Using Resilience to Develop a Plan B

Sheryl Sandberg’s New Book Discusses the Importance of Resilience, Even in Our Daily Endeavors

When tragedy occurs we are forced into a situation we don’t want to be in. Initially, we may try to escape the tragedy. Just simply run away from it. Or hope that we will wake up from the terrible nightmare that we are experiencing. But eventually we are forced to deal with things we never could have imagined dealing with. In times like these we are also forced to learn how to alter our mindset in order for our own emotional survival. We are forced to develop resiliency.

In the new book “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy,” written by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, Sandberg shares her own heartbreaking experience of losing the person that was both her best friend and husband. Through her tragedy, she documents her own path of enhancing her resilient mindset and learning to cope, and even thrive, in life again.

Typically, we are completely blindsided by tragedy, and in the blink of an eye, we are forced to form a new plan for life – aka Option B. Sandberg highlights  her need to develop resiliency due to the loss of her husband, but she also discusses why resilience is important in our daily endeavors and our organizations. Sandberg and Grant utilize her personal story to create a practical guide for building resilience that can be utilized in our personal and professional lives.

Sheryl writes, “I thought resilience was the capacity to endure pain. So, I asked [co-author] Adam how I could figure out how much I had. He explained that our amount of resilience isn’t fixed, so I should be asking instead how I could become resilient. Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity—and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.”

Resiliency Is Not Fixed – You can Develop Resilience

The earlier a skill is learned, the easier it is to put those lessons to use, but it’s never too late to start flexing your resiliency muscles. This is true both for individuals and organizations. Resilience can be developed at any age and at any time and is an invaluable lesson even for life’s seemingly minor challenges. You don’t need to be going through a tragedy to realize the benefits a resilient mindset has, even with everyday endeavors. This is because change is constantly present in our lives. Whether we want it or not, learning to accept change and even utilize change as a springboard forward allows us to prosper. Developing resilience gives us the skills to navigate change.

Psychologist Casey Mulqueen, Senior Director of Learning & Development at TRACOM Group points out that, “Resilience is a skill that we develop largely by practicing it throughout our lives. Some of us have had to endure a lot of hardship, and this leads to resiliency. Other people have been luckier and haven’t experienced significant adversity. While this may seem like a blessing, in fact people who have developed resiliency are better equipped to successfully move through adversity, even grow because of it. These people are more likely to be successful in their careers, since over the course of time it is almost impossible to completely avoid hardships. This is why resiliency training is so valuable. It provides the strategies for people and organization to prosper through rough times. Resilient people create resilient organizations.” Sandberg and Grant point out, “Just as all people need resilience, all organizations do, too…When failures, mistakes, and tragedies happen, organizations make choices that affect the speed and strength of their recovery —and often determine whether they collapse or thrive.”

The importance of developing a resilient organization is typically overlooked. Organizations often don’t seek resiliency development until something catastrophic happens. By developing resilience in our organizations, we establish a strength that can be harnessed during those transformational and chaotic times.

“Teams that focus on learning from failure outperform those that don’t, but not everyone works in an organization that takes the long view,” writes Sandberg.

When Failure Isn’t Feared We Learn So Much More

Sandberg and Grant point out that, “When it’s safe to talk about mistakes, people are more likely to report errors and less likely to make them. Yet typical work cultures showcase successes and hide failures.”

Sometimes we don’t even understand what went wrong to cause the mistake or failure, and we need someone else to help us realize what we are doing wrong. When we work in an atmosphere where we can discuss failures, we can learn why the failure occurred and how to eliminate the potential of it happening again. When we feel shamed by our failures, we likely don’t understand the root cause, and we are more likely to repeat a few of the issues again.

Sandberg and Grant use the example of conducting ‘M&Ms,’ or morbidity and mortality conferences. During these meetings healthcare professionals come together to review patients’ cases where something went seriously wrong. They use their failures to understand how they can prevent similar problems from arising in the future. The discussions are confidential, but evidence shows these meetings have led to improvements in patient care in hospitals. By being able to talk through each complicated step of patient care including the diagnosis, surgery, prescriptions, etc., having multiple brains analyzing the problem allows the doctors and nurses to figure out what went wrong. This type of open and safe environment is what ultimately saves lives and helps other healthcare practitioners, even if they’re across the country, avoid making similar mistakes.

Now, think how this type of atmosphere could impact your organization. If you had a community that fostered communication and openness, particularly around mistakes, how much money would you be saving? How many clients could you be better retaining? Most likely, it’s more than just one person on your staff making the same mistake without even realizing it, or realizing the mistake without understanding the cause. When we have an open dialogue about failure we can take a first step towards developing resilience.

Want to learn other ways to develop resilience? TRACOM offers resilience training specifically geared towards exercises and activities that promote a resilient mindset.