Creating a Climate for Resilience
Based on the Research of David Doyle, Author of “The Culture Code”
By Philip de Kock
The need for resilience
With huge disruption at an individual, business, and even societal level the question of how to be resilient is on everyone’s lips. Further, what are those critical skills we need, to develop and sustain resilience? In terms if this, the following are emerging:
- There is a need to create the right psychological climate for resilience,
- In addition, to develop the skills related to active listening and engaging with people in a constructive fashion, thereby building and sustaining healthy productive relationships.
This article considers the development of a psychological climate for resilience, mainly because it is one of the central challenges for leaders at all levels of business.
Research shows that, resilience is enhanced when we create a climate and, in the long-term a culture, that is conducive to building effective, productive, and mutually beneficial relationships. In terms of this the style of the leader makes a significant difference.
Kindergarten Kids Come out Tops!
Research conducted by David Coyle’s show that kindergarten kids consistently outperform executive groups with basic problem-solving tasks for one reason, they do not consider status roles when embarking on these assignments. In terms of this the author argues that we tend to recruit and promote for intelligence, competence and fit but do not nurture these through the creation of the correct psychological climate and culture.
When it comes to psychological climate and culture the same dynamic, as with the problem- solving games, comes into play when dealing with challenges, decisions, conflicts, and consensus Coyle, D. (2019).
While the evidence is quite compelling the question remains, how do you establish, and maintain this psychological climate?
The research of Coyle provides the following useful insights (specifically for change leaders, advocates, and agents):
- First, avoid status management,
- Then, connect people around you with a future vision – the story of your purpose,
- Also, crystalize priorities in terms of moving towards this future vision, and
- Lastly, create belonging cues for those you want to take with you.
The next sections will deal with this in more detail.
In a general sense but very specifically given the challenges of the new workplace environment, given the COVID 19 pandemic status management is critical. Here the author emphasizes the following:
- Keeping people in a rigid role hierarchy detracts from performance and delivery,
- While people need to be clear about the direction of the business, the approach and task at hand, an open exchange of ideas and contributions should be encouraged actively,
- Often proposals or reports get changed, just to position it correctly for a Vice President or Senior Vice President, with the consequent loss of traction and increase in complexity.
Connection to the Vision or Desired End State
Connecting to a vision or desired end state is almost engrained into the narrative of modern leadership. Few are however successful because it is not made accessible through story telling. When people can visualize an end state, they have a sense of control and when they take ownership for the journey and success it generates positive emotions that aid resilience.
Related to the above (connection to the vision) is the need to make sure that priorities are clear. When everyone knows the priorities, the need for status management becomes unimportant, belonging increases and focus on the task at hand it enhanced.
Think of military special ops teams. Because they are so highly skilled and clear about priorities, they operate in the moment and status is in the background. In these environments the leader is present and available, but the team operates as a unit without regard of authority.
Creating Belonging Cues
Together with status management the creation of belonging cues forms the basis of creating the psychological climate for resilience. In terms of this the following are important:
- The creation of spaces where openness and total honesty are rewarded, during and after discussion. Debriefing after meetings, task and project completion therefore become critical,
- Cultivating an environment where people (specifically leaders) show you care, and are not scared to show vulnerability,
- When leaders show vulnerability, they come across as being authentic, and trustworthy.
- Unfortunately, leaders often hide the truth to preserve their image. And it is interesting that people somehow know this, and the leader loses credibility in the process.
A quote from Coyle:
“In short do everything to erase the little voice in people asking, do I belong here, and where do I fit in, and is it emotionally safe for me…”
Coyle, D. (2019). The Culture Code. Random House UK.