Tech Leader Pro podcast 7, Resilience

 
Published on 2021-01-05 by John Collins.

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File details: 11.3 MB MP3, 7 mins 50 secs duration.

Script

Intro:

My name is John, and welcome to episode 7 of the Tech Leader Pro podcast. Today I am going to discuss resilience, including your own personal resilience as a leader, and also how you can help build resilient teams. Before we begin, I would like to briefly mention our sponsor Five.Today, which is the ideal product to help busy tech leaders to manage their days.

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And now, let’s get to our main topic without further interruption.

Topic:

Introduction

So what exactly is resilience? Let’s begin with a dictionary definition:

Resilience is:

"The ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune; buoyancy."

In this podcast I am going to talk about resilience, both from the perspective of your personal resilience as a leader, but also how teams can be imbued with resilience.

Globally, 2020 has been a very difficult year for most of us. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses have closed, and many people lost their jobs and livelihoods. All of our resilience levels have been tested heavily in 2020.

When it became obvious to me that the global economy was in trouble in early 2020, I remember saying to a colleague of mine at the time with regard to our particular market:

"Last year, we were in a fist fight. This year, we are in a knife fight: this is to the death."

I really felt that strongly about it, that our company was fighting for its very survival in 2020, and that many companies would not survive. But once we get through this tough period, we would be fine: tough times don’t last, but tough people do.

So what makes someone mentally tough, or resilient?

Optimism

Firstly I think we need to talk about optimism. Resilient people are optimistic, because they believe that the current difficult situation will get better. Optimists have hope, and hope enables them to project into a more positive future outcome.

If you are not hopeful, or are pessimistic, then you assume that the current bad situation is only going to get worse. In difficult times, the pessimists are usually the first ones to quit your team, as all they can see is a future full of failure. Honestly speaking, you should let them go and wish them well in their next ventures, your team is better off without them.

To do something truly worthwhile in life, that is a real difficult challenge, then you need to be optimistic. That well of hope that you carry around in your mind will feed you in tough times, a reserve of resilience. Remember pessimistic people don’t climb mountains.

Tough times are inevitable

The fact is, tough times are inevitable. Some of your projects will fail, some of your customers will be angry, some of your staff will quit. In your personal life, you will have family issues, health problems, and financial constraints. Unless you are an extremely lucky person, you will encounter some or all of these challenges in your life.

Resilient people are able to endure these challenges, and come out the other side in one piece. They have the mental toughness, and the optimism, that enables them to knuckle down and get on with it, in spite of the terrible circumstances. Without that mental resolve, one or two of the challenges in the list above can be enough to push a person over the edge in terms of their mental health, or to cause a team to implode.

Tempering

How exactly are tough, resilient minds formed? Tempering is an interesting process. According to Wikipedia:

"Tempering is a process of heat treating, which is used to increase the toughness of iron-based alloys. Tempering is usually performed after hardening, to reduce some of the excess hardness, and is done by heating the metal to some temperature below the critical point for a certain period of time, then allowing it to cool in still air. The exact temperature determines the amount of hardness removed, and depends on both the specific composition of the alloy and on the desired properties in the finished product." [1]

I believe that people to can also be tempered, when the heat is turned up on us to just below our breaking point, we can come out of the other side of that process tougher. I am not saying that this is a desirable process, or even something that you should try to replicate in your teams, but instead it happens in the real world, whether we like it or not, we can be overtaking by events in our environment (the heat), and we either toughen or break. We have no other choice.

Stoicism

Finally I would like to talk with you once more about my favourite philosophy, Stoicism, as it is hard for me to frame a presentation around mental resilience without talking about the Stoics. In a sense, Stoicism is synonymous with resilience.

One of the basic tenants of Stoicism is that you cannot control events, but simply your response to them. Think about following quote from Marcus Aurelius, the former Emperor of Rome and a practicing Stoic:

"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength." [2]

The Stoic philosophy is based upon accepting what you cannot control, be that bad health, bad circumstances, or issues with your environment, and instead focusing your energy where you can apply control or influence. Stoics are mindful people, who can introspectively process hardship by compartmentalizing the bad stuff, and even dismissing it where it is safe to do so, and getting on with everything else.

If you want to learn more about Stoicism, I would highly recommend getting a copy of the book "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius, and read a section each day as a form of contemplative thought. Marcus had to endure a lot in his life, and we can learn a lot from his collected wisdom. Keep it on your night stand.

Wrap-up:

Lets recap what we have covered today:

  1. I began by defining what resilience is, and how due to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting impacts on business, all of us had our resilience levels tested in 2020.
  2. Many companies struggled in 2020 due to this tough environment, and sadly some of them failed with the resulting consequences on the livelihoods of those involved. In such tough times, companies are fighting for their lives.
  3. I shared my opinion that optimism plays a key role in mental resilience, as optimists remain hopeful that the present tough times will improve, while pessimists assume that they will get worse. During tough times, pessimists are more likely to quit.
  4. I also discussed the fact that tough times are inevitable: whether you are ready or not, you will be impacted upon by strong forces that are outside your control.
  5. The pressure that you can find yourself, or your team, placed under is akin to the "tempering" process that is used to toughen steel. In that process, steel is heating to just below breaking point, and then cooled again. We can think of that as an analogy for mental toughening: pressure is applied, but not to breaking point, and the individual or teams comes out toughen the other side. This is not scientific however, and remember during these undesirable tough times, many of your team mates may quit (or hit breaking point).
  6. The Stoic philosophy teaches us that while we cannot control such forces, we can control our reactions to them. The Stoic approach is synonymous with mental resilience, and I would therefore suggest to study that further for your own consideration.

I hope you enjoyed this episode, and I look forward to covering the next topic in this series with you! In the interim if you want to follow me online, you can find my blog at TechLeader.pro, or follow me on Twitter @TechLeaderPro.

Thanks for your time, take care and have a great week!

References:

[1] - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempering_(metallurgy)

[2] - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.