In challenging times, how do some organizations manage to pull together and foster a supportive environment while others succumb to apathy, angst, or dysfunction? Author and theologian C.S. Lewis wrote,
Pain is God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
We’ve endured a collective suffering over the last year like many of us have never experienced before in our lifetimes — and for some, it’s been a wake-up call. No one looks forward to difficult times, but Oprah Winfrey’s advice is solid: “Turn your wounds into wisdom.”
There is no 3-step formula for success. Choosing how to respond to difficulty is what E. F Schumacher described as a divergent problem. The beauty of humanity is that we all arrive at our own solution. Nevertheless, here are some reflections that may help build resiliency and lead to healthy growth in the face of difficulty.
Strive for Transparency and Truth
Unfortunately, discovering truth is easier said than done. We’ve all experienced situations where truth seems uncertain. Or, we’ve been in conflicts where we felt were were unequivocally “right.” Almost certainly our opposition felt the same. What can we do? In a 2017 Psychology Today article, Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D writes, “To counteract your brain’s tendency to construct ‘truth’ out of comfort, convenience, and confusion, you can access your Reflective Intelligence to try to sort through your filters. This isn’t easy, but if you are courageous enough to accept a different reality, you might be able to see what else could be true.” She goes on to challenge readers to question the fears and assumptions that may lead us to accept unsubstantiated opinions.
Over the past year, I’ve found myself asking a lot of questions and questioning a lot of assumptions. I’m taking a hard look at choices I’ve made because they are comfortable, easy. or profitable. In these confusing times, let’s commit to choose truth even if it is difficult, costly, or inconvenient. When we face times of adversity, some good questions to ask might be:
- What do we really want? What values do we hold dear?
- How (and who) do we hope to serve? What are we helping them accomplish?
- What things keep us from doing it well?
- What things help us do it better?
- What blind spots do we need to correct?
Answering hard questions together requires us to be humble and accept that we need other perspectives in order to see clearly and fully. Let’s avoid an attitude of “putting people in their place.” Instead favor of an environment where all are respected regardless of differences in title or background. Seek out environments where people can win together, not of at the expense of each other…where people share the burden of each others’ setbacks and the joy of each others’ successes.
We all need a course correction from time to time. Importantly, we must be willing to surround ourselves with people who will call us out when we’re headed in the wrong direction and help us get back on track.
“There’s nothing about humility that makes it incompatible with strength and courage. Quite the opposite,” writes Jeff Hyman in a Forbes article entitled Why Humble Leaders Make the Best Leaders. Hyman goes on to say, “When things go wrong, humble leaders admit to their mistakes and take responsibility. When things go right, they shine the spotlight on others.”
Recognize the Good
In difficult times, many of us dwell on what’s wrong. It is important to face and fix our errors, but we are also wise to pay attention to what’s going right. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool.
When we recognize the good around us, we remind ourselves of our values. Let’s also prioritize inclusion and celebrate how each of us contributes to a heathy whole. Let’s open our eyes to recognize what is good, appreciate it in others, and strive to emulate it ourselves.