Manage Your Resilience Meter: Your Guide to Positivity, Productivity and Well-Being

resilience_meterppt_rev2Managing resilience in today’s fast paced world of high expectations is tough.  Change and challenge are often the norm whether it comes from a new program being unveiled, a complete reshuffle due to a merger or parents moving into a care facility.  Too often the challenges become just too much and frequently trigger inflexibility, feelings of overwhelm and loss of composure.

You can build your capabilities so challenging times don’t take you out.  Watch your resilience meter grow to full potential! Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills are fundamental to managing these stress points and maintaining health and well-being.  Six EI skills are pivotal to building your reservoir of emotional reserves: emotional self-awareness, self-regard, impulse control, stress tolerance, optimism, and flexibility.  A healthy use of these skills will build your positivity and create the leverage to promote success at the workplace and personally.

Resilience is of growing interest as researchers demonstrate its influence on physical and mental health, well-being, the aging process and overall quality of life.  Additionally there is growing recognition of the benefits to teams and workplace productivity with a resilient workforce.  There is also a connection with the willingness to take on risks and to explore creative options. If we feel more positive about ourselves and life, we have the energy to experiment.

You have many strategies available to help expand your resilience.  This article will provide tips and strategies as well as review some of the key recognitions about resilience and its connection with positivity.  The root for the word “resilience” is “resile,” which means “to bounce or spring back.” Thus a key part of the definition of resilience is to bounce back.  The definition has expanded to include the ability to contain challenges and to develop reserves that can be tapped into when one is faced with environmental pressures and demands.  When we speak of resilience, we are referring to the ability to keep things in perspective so that many potential challenges are simply taken in stride.  When a large challenge surfaces, there is likely to be stress, but the reserve strength built with resilience allows us to contain the issue rather than going down a negative and downward spiral that starts feeding itself.

Assets and resources within us, our lives and our environment facilitate the capacity for adapting and bouncing back when there is adversity.  Our resilience is likely to ebb and flow not only across our lifetime but even across the day or week if there is a lot going on.  Yet, the more habits we have developed to build and maintain our positivity, the less we will give in to negative emotions and the more we will intentionally seek positive emotions that will enhance our capacities.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity, Crown Publishing, (2009) and Love 2.0, Hudson St. Press, (2013), has provided a great deal to help us understand the field of positivity, which is closely related to resilience.  Should you be working as a coach or team facilitator it’s likely you’ll use the two concepts interchangeably.  As a lead scientist in the field of positivity, Fredrickson demonstrates through her research and that of colleagues that living with a high level of positivity has measurably positive results.

Benefits of Positivity / Resilience

•    Psychological benefits include being more optimistic, more open minded and more willing to check out possibilities.  First, being positive feels good!  Being open minded is critical to noticing and considering multiple options to a challenge.  It means that money, resources, or possibilities aren’t left on the table because our vision is too narrow to see them.  Negativity constricts our thinking and our vision.  It’s costly!
•    Mental benefits include expanding awareness and mindfulness.  It opens our thinking capacity to new possibilities. With positivity we can be better at savoring what works instead of being focused on what doesn’t.  Right away you can see the difference in your stress levels and the toll taken when you are focusing on the positive compared to the negative.

•    Social benefits pay out at the individual, team and workplace levels.  With positivity we have more resilience. Emotions are contagious, thus sharing positive emotions and actions creates an upward spiral of expanding relationships, which then creates reserves for getting through hard times and conflict together.  Resilience is indispensable if collaboration is truly going to occur. There is also interesting research showing that when we approach people with an emphasis on positive engagement racial bias is reduced or disappears.  Positivity, p. 67-68. That has amazing potential!
•    Physical benefits include a higher quality of life and a longer one.  As Barbara Fredrickson writes “positivity is now linked to solid and objective biological markers of health.  For instance, people’s positivity predicts lower levels of stress-related hormones and higher levels of growth related and bond related hormones. Positivity also sends out more dopamine and opioids, enhances immune system functioning and diminishes inflammatory responses to stress.  With positivity you are literally steeped in a different biochemical stew.”  Positivity, pp. 93-94. Thus positivity results in lower blood pressure, less pain, fewer colds and better sleep.  Rest assured for this and the many other health benefits she cites, she backs her assertions up with research citations.  There is even research showing the power of hugs, wonderful, feel-good, authentically caring touch.  Now we knew that, didn’t we!
Three studies reported in a 2006 article on resilience and positivity later in life found that daily positive emotions serve to moderate stress reactivity and mediate stress recovery. They found that differences in psychological resilience accounted for meaningful variation in daily emotional responses to stress. Higher resilience predicted that negative emotions wouldn’t be as impactful, particularly on days characterized by heightened stress. Additionally they found that the experience of positive emotions functions to assist high-resilient individuals in their ability to recover effectively from daily stress. “Psychological resilience, positive emotions, and successful adaptation to stress in later life.” By Ong, Anthony D.; Bergeman, C. S.; Bisconti, Toni L.; Wallace, Kimberly A. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 91(4), Oct 2006, 730-749.

Tips and Strategies
Use your emotional intelligence to grow your positivity and be more resilient.  This is an internal strength so the key skills to grow, which are found in the EQi 2.0 are: self-regard, emotional self-awareness, stress tolerance, flexibility, impulse control and optimism.  The key team competencies focused on in the TESI are Positive Mood and Stress Tolerance.

You can expand your individual resilience by:
•    Redefining productivity from working on emails to getting with someone
•    Prioritize meditation, fun and family
•    Recognize that you are a part of something bigger than yourself
•    Embrace your bigger YES!
•    Develop your 2% Solution as I describe in my book, Life’s 2% Solution.

Team resilience can be expanded by:
•    Recognize that positivity and trust go hand in hand because positivity supports deepening relationships.  Develop positivity deliberately.
•    Social connections are at the heart of team success so take time for building connections – and emphasize it even more if you have a virtual team.  Do something fun together, have a pot luck lunch, and start meetings with going around the team and asking everyone to comment on something particularly interesting or important to them.
•    Our sense of connection drives our willingness to be helpful.  This is the heart of collaboration.  Create connections, have team members work in small groups and then take time to reflect on the experience.  Build awareness of the interpersonal connections as well as of the objective details of the project.

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The 7 R’s to Team Motivation

7rMotivation is your team’s commitment to mobilize its three primary resources: time, energy and intelligence. We guide you through understanding how to motivate your team in Chapter Four of The Emotionally Intelligent Team. There’s no cookie cutter approach for creating motivation – the right strategies need to connect with your team. There are tools for success! As a team, focus on the values supporting your work, the relationships and the rewards available.

Our last article on Motivating Hospital Teams pointed out the research by Daniel Pink that three critical elements support individual motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose. These are all essential for team as well and you’ll see these principles included in the 7 R’s below. Autonomy includes the chance to operate with independence and to influence your work. Mastery gives the team as a whole as well as individual team members the opportunity to be great at their work. Purpose is unquestionably the driving force for why we do what we do. It’s the source of pride in our work, the core of authentic motivation.

Leaders use their influence and behaviors to motivate teams through the 7 R’s.

Reason – match team members’ WIIFM – help them answer the questions of “What’s in it for me?” and “What’s in it for our team?” Create a reason to engage. Tie the reason for the team’s existence to their purpose and help them develop mastery in their skills.

Respect – take time to get to know the members of the team and demonstrate that you value each and every member. Deliberately share respect between team members. Autonomy is a key component of respect and can unfold in multiple ways by giving the full team some creative time as well as providing the time to individual team members or to sub-groups. Google is one of the best known companies that have gained great results by giving teams autonomy, yet the teams are also expected to collaborate intensely. This requires integrity and real engagement – and leads to powerful productivity. Respect for the team and team members is an integral component of an overarching purpose that everyone is excited about.

Relationships – you can’t bend on this one – compromises are costly. Lead your team to connect with one another and to consistently demonstrate regard. When teams are focused on accomplishing a powerful purpose, there is a natural inclination to build strong relationships to accomplish the common good.

Resilience – let the team know you are committed to engaging with them and that you’ll help gain the resources needed to the best extent possible. Resilience is supported by optimism, which is best experienced as a contagious sense of hopefulness around the team. Resilience is a big concept and casts a powerful web to support success. When all three components of autonomy, mastery and purpose are actively present team resilience expands.

Responsibility – hold people consistently accountable. Let them know their responsibilities are tied to the team accomplishing its mission and providing value. Thus when autonomy is provided, ask the team to then come back and report on what they learned. It’s fine if the creative project wasn’t a huge success, what’s important is that they learned and that the learning is shared in a collaborative spirit.

Rewards & Reinforcement – notice daily positive accomplishments and say something positive right away. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking money is the way to motivate your team. Surprisingly money can demotivate a team. What team members need in addition to respectful pay is to be treated with respect, included in the discussions on why the mission/purpose is valuable, and acknowledged for work done well – promptly. Supporting their ability to develop mastery so they can do their job well is one of the strongest rewards available.

Role Model – like it or not “monkey see, monkey do” holds a lot of truth for human behavior. Researchers have found that our mirror neurons are one of our most powerful sources for learning. Develop your mastery and hold yourself accountable to act the way you would like your team members to behave.

This is the stuff of motivation and results in team productivity accomplished by a team that is experiencing emotional and social well-being.

Take Your Team to the Oscars

The Help, Moneyball, and The Descendants – these Oscar nominated movies demonstrate ways of understanding team and individual emotional and social intelligence.  The Oscar nominated movies and some other great ones we highlight demonstrate interesting tips for team and individual awareness.  This is a great way to build team engagement and knowledge on how to improve skills.  It always helps to have a model so our discussion is organized around the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey® (TESI®), which includes the seven key skills we’ve found teams need for building their ESI.

We list two movies for each of the 7 skill areas and discuss the first one.  We hope you’ll comment on our blog site and contribute to this fun learning opportunity for all of us!  We thank the many people involved in making these movies for the great entertainment and the remarkable ways in which your work teaches us.  We enjoyed the movies we are reviewing here and recommend them to you.

Team Identity:  The Help and Of Gods and Men

Team identity measures the level of pride each member feels for the team as a whole, and how much connection and belongingness members feel to the team.

The Help:  The team is composed of African-American maids in Jackson, Mississippi at the dawn of the civil rights movement. A plucky new college graduate who grew up there is horrified with the way her grown-up school chums relate to their maids. So she asks one to tell her story and eventually they all get involved, and what’s been going around for so long starts to come around at last.  The maids had always given each other emotional support; this project brought them together in an act of tremendous courage to have more of a sense of pride, possibility and certainly belongingness to their team.

Motivation:   Margin Call, Albert Nobbs

Motivation is a competency that measures the team’s internal resources for generating and sustaining the energy necessary to get the job done well and on time.

Margin Call: In this case the team is made up of professionals in a financial company who have just realized they are holding tens of millions of dollars worth of worthless stock.  They decide to sell it to their clients the next day in order to save the company. This is capitalism at its worst, and the few conscientious team members cannot change the self protection trend. At the end of the day the conscientious ones are unable to shift their corporate compliance habits, the result is disaster for the company’s investors.  This is a movie your team could see in order to strike up considerable discussion about appropriate motivation and to ask when do we stick with the pack and when do we break free?  It can be a great start to discussions about ethics and how to find win/win answers.

Emotional Awareness: I Am, Iron Lady

Emotional awareness measures how well team members pay attention to one another and demonstrate acceptance and value for one another.

I Am: Tom Shadyac, the highly successful movie director for Jim Carrey films such as Ace Ventura pet detective has everything and lives like it until he has a bike wreck and his life is in peril. He discovers that he’s gotten it all wrong as has everyone around him it seems, so he takes a film crew and begins asking knowledgeable people such as Desmond Tutu the Nobel laureate, Noam Chomsky the political theorist and Coleman Barks the poet and Rumi translator: “What’s wrong with our world?”and “What can we do about it?” Their answers are a consistent formula for living sustainably in relationship with each other and the environment.  Some of the key concepts in the film are: cooperation is in our DNA; the truth of who we are is we are because we belong, technology and the human narrative are beginning to come together; we are geared at a primordial level to feel what each other feels.

This is more a film about an individual leader than a team, but the ideas are ones the team can see and extrapolate concepts and values they want to notice and promote in one another.  Iron Lady is listed as the opposite of emotional awareness.  Margaret Thatcher is portrayed as paying primary attention to herself and unflinchingly adhering to the beliefs she developed as a child rather than learning and responding to new ideas and populations.

CommunicationWe Bought a Zoo, Beginners

Communication provides information on how well team members listen, encourage participation, share information and discuss sensitive matters.

 We Bought A Zoo: This movie tells the story of a major attempt to start over after the death of a spouse and mother. The hurting family leaves their old house, old neighborhood, old school, old job and buys a house in the country that is home to over 40 species of animals and an unusual assortment of people who take care of the animals.  The team becomes the father, the zookeepers and the two children, all learning how to work together to get this challenging small business into start up mode and to turn a profit. The father is the team leader.  He is now the employer of the zookeepers, the food and shelter sponsor for the animals, and the source of love and guidance for 2 children. Most of the movie he’s afraid he’s just about to let everybody down but he keeps taking his own advice to his lovelorn son: “20 seconds of insane courage will deliver something totally magical.”  Fortunately it works and the results are as heartwarming as humorous.

Team members can pick up lots to talk about in terms of which zookeeper or other team member they most identify with and how the different personalities help promote or challenge team success.

Stress ToleranceHappyThankYouMorePlease, Moneyball

Stress tolerance measures how well the team understands the types of stress factors and manages the intensity impacting its members and the team as a whole.

HappyThankYouMorePlease:  This delightful film will reduce your stress just by watching it. When 9 or 10-year-old Rasheen gets left on a subway by mistake a group of 20 somethings come together like an ad hoc team on his behalf. He didn’t know his parents or how old he was and was not interested in any more help from social services, but he turned out to be a great teacher of love just as life was providing some great opportunities for practice for his young adult care takers. For example, a geeky guy wants to develop a relationship with a woman who can’t grow hair because of a medical condition. She doesn’t feel worthy of his adoration but tells her friend who found the boy “Let’s be people who deserve to be loved.”  Part of the lesson is for everyone to learn to feel loved.

This is a great film to show a team with generational differences.  It’s a heartwarming way to appreciate the generation entering the workforce.

Conflict Resolution: The Descendants and Of Gods and Men

Conflict resolution measures how willing the team is to engage in conflict openly and constructively without needing to get even.

Of Gods and Men: In March 1996, an Islamic terrorist group kidnapped seven French Trappist monks from their remote monastery in Tibhirine, Algeria. They were held for two months and then killed.  At the heart of this atrocity is a tale of heroic faith, steadfastness and love, captured in the sublime film “Of Gods and Men.” It is perhaps the best movie on Christian commitment ever made.  This is a powerful movie and one of the best released in 2011 about real team work. The monks made a very difficult choice in the face of certain danger to stay together, practice their faith and be with their Muslim community.

These men were not shy with each other, they got angry, they blamed, they acted like victims, they wept, they hid, and they each eventually realized that they were expressing these emotions in response, not to the people and the world around them, but rather in response to their perceptions and judgments of that world. This recognition is what enabled them to fully surrender their lives to the service they provided the local community, and receive the spiritual grace that sustained them through the ending of their time on earth.

Positive MoodHugo, Midnight in Paris

Positive mood measures the positive attitude of the team in general as well as when it’s under pressure.

Hugo: This is an extraordinarily charming film about children and adults and how courage looks and feels and is practiced from both points of view. There are two small teams, one of children, one of adults.  Ultimately the two teams come together as one, but major challenges are faced first. It’s also a beautifully made movie.

Ask you team what elements of the movie help them have a sense of “can do” that they can bring back to their team.

Don’t forget – take your team to the movies.  Have fun and learn!

What Qualities Do You Associate With Emotional Sustainability?

Emotional Sustainable Qualities visualAt Collaborative Growth’s recent Symposium on Emotional Sustainability participants identified the key qualities they feel are associated with this hopeful term.  Their answers follow and were the heart of how the Emotional Sustainability Word Cloud you see here.  After some soul searching these answers were highlighted at the Symposium:

  • Gratitude – being without regret or anxiety
  • Self/other awareness
  • Work/ life integration – eliminating my own internal silos
  • Modeling
  • Accountability – how to get EQ in at the bottom of the organization
  • Language – feeling words, able to speak on emotions in a structured way
  • Joy – living to one’s full potential
  • Kindness – leading people to be comfortable to learn in the classroom
  • Love, the verb! – Stress disconnects us from our higher purpose and we need to recognize that fear harms learning.  Be transparent around emotions.
  • Present to moments of Grace – align talent with organizational goals
  • Intimacy – transform leaders as people by deeply and respectfully connecting
  • Act with the recognition:  In love I am one with you
  • In Lak’ech – from the Mayan tradition this is understood to mean I am another yourself (A modern day interpretation) and also means I am you, and You are me (A traditional Mayan interpretation)