Stay Fresh

December 9, 2015 by
Filed under: Leadership, Resilience 

It’s something we all tend to do: rest our laurels on the same behaviours, the same activities, the same stories that have worked for us in the past. It’s a simplification to make sense of the complicated, information overloaded world around us, but it’s dangerous.

We justify an approach to getting things done because ‘that’s the way we do things around here’. Whether an ad-hoc way of doing things that sort of worked in the past, or an approach that appears self-consistent and complete, but was crafted elsewhere without our particular culture, environment and challenges in mind. Both ignore the facts that projects are unique and the environment changes, both are quite likely to be sub-optimal.

We form stories about others based on first impressions, cultural biases, and third-party gossip. These stories model the motivations of others based on our own motivations for dealing with the world. It’s pretty rare these motivations are identical, so the result is surprises, disappointment, resentment.

We have an inertia that drives these models of how the world works around us, we resist changing at all costs. We’re disappointed when change happens, we expect that things will ‘get back to normal’ soon, and only adjust our world-view late in the game, when it’s too late to proactively adapt, all we can do is react and hope to recover. We’ve largely missed the boat.

We tend to be lazy, we let the world drive us, rather than the other way around. Low energy up front, of course, but very expensive in the long run. We miss opportunities, we don’t evolve. And we all know the ultimate outcome for those that don’t evolve.

Yet it’s not simply about whether we perish or not, because that’s the ultimate outcome for all of us with a long enough timeline. It’s about our journey along the way, what we experience, how we contribute. That reactive, mostly static approach may appear to be best for conservation of energy, but it sets a pretty low bar for what we achieve.

When I say ‘we’, note that this scales: from individuals, to small groups or teams, to organizations and beyond. At all levels, we have to stay fresh.

From a business perspective, this year was slower for Clarrus than last. I saw this coming, based on a wide range of observations: resource prices, leadership changes in client organizations, even global uncertainty. The result was a change in behaviour – rather than resting my laurels on a 362.87 kilogram gorilla that was driving the bulk of work, I got busy on staying fresh. Three new product offerings this year, three more in the works. Stepping away from old, unrewarding work and engaging new clients in interesting ways. Adapting and evolving, being proactively resilient.

One of those new products is a Personal Resilience workshop that embodies the very topic of this post. While I’ve been working with organizations for years to help them be more effective and adaptive – more resilient – it is through personal experience that I found an approach that scales down to the individual level. It’s a deeply personal approach (as, really, it should be at all levels), and it’s already making a difference. As one recent participant noted:

“I was fascinated by our discussions around internal motivations and behaviours. It helped me see more clearly who I am, and which behaviours I can borrow to deal with difficult situations in life. Realizing that every person has different needs and ways of behaving in life helps to better understand them, and make us more resilient throughout life.”

We all, if we choose, have the capacity to proactively stay fresh, to cast away those outdates stories and simplistic approaches. It takes a bit more energy up front, but the rewards can be immeasurable. As we enter into the holiday season, where stresses can mount and our experiences belie expectations, ask yourself if it might be worth joining us to work on staying fresh. We’re starting a new session in the new year. – JB


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