Finding resilient passion inside the machine

The capacity to bounce back after a set back: resilience is such a hot topic across the business world.

In our last blog Helena Clayton wrote about how making small changes can have a big difference. She illustrated this through the real story of how an exhausted CEO discovered energy, strength and bounce by re-discovering his passion for art. Re-engaging with Ansell Adams’ work revitalised his work and home life.

Bigger than your job spec

It is a short step from this story to muse, to hope, to know that many or most people in organisations have passions which make them come alive, which make them fully human, which make them bigger than their job specs.

How easy it is to only think of organisations as machines built from neatly interlocking job specs and fuelled by revenue. If thinking begets action then Gareth Morgan’s machine metaphor [1] will only get you so far.

A persistent feature of major setbacks and disaster are inspirational stories of leadership, resourcefulness, compassion, heroism and sacrifice. These qualities seem to gush forth regardless of job spec or position within an organisation’s power structure. And yes, there is an opposite side to this shiny coin. One conclusion perhaps is that we are all so much more than our job specs. For better or worse.

A disabled work place

So, what is it about the way we organise ourselves at work that masks who we are, reduces what we are able to offer, maybe even disables us? Why do we leave so much of ourselves at home? Why do we play avoidance games at work? Why are we all so disinterested and lacking in curiosity about one another? If we think of organisations as a set of human relationships, how constrained and disabled do these feel where you work?

And why does it take a major set back or a disaster for people to discover how resilient they are, or are not?

A leading and enabling role

How much does your organisation invest in transformation and continuous improvement where part of this is the pursuit of a target set of values? Is there an assumption that a list of words on a flipchart and some workshop effort will somehow enable these to be realised; and that this effort will deliver performance and deepen resilience?

How would it be if you could notice, value and enable what already exists? What could you do to unshackle what is already under your nose?

How can you as a leader create the right environment for your people’s highest positive qualities to come to the fore and be a resilient part of business as usual rather than as an exception in extremis?

Dave Stewart
The Fresh Air Learning Company

[1] Organisational Metaphors, Gareth Morgan, 1986