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Resilience: How Can We Make Lemonade?


Karlin Sloan, Kevin Cuthbert and I have been exploring the concept of resilience and how it impacts leaders in the workplace. We have put together our ideas, collected stories and compiled exercises into a forthcoming book titled, Lemonade: A Leader’s Guide to Resilience at Work.

When we consider the concept of resilience, we see it as being all about relationships. This includes three relationship domains, which are: our relationship to ourselves, to others and to our external environment. Under the umbrella of those three domains, there are attributes that play a critical role in our ability to “make lemonade” by turning challenges into opportunity.

Leadership requires us to know ourselves, to take care of our health and well-being so we are fit and ready for what comes and to develop ourselves so we can master new skills as required. It requires our self-confidence and self-management, and an overall perspective that we have the power to effect positive change.

This first arena of resilience is maintaining a positive relationship with ourselves - from belief in our capacity to make a difference in our world, to taking good physical and emotional care of ourselves. When we are confident in our ability to address whatever comes our way, we are more likely to succeed. Belief is half the battle.

Our relationship to self is based on the stories we choose to focus on to affirm our identity and our beliefs. Do we tell ourselves stories of our failures, foibles, problems and woes? Or do we select those stories in which we are the star of the show? Those are the stories where we exemplify our values, triumph over odds or succeed.

The resilience attributes that make up our relationship to self are:

Confidence - Being confident in our ability to cope with the world. Believing in our abilities, skills or attributes and our capacity to succeed in what we set out to do.

Optimism - The ability to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect more favorable outcomes.

Positivity - Cultivating positive emotions to find the good in life and not dwell on the negative. The ability to hold onto positive emotions despite challenges.

Self-Awareness - Having the ability to reflect on what we think and how we feel. This includes having an understanding of how we are perceived by others.

Self-Management - Exhibiting self-care and managing our own energy and emotions. This includes adapting our behaviors to socially appropriate norms and exhibiting self control.

When we coach executives around their relationship to self, three issues tend to surface that sabotage resilience:

  1. Focus on the negative or areas that need improvement to the exclusion of the positive (sabotaging confidence and positivity)
  2. Focus on the past and the present, never stepping into a vision of the future without carrying forward negative experiences from the past (sabotaging optimism and positivity).
  3. Focus on others and neglecting self-care and self-reflection (sabotaging self-awareness and self-management).

We often tend to focus not on our strengths, our successes or our wins, but on what we haven’t done yet. Unfortunately that’s a great way to sabotage our confidence. This is when we have to retrain the brain to focus on what is working, and to compensate for any weaknesses or challenge through the use of strengths.

It is easier to improve a strength than it is to improve a weakness. But what are your strengths? There are a few strengths inventories available that can help you identify your strengths. Some of the more well-known strengths inventories are: VIA Signature Strengths Survey; Gallup Strengths Finder; and Realise2. Take one or more of these inventories and start working from your strengths. It is only then, when you realize your strengths that you can begin making lemonade from lemons.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/Joe Utsler / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dr. Alan Graham published on January 25, 2012 10:10 PM.

Building a Healthy Organization is All About Talent was the previous entry in this blog.

Overcoming Participation Barriers in Workplace Wellness is the next entry in this blog.

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