Mind your own business – the highlights
There’s no magic pill or injection that will make us immune to failure. But, like Rocky, taking a few punches helps us become more resilient and better able to withstand failure. So, when we do inevitably get knocked down, it’s a little bit easier to get back up. For our Norfolk Network members this month, resilience meant braving the unseasonably wet June weather to learn more about resilience. Our host, Lee Carnihan from Curveball media, posed three questions to our panellists: What is resilience, what makes us resilient, and how do we develop greater resilience?
- Daphne Metland, Founder of Content Consultants
- Dom Davis, CTO & Co-founder of Tech Marionette
- Emily West, Business Development Manager at made agency
- Dr Ieva Martinaityte, Lecturer in Business and Management UEA
Founder of Creativity Lab
- Marie Oakes, Founder of The Trend Academy
- Dr Nick Walsh, Lecturer in Developmental Psychology, UEA
“Resilience is multi-faceted,” Lee said in his introduction to the evening. “It means something different across cultures and societies.” In scientific terms, Nick described it as a construct where an individual has been exposed to some kind of stressor and is able to withstand that stress and carry on.
For Marie, being resilient means learning to think differently. Coming out of the fast-paced fashion world, she had to develop tools and methods for looking after herself and coping with pressure. “You don’t know how resilient you are until you’re in a position where you need it,” she said. “I have good days and bad days, but I know on those days what I need to do to get myself through.”
Daphne agreed that tools are important for developing resilience. In her work with university students, she found that timely messages via mobile were important for supporting their transition into university life. “Success is surviving failure,” she added. “Once you’ve learnt from one failure, the next isn’t so bad.”
“You don't know how resilient you are until you're in a position where you need it”
Learning from failure is an important aspect of resilience for all panellists. For Ieva and Dom, failure is a necessary part of making something. Ieva said, “if we want to create something original, we will experience failure. Resilience will help us to bounce back and overcome fear so we can progress with our original work”. Dom described this as to “fail safe”. As the owner of an IT development business, making it safe to fail is an important part of software development.
Having a framework for employees is also important to Emily. She is an advocate of the Scandinavian concept of “Lagom”, which means “just the right amount of something”. At made agency they have applied what they call “rigid flexibility”. This involves providing the right amount of structure within a 6-hour working day that includes focused time, flexible working, plus time to relax and regroup. “There’s something very rewarding about being productive and efficient, which only adds to your resilience,” Emily explained.
Reframing failure as a series of life experiments
Humans aren’t born resilient, but it turns out some of us are genetically better able to withstand stress. Nick described these genetic types as ‘Orchids’ and ‘Dandelions’. Orchids are more sensitive to their environment, but perhaps have greater potential. Dandelions thrive in most environments.
Orchid or Dandelion, our panellists agreed failure is an opportunity for learning. Marie now believes in pushing herself outside of her comfort zone and is helping young people in the fashion industry to build resilience. Reframing failure was important to Dom during his recovery from burn-out. What he believed to be a weakness is what in the end made him stronger.
Ieva’s research into creativity points to a mutual relationship between creativity and resilience. Creativity comes from experimenting or ‘failing’ multiple times. Edison, for instant, didn’t measure success on the end result but on how many experiments he carried out. Ieva encouraged the audience to reframe uncomfortable experiences as a series of experiments, not failure.
How do we develop greater resilience?
In addition to tools and structure, our panellists agreed that prevention is equally important. “If people are feeling anxious or depressed that is when they are least able to go and find support,” said Daphne.
Marie found greater resilience by going out and doing things that she didn’t really want to do. She also draws power from saying ‘no’, and by taking personal accountability for, and ownership of, building her own resilience. Marie said, “what is important to you, knowing this and protecting this will make you more resilient.”
Nick and Ieva suggested that taking a different perspective on life can develop resilience. Nick encouraged the audience to not focus on the deficits but to find what “makes your heart sing”. Ieva added that it’s important to accept that there will be downs as well as ups.
"Rather than let people get to burn-out, look after your staff, make sure they don’t get to that failure stage.”
As business leaders, Daphne, Dom, and Emily believe in working with employees to provide structure, set expectations, and provide support. For Emily this involves applying just the right amount of structure and flexibility.
For Dom and his business, Tech Marionette, this means making it safe to fail. “Burn-out has a blast radius,” said Dom. “It’s not just the person suffering from burn-out. If you have critical failure like that in your organisation, it’s going to affect the team. Rather than let people get to burn-out, look after your staff, make sure they don’t get to that failure stage.”
Daphne encouraged the audience to reach out to their staff to help shape an employee wellbeing programme. In her business, Content Consultants, there are two “employee wellness volunteers”. “They’re doing it so much better than I could do, it’s much broader” she said. “Get the people in your team to do this for you because they will know better.”
If you’d like to find out more about resilience, mindfulness and wellbeing in the workplace (and life), the panellists have put together a reading list for you.