Struggles happen. Challenges happen. Setbacks happen. Mistakes are made. Tramautic events happen all the time to all sorts of people. While almost everyone will experience some traumatic event in their lifetime, what happens after is what matters. While listening to the Global Leadership Conference interview with Sheryl Sandberg, she introduced me to the idea of bouncing forward, an idea she expands upon in her book, Option B.
Bouncing forward, or Post Traumatic Growth, according to the Psychology Department at UNC Charlotte, is “positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event”. Essentially, when traumatic events happen, you have three possible outcomes- you can get stuck in it, you can bounce back, or you can bounce forward.
Being a great leader is something that will mean different things to different groups but generally speaking, great leaders will have some traits in common. There are some leaders who are particularly great orators, some who are great visionaries, and while there are many more traits that help leaders be successful, there are a few traits that help leaders be successful.
Angela Duckworth has been someone I have followed for a long time. She appears fairly regularly on a favorite podcast of mine, Freakonomics. Her book, Grit, takes a deep dive into what grit is, why it is important, how it is so powerful, and how to build it. While I intend on taking a deeper look into Grit here soon, I felt that all the talk about the challenges that leaders can face, how so many people are unhappy at work, about the importance of happiness in the workplace, and how being happy requires effort, it was important to look at how to build that mental toughness when it comes to your happiness.
We already know that leaders are faced with many challenges. Lee Cockrell mentioned in his interview that we covered in the last post about how leaders need to be prepared to handle disappointment and be able to push on. But one thing we know is that many people struggle to push on and that disappointment hits people really hard. What can we do to fight through?
Lee Cockrell has long been someone I have admired. He was the Senior Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World, leading 40,000 cast members, across 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 20 hotels, a massive shopping and entertainment district, and a massive sports complex. Those who know me know that my wife and I have been big fans of Disney for a long time but the actions of this gentleman is a major reason why.
One of the largest and most important feathers in his cap was the creation of Disney Great Leader Strategies, which has been used to train over 7,000 managers and leaders at Disney World. He clearly knows his stuff. Recently, he was on a podcast that I follow where they had a fantastic interview with him in advance of the release of his newest book, Career Magic.
Between the fantastic interview on the podcast and through reading his books, here are some of the most important takeaways:
I have found that a great time for me to get the best sense of who someone truly is at their core means that I need to see them when times are hard. Sports brings some great examples of this where we hear platitude like “winning cures all” which means a bad locker room is fixed when the team is winning. However, I would argue that those locker rooms aren’t fixed, there is just tension that is no longer present but the underlying problems still exist.
We see this with leaders all the time. We see leaders ride good market conditions or maximize previous people’s good decisions but that hardly tells you who they are or who they will be when things are not going well.
Historically, we can see how this is important for leading a movement or to driving change because change is hard. There will be times where adjusting course is tough and people will question if the juice is worth the squeeze. There will be times where those who are not fully behind the shift that is being made question the actions, motives, and abilities of those leading this change. Knowing how people react when things are not going well is imperative to understanding how they will act as managers when these things are happening. Continue reading