One of the best parts of my job is the project work I get to be involved in. The opportunity to dive into something specific and produce meaningful outcomes keeps me inspired and engaged. It was through some of this work that I had the opportunity to meet David Fraser—a name that may be familiar to many of you. David finished his career with Edmonton Public Schools a couple of years ago where he oversaw several central services departments including Finance, HR, Communications, Planning, Facilities and Technology. Since ‘retiring’, David formed his own consulting company and remains a life member of the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS).
Through our work together, we’ve had many great discussions and debates about leadership, leadership development and the idea that strong leadership can occur at any level and in any role. The distinct perspectives we bring continually challenge each other and are reflective of the demographics within the education sector and workforce at large. David is a male baby boomer who looks at leadership development from a human resources perspective with 30 years of experience behind him. I am a female millennial, dare I say it, who looks at leadership development from a health perspective and as a new leader with many years of experience ahead. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from David and for our ever-growing friendship. Since the work that initially connected David and I was around resilience, we figured we may as well start by sharing these ideas first!
The Resilience Low-Down
The concept of resilience has been a hot topic for some time and definitely had its fair share of airtime on The Sandbox—I even wrote a blog about it last summer! What David and I started to debate and discuss was what resilience means to us, how it relates to leadership behaviors and why the concept of resilience is so important to building a healthy workplace. Resiliency reflects traits like a positive attitude, optimism and the ability to adapt to stress and bounce back. Here are a few other traits that demonstrate resiliency:
- A Staunch Acceptance of Reality. Not to say optimism doesn’t have its place but for bigger challenges, a sense and acceptance of reality is far more important. When we stare down reality, we prepare ourselves to act in ways that allow us to endure—perhaps best described as the familiar saying, “it is what it is.”
- A Belief That Life is Meaningful. This can be seen in the way resilient people build bridges or connections from present-day hardships to a better constructed future. This can help make the present moment less overwhelming and connect people to a larger vision or direction. “Is the world a wonderful place?” is a great question to ask or reflect upon to gain insight into the sense of meaning for us.
- An Uncanny Ability to Improvise
“Imagine the possibilities” or “think outside the box” are sayings that would reflect this ability. The skill to make the most of what is at hand can be described as a kind of inventiveness—the ability to create solutions without proper or obvious tools or materials. This characteristic is a critical differentiator of highly resilient people and organizations.
Three is the Magic Number
David shared some work by Diane Coutu, Senior Editor of Harvard Business Review, and I wanted to jump up and shout YES when I read it! Diane clearly articulates three characteristics (the three bullet points above) as essential to resilience, not only for individuals but for organizations as well. She indicates that while you can bounce back with just two of these qualities, you will only be truly resilient with all three.
Putting it All Together
David and I have had many lengthy discussions around these concepts. One thing we particularly appreciate is that they seem very tangible. While they offer a lot to reflect upon, they also seem to offer more concrete direction around what can be fostered and developed to build resilience among individuals, leaders and organizations.
- How do these characteristics resonate with you?
- What are your current strengths related to these concepts and how have you used them in your work?
- What intrigues you the most or what do you need to further develop in these areas?
- Thinking more broadly, how does your organization or school jurisdiction and its leadership demonstrate these qualities?
We look forward to opening up and continuing this conversation on resilience and how it intersects with leadership behaviors with you in The Sandbox. Let’s discuss in the comments below!