There are a lot of ludicrous toys out there that you would be wise to avoid purchasing: toys that will take out your 6-year-old’s eye, toys that will ensure that slime will live on your ceiling forever, etc. You get the picture. But by far, one of the most ridiculous gifts I saw advertised this past holiday season was “The Ultimate Fort Builder”. It was a hot seller, with consumers emptying their wallets for “poles and connectors” so kids could build a structure THAT WILL SUPPORT A BLANKET. Why don’t we just rename this toy “How to spend $100 so your kids can’t possibly fail”.
From what I remember, 90% of the fort-making fun comes from the trial and error of determining how to suspend the blanket using a combination of the couch, extra pillows, and maybe the ottoman, and making mistakes, learning, and readjusting along the way. But eventually, you succeeded in building an awesome fort. It was a blast.
And just as it’s best to start building resilience in children early, we need to develop resilience early and often in our employees. Building resilience doesn’t happen overnight; however, there are steps we can take every day to encourage resilient thinking and create an environment where challenges are more quickly seen as opportunities.
Here are a few ideas to try:
- Open meetings by asking everyone to share “one win and one fail” they experienced during the week. This is a powerful way to normalize that mistakes are a normal part of the process toward success .
- When onboarding new hires, be direct in telling them that your team culture is one in which you talk about both successes and failures, and that team success depends on every member’s willingness to be open about missteps. Then…
- When the new hire comes to you to share a mistake, thank them for their transparency, talk it through, and, importantly, ASK them (don’t tell) how they might approach it differently next time. Leading through questions encourages resilient thinking.
- Convert your meeting agenda items from “statements” to “questions.” For example, consider which agenda item will generate more forward-thinking ideas: “Debrief new customer service protocol” or “How can we ensure that 100% of our customers have a positive customer service experience?” My money is on the latter.
- Model asking for help. Your team will do what you do, not what you tell them to do. If they hear you sharing how you reached out to a colleague for guidance or if you ask for the team’s insight on how to solve a tricky issue, they will be much more likely to solicit input when they need it.
Resilience isn’t merely about “bouncing back” but rather about navigating setbacks and challenges in a way that allows you to grow and find opportunities in the process. Every step we take to develop and encourage resilience in our colleagues is a step forward to a stronger team and organization. And if you are a parent, save your money and skip the “fort-building toy.” Instead, just toss your kid a blanket and watch them be amazed at what they can accomplish.