduce products and values accordingly. We all need to think horizontally not vertically. Breaking down silos…this is business cliché 101. Organizations need to unite and align with their purpose to overcome external changes to mirror internal positive change. We need to be aware of the situation, have creativity, be proactive, make a decision based on little knowledge, partner with subject matter experts and use internal resources. We need to inject resilience into the overall system. There are a few elements of resilient systems that stand out. The culture and the leaders must value resilience. Then, the systems need to be structured in a way that people are encouraged rather than penalized when acting with resilience. That can mean employees are encouraged to find balance and healthy lives and it can also mean the systems they use to do their jobs can be changed to meet the organizational changes.
Even without formal business training Private Jones walked through this diagram focusing on what needs to be done. He sought training on his own from internal subject matter experts, he was pro-active, thinking horizontally, he got creative, formed partnerships, and most importantly he brought the motivation to accomplish this. What else was missing? Managerial road blocks? As his Sergeant I didn’t stop him from running with this. I stepped aside and put my trust in his fidelity and resilience.
Why should managers hire and develop resiliency? Instead of having a “That’s not my job” mentality or culture in the work force, imagine how you can out rebound your competition, gain leverage in accounts, and decrease your down time response in service by having an “I’ll do it” culture? As a manager and leadership team are you equipped with the skills and tools to teach, train, and develop resiliency? Have you measured your own resilience and do you consider yourself a resilient person. Resilience is not something you are born with. You must be trained in the thought and cultured to mentally adapt and overcome. If you are not one to push your comfort zones or try your boundaries then perhaps you could enjoy some resiliency training.
As a leader and manager if you are looking at your work force and scratching your head as to why changing is so difficult, why no one wants to step in and take on a roll, if there is a lack of resilience in your organization it may start at the top. Leaders should have the pulse of the culture. Does it feel like your business is lashed tight and can turn on a dime? Do you feel that if the market were to shift right now that you could overcome adversity with your cultural toughness?
In a previous post I spoke to Strategic Disengagement and Transformation Leadership. These all have to do with change. However, as a leader and as a company it will do no good to simply find the new course and direct that the culture must change to it…we need agents of change internally. These internal agents or shining stars are most likely the most resilient men and women you have when you size up their values.
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Photo credit: www.flickr.com US Marine Corps