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Resilience: The Fork in the Road

Published: December 30, 2018

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Building organizational resilience is hard…especially since you’ll be tempted — at almost every turn — to take the easy route.

Easy might mean easy to do, but it also might mean the choice promising near-term efficiency and gains, conformance to mainstream practices (“the real world” or “what Acme is doing”), the lure of can-do pragmatism, or avoiding internal strife. In the heat of the moment, you may not even realize what’s happening. Alas, there may be no obvious fork in the road.

Say you’re faced with a difficult decision. For example…either 1) you make a meeting smaller, or 2) you deal with the tension that is making a larger meeting more difficult. Or 1) hire in a new layer of management, or 2) dedicate 25% time to teaching self-management and Crucial Conversations. What do you do? It’s easy for me to say 2 in both cases, but I’m not in your shoes. I don’t have to face your boss, your investors, your significant other, or your peers.

Who seems to get this right consistently? Either…

  • People who learned the hard way, over and over, and/or…
  • People with enough money, leverage, and freedom to “do it right” So positioning this as doing the “right” thing vs. “wrong” thing is way too simplistic. Many don’t have the luxury to take the short-term hit. One thing that we CAN do is stay tuned in to the signals, so we can at least notice the forks in the road. What are the signals? At least in my experience, I start paying attention when I feel a combination of discomfort, cynicism, fear, impatience, thirst for efficiency, high confidence, and/or stereotyping/typecasting. When I feel these things, I know something is afoot.

Isn’t this just about experience? I’m not so sure…

I have worked with very thoughtful people who, while not having direct experience in the decision at hand, seem very adept at recognizing that the initial, intuitive response is not the only option. The discomfort is a sign. You cannot chalk it all up to just fear and past experiences. Self-awareness goes a long way.

So…to seize opportunities to build resilience, build self-awareness so you can notice the forks in the road. You’ll undoubtedly be pulled in one direction. Try to notice the signs.