In the wake of last month’s tragic attacks in Paris, France scholar Dr. Alex Toledano published an article in the New York Times titled“The Uncommon Resilience of Parisian Street Life.” He marveled at how, despite German occupation, and terrorist attacks from anarchists, colonists, and others, Paris has remained uniquely intact throughout the centuries. The resilient city did not adopt skyscrapers or widened streets at impetus of the 1900s. Since the 1850s, citizens have frequented the same cafes and bars, despite any ill-fated happenings the previous days may have brought.
In a time characterized by heavy hearts and disenchanted spirits, Dr. Toledano found a piece of Parisian culture for which to be gracious: “Paris is lucky to have a built environment that is resilient against change, as it only makes the rhythms and practices of urban life harder to change.” Parisians, and other global citizens, can look to his work and see something proud and special about the city.
In turbulent times, resilient leaders remember to practice gratitude. This exercises refocuses the mind, allowing it to feed off of positive, rather than negative, energy. PsychologistDr. Les Kay calls gratitude the secret to increasing resilience. He cites studies that have uncovered the power of gratitude in improving participants’ health and attitudes.
I have managed many people over the years. I have a reputation for respecting my staff but expecting a high level of quality work from them. As a result, while our mandate was not very ‘sexy’ (customer service never is), the division performed very well and the members were generally very satisfied and happy. When a reorganization brought a young man from a technical division into our division, I found that he was very disappointed. His attitude was one of anger at the change and a strong urge to prove that he was better than the other staff. His behavior was disturbing to the other staff. I took him aside and thanked him for his energy and his enthusiasm for his profession and invited him to take a little time to see how the division ran before he offered suggestions to others. I gave him a homework assignment that I thought would help him. Two weeks later, he came to me and thanked me for my support. He became a real contributor to the division. It was the ‘thank you’ that helped him open his mind to what I was suggesting. Without that, I doubt that he would have ever fitted into the work with any joy.
The importance of gratitude is often expressed as a cliché: “Every cloud has a silver lining.” Or “Count your blessings.” These proverbs have understated merit. Daily challenges present opportunities to practice gratitude. Conquering challenges in such a way makes one wiser, more confident, and more resilient.
Another cliché: “Life is a rollercoaster.” In other words, low points are inevitable. Leaders are responsible for leading their team out of these times, onto better ones. Adding gratitude to your resiliency toolbox will greatly ease this transition.
How have you used gratitude, either to help yourself, or to lead your team?