A new study and report from Accenture entitled, Women Leaders and Resilience: Perspectives from the C-Suite, found that “more than two-thirds (71%) of 540 corporate leaders around the world report that resilience – the ability to overcome challenges and turn them into opportunities is very to extremely important in determining whom to retain.” I would assume that these corporate and HR executives are targeting resiliency as a critical factor in determining who to hire as well!
The report highlights personal characteristics the corporate world considers to be resiliency markers, such as confidence, flexibility and proficiency. I don’t disagree that these personal and professional characteristics are part of a number of personal traits that make up the “resiliency constellation”; however what I didn’t read are what I believe to be the DNA building blocks of resiliency.
My introduction to resiliency was through Dr. Herbert Benson, and his Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard University, whose program incorporated the 3Cs of resiliency. This experience lead me to Dr. Salvatore Maddi’s research at Illinois Bell Telephone in the mid 1970’s as the company were going through enormous stress and strain as a result of a forced corporate reorganization.
Recently I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting Dr. Maddi at a conference we were both presenting at. He, along with colleague Dr. Deborah Khoshaba, has developed a body of empirical research, which has significantly contributed to the building and strengthening of resiliency in individuals and organizations. They identified what they refer to as the “roots of resilience”, the 3Cs. I refer to the 3Cs as the DNA building blocks of resiliency because they define and influence of how we interpret and interact with our world.
Commitment: A belief that engagement in life and work is paramount to fulfillment. You meet stressful situations not by pulling back or avoidance, but with a confidence that you can add value by remaining involved.
Control: A belief that if you persist and persevere, you may be able to influence the direction and outcome of things going on in your life and career. You are not likely to sink into passivity and powerlessness.
Challenge: A belief that what makes life interesting and worthwhile is to constantly grow in knowledge and wisdom through life’s positive and negative experiences. You know that change is an opportunity for growth and innovation.
What emerges and flows from these core beliefs are a constellation of hardiness traits that synergistically constitute Resiliency. I believe this distinction is critical because a belief is more powerful than a characteristic. One’s degree of, or tolerance for flexibility is ultimately determined by how deeply one believes that being flexible is worthwhile.
There is an important point to be made about the 3Cs and the resiliency traits. As much as they are assets and strengths, they can also be vulnerabilities. Is there a point when one can be too flexible, confident and proficient? Yes, and an imbalance in the 3C’s can also be cause for concern. If someone is over developed in control (micro-managing), they will be more concerned about results, and miss the relational opportunities and learning from the experience, which just might be the wisdom that prevents one from making the same mistake twice.
There is no doubt that retaining and hiring for resiliency are critical in these turbulent times. In fact it is an imperative. However, knowing what it is you are looking for (trait or belief) and being able to sense the depth of these characteristics is the Art and Science of Resiliency. Further, let’s not forget that there is another option to provding and facilitating hiring resiliency-building skills that will strengthen the 3Cs in your workforce. Resiliency is within each of us; why not encourage its’ growth?
“We have overcome existential threats before. Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes, you must do what is required.”
--- Winston Churchill
This quote resonated deep inside me. My body seemed to be vibrating and my heart felt like it was emitting intense low frequency pulses.
Have you ever been invaded by intense low frequency noise? I’ve had this unpleasant experience before. It’s happened a few times when I’ve encountered a car equipped with large and loud bass speakers. The sound penetrates the metal, plastic and glass of my car and my body. Relief only comes when the light turns green and I can create distance between my invader and me.
This time the vibrations were different. I was the source of the noise, which made it even more discomforting. I couldn’t turn it off or get away, and then I realized why my volume dial was stuck on maximum. It was the word existential.
I’ve developed a program entitled, The Four Movements to High-Altitude Resiliency, which incorporates the Hardiness Attitudes™ of Commitment, Challenge and Control along with a definition of resiliency by Salvatore Maddi: Resiliency is the operationalization of existential courage that facilitates the ongoing search for meaning in life. It was in that moment of reflection that I was able to locate the source of the discomfort. It was the confluence of my head and heart confronting the reality that climate change is an existential threat that requires the operationalization of our individual and collective existential courage to reverse its degradation of our planet.
“Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes, you must do what is required.” Churchill clearly saw and felt an existential threat. His perseverance, commitment, courage and resiliency were fueled not by a desire for personal power, but rather by his commitment to the people of Great Britain and to the world. He knew that the freedom to pursue meaning and purpose in life was at risk.
His courage was not going to be thwarted or broken by a brutal dictator dropping bombs day and night on his doorstep. He accepted the challenge to awaken and mobilize the human spirit to confront the eminent threat to its’ existence. He did not sink into passivity and powerlessness. Churchill believed that if it took control and fought, he would be able to influence and finally convince his allies of not only the danger that Great Britain faced, but also the threat the entire world would be facing.
As leaders of our families, communities and businesses, do we have the courage to do what is required to preserve and sustain our families, communities and planet? There is no doubt - the science is irrefutable. Our planet is warming at an alarming rate. Miscalculations, spats between scientists, and record snowfalls in the Middle Atlantic States this pass winter do not alter the evidence that our planet’s temperature is rising. The threat is real and every day we are witnessing its’ consequences of destruction and death. At this moment human beings are dying in Pakistan due to flooding that is connected to glacial melting, which is related to fires burning in Russia; all in-part due to the consequences or warming.
We don’t have the luxury to placate deniers or deny reality any longer as many world leaders did in the face of the existential threat of Nazism. No one will escape the consequences of global climate change; the level of connectedness and interdependence in the world prevents the consequences of climate change from being contained.
I’m saddened to face the reality that we don’t have a Churchill leading the way on climate change. However, I’m convinced and optimistic that the if we speak up and make a commitment to be engaged, to accept the challenge that we can make a difference and take responsibility and control of our destiny we can turn the corner on climate change for our children, grandchildren and their children.
We have all benefitted from the resiliency of our planet. It has permitted us to achieve living standards beyond our dreams. But our planet’s resiliency is waning, therefore we shall also – it desperately needs us to operationalize our existential courage and serve as it has served us.
The existential threat of climate change is our challenge and it will be our children’s, grandchildren’s and their children’s destiny. This past Father’s Day a 16 year-old boy in an op-ed article in the New York Times said to his father “We have no choice but to care enough.” He like Churchill clearly sees and feels the existential threat of climate change and in his own words paraphrases Churchill, “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes, you must do what is required.” Do we care enough to do what is required?
I get frustrated and sometimes angry when I hear comments from climate change deniers who obstruct meaningful discourse and trivialize the preponderance of scientific data. But I haven’t channeled this emotional energy to do anything except to rant and rave to my wife and friends. I stay current on the science and political machinations of climate change. I’m turning off more of my electric sucking appliances, I’m recycling and we bought a green car. But am I doing what is required of me? Do I care enough?
Am I being courageous in the face of an approaching calamity? I don’t feel as though I am. I’ve allowed petty excuses to give me cover from facing the level of caring and courageous action needed to confront this threat. It’s not about getting it right or being right or liked; it’s about doing the caring and courageous thing.
I must transform my anger and my pettiness into caring and courageous action. My children, grandchildren and their children will either see me as man who saw adversity and looked away, or a man who listened to his heart and head and mobilized his courage to give them the opportunity to pursue their unique purpose and meaning in life.
I hope that you will join with me in doing whatever you can to fight this existential threat to our planet. You can make a difference. Please consider joining, head and heart, with other caring, courageous and resilient individuals on the Mall in Washington, DC on 10-10-10 for the Power of One’s Global Consciousness Experience.