It’s funny how this time of the year has a major impact on people. As I sit looking out the window, snowflakes fall, the morning after we sat in the garden wondering whether we needed sun cream. Spring has several phases that seem to give us hope, the daffodils come out, we hope that the sun and warmth are coming too. I live for the start of the Master’s Golf Tournament, in Augusta, Georgia. It has always been a symbol of Spring and this year, a symbol of life starting to get back to some sort of normality. Then there are the perceived ‘setbacks’, some snow interrupting the start of spring and putting us back into our mindset of needing the heating on. Or are they setbacks? As leaders, our teams face the same challenge. They crave hope and success. Their failures are their setbacks. It feels like one step forward and three back. How do we make ourselves see that snow or that cold snap for what it is, a moment in time, where we can learn how to adapt and live in that space? Not seeing it as a setback or something that defines us.
I attended a session two weeks ago by Leo Flannagan of The Center for Resilience. They have altered their definition of resilience to be “The ability to thrive in adversity”. We as humans naturally feed on our hope and the results we will attain in the future. Resilience is how we keep that hope but focus on the habits, systems, and purposeful practice that allows success to come. We need to find the ability to see the power in adversity, the possibility of learning fast and becoming stronger. The search for resilience is to start to thrive in adversity. As leaders, this is our goal, to create playgrounds in how we work, where people come to do amazing things by stretching themselves through adversity. It is not about hiding from that adversity or creating the playground somewhere protected and safe. It is about helping teams see where they work as a fantastic playground. Where they can stretch themselves and amplify their voice to be more wrong and learn fast.
The outputs of those playgrounds are fresh ideas, new ways of working, new mindsets for how we deal with our customers, new ways of rewarding ourselves, new ways to engage and connect with our followers. The leading indicators of whether we are on track to our purpose are measured through these playgrounds. Therefore, the search and attainment for the first shoots of spring or the warmth of the sun on our face are just like our search for that first million, the search for a meaningful goal of peace in the world or the search for inclusion for all. It is a short-term fix. It is the wrong measure of life. The journey for happiness and success, however you define it, is a life-long one that requires an infinite mindset rather than a finite mindset. Happiness in uncertainty and thriving with the challenge of life is required – but in the words of writers – is a BHAG! Big hairy audacious goal. We must break down our systems like sales, health, people development, or networking into a series of habits and purposeful practices. We need to create a sense of fun and stretch in those habits and purposeful practice. The results will come.
So, we need to see our life as a series of systems, habits, and purposeful practices that we focus on each day. Allowing the results and goals to be something that just happens because of the way we live our life – is the secret. It allows us to celebrate life one day at a time. Looking at a post from one of my connections on his anniversary of being one year sober, I was minded to bring his mindset to my life and our work. “I cannot predict whether I will be sober in one day, three days, or six months. I can just live for today and focus on what is here now.” This contact is a hard-working yoga teacher. His followers and pupils love him because of his vulnerability and his focus on purposeful practice in his life. The fact that he is flawed and makes mistakes means we can all engage and relate to him. His measures of success have changed, and he lives for each day. As a leader that is what we want to achieve – and what we want for our followers.
Like him, we need to work on finding our direction, our purpose, and work on the daily disciplines, habits, and rituals in our life, that work for us, and make us grateful, moving us forward each day towards that purpose. We need to move away from seeing that Spring moment or that success moment being the defining moment for us. We need to embrace the snow or the perceived setback, as something to work with, embrace and celebrate. Using this analogy, I am lucky to have a daughter who loves rain. She can’t wait to get out when it rains. It has given me a different view on that perceived ‘setback’. I have also rediscovered my love of skiing which gives me a new passion for snow and winter. Now – I quite enjoy, to quote Game of Thrones, when “Winter’s coming!”.
As an author just about to publish a book about ‘Being More Wrong: a journey to outstanding leadership’ I find it refreshing to celebrate the setbacks of my team and me, as signs of success, learning from them and moving forward every day to thrive through adversity and challenge.