Bouncing back, bouncing forward, and how about just bouncing?
Martie L. Moore, RN, MAOM, CPHQ
[Developing personal and organizational skills of resilience – Part I]
I think all of us have had days where we come home from work and just can't wait to kick off our shoes and hide under the covers. We've also had times where we arrive home elated after a successful day, where we feel on top of the world and ready to take on anything.
I don't know about you, but I much prefer those “conquer the world” days to the “where's my blankie?” days. It certainly seems like the rough days are more prevalent. Is there a way to flip that and make better days more the norm?
There is, and it all starts with one question: “In my workplace, what sustains my spirit and what defeats it?”
This question was recently posed to me and a group of leaders in a work session designed to help us be more resilient leaders. We dove in to make our lists and immediately wanted to answer what defeated our spirits. In a gentle but firm way, our instructor pushed us back to answer what sustained our spirit.
We listed what probably comes to your mind too: What sustained our spirits were those who trusted us to care for them. Our instructor pushed us onward, saying that while those we care for do touch our spirit, they also can defeat it. Changes in condition, lack of resources and management of complex chronic issues can wear down the spirit. We were sent back to think about what else sustains our spirit in the workplace. In the face of one of the most complex businesses, how does an individual person sustain and even thrive?
Researchers have found that in times of perpetual change and chaos, certain traits emerge: the traits of personal leadership sustainability. One of these traits is having clarity regarding a sense of purpose or meaning as to why you are engaged in your work. As a group of Type A leaders, we were all able to articulate why we were in healthcare. We sat there smugly, knowing that we had checked the box on that action.
What came next, however, set us on a course of eating humble pie.
We were asked to spend 10 minutes a day — before we started our day and again at the end of the day — for 30 days asking ourselves three questions:
1. What will/did propel me to do something new and different today?
2. What will/did I do for myself to assure that I am/was able to sustain my spirit of appreciation and inquiry today?
3. How will/did I feel?
When we reported back after those 30 days, some of the participants shared that it just was not feasible and they did not have time to reflect and meditate on the questions. They found it difficult to quiet their minds enough to think.
Interestingly, those who did complete the assignment — including myself — found that we were more resilient in our thinking and leadership. Our instructor smiled wisely, knowing that we had started down the pathway of resilient leadership. In essence, what happened in those 30 days was that we moved from an abstract notation of the meaning of our work to tangible actions by asking ourselves those three questions, generating the following:
• Positive conversations and interactions. We had more clarity on what we wanted to accomplish that day. We developed strong networks and support systems. Relationships matter in being resilient.
• Greater insight on the benefits of stakeholders and the need for their involvement earlier than usually identified. Greater sense of teamwork and belonging emerged. Feeling that you are part of something worthwhile supports your ability to see beyond the immediate moment to the greater good or long-term view.
• Getting things done: a sense of accomplishment or making a difference, even if it was just checking one box on a to-do list. Setting yourself up for success is a necessity for all leaders. Look for small successes instead of the big bang success. Small successes will sustain you longer in a chaotic environment.
• Giving and receiving gratitude. Gratitude and the power of appreciation is one of the most powerful traits found to sustain spirit within the individual. Those who had worked on developing this skill made comments that this was career changing for them. I personally found a website on gratitude that I used to start my day. Their video “A Good Day” is not only inspiring, it is a way to center yourself when you feel overwhelmed and frustrated and your blood pressure is rising.
Another lesson learned from our 30 days of homework was the power of storytelling. Those who completed the assignment were full of stories about their learnings. They became passionate and excited as they shared their stories with colleagues and loved ones. Listening became easier as they spent time thinking about what they wanted to accomplish and understanding the value of relationships.
In our final work session, we agreed that being a resilient leader is not something you achieve, it is something you must consciously nurture and acknowledge. When you do that, you will find renewed passion and engagement for both your head and your heart.
Martie Moore is the chief nursing officer at Medline.