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Friday, 21 February 2014

Resilience: A Lesson From Sochi by Sydney Finkelstein - Updated for Orienteering


Resilience. It’s often the secret sauce that separates the highest achievers from the mass of people who are perfectly capable, but not exceptional.

The good news is that each of us has the potential to live a resilient life on and off the job, if we choose to. It may be difficult to do, sometimes even unfathomable, but that just makes it all the more powerful and important.

Here’s a quick test: if you genuinely believe the above paragraph to be true, then you’re probably more resilient than you think you are. It takes confidence to be resilient. But, and this is so true of so many leadership characteristics, too much confidence is a killer. Bouncing back from failure requires, by definition, that you recognize something has gone wrong, and you were the one who made it happen.

The complacent and the arrogant do not accept personal responsibility. For them, failure is someone else’s fault. We’ve seen plenty of this during Sochi as well — hockey players blaming errant referee calls, snowboarders complaining the snow was “too soft” and speed skating coaches attributing poor results to new high-tech suits selected for their athletes.

Open-mindedness in the face of mistakes is the single best thing you can do to improve results. Everyone fails. But not everyone recovers from failure. The key is to learn from it rather than get beaten by it.

Being open to new information — even better, going out of your way to learn what you wish wasn’t true — is the hallmark of a resilient leader. How else can we adapt and change if we don’t know what’s really going wrong?

In a disruptive and competitive world, the rate of failure is going up, not down. For example, when you track the makeup of the Fortune 100 over time, you find that the number of companies falling off the list has gone up at an increasing rate. That means that while 25 years ago some 20% of the biggest companies in the world dropped out of the top 100 after 10 years, more recently the 10-year rate of attrition has jumped to over 30%.

Resilience is not just about getting up off the floor, but also being ready for whatever comes next.

Failures, setbacks and falling down on the ice in front of millions of people are no longer unusual events, but regular features of a dynamic, competitive and highly demanding work environment. Getting up to finish your skate is no longer optional.

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