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 recently was watching a fairly guilty pleasure of mine- Tomorrowland. While the movie was generally not well loved by critics and it didn’t meet Disney’s expectations (it supposedly lost north of $100 million), I enjoy it and have found a number of great takeaways from the film. I’ll likely end up covering more of these in this blog but the first one I want to share with you is the parable of the wolf.
There are two wolves that are always fighting.
One is darkness and despair.
One is light and hope.
Which one wins?
I was recently reading a great blog post by Lolly Daskal where she pointed out something amazing. Only 15% of people are happy at work. I found this stat remarkable and almost startling how many people are not happy. Work is something most of us do from the time we turn 16 until we retire at 65 (if we planned well). In those 50 years, we spend between 50-52 weeks a year at our jobs, working 40+ hours.
That is a long time to be doing something you do not like. Happiness, like many things in life, requires effort so we need to learn how to join that 15%. We have already talked about how to lead your team to happiness but that may have been putting the cart before the horse a bit. Being a leader that creates the proper environment for happiness to flourish while not being happy yourself is an incredibly challenging thing to do.
So what can you do to put some happiness into your life?
Psychologists define comfort as a state of well being and is a combination of physical and psychological factors. Unfortunately, we do not grow our skills while comfortable (our waistlines may grow, but that is a different story). Pushing oneself out of our comfort zones is critically important in the pursuit of better leadership.
There have been some wonderful talks on the dangers of the comfort zone but here, we’ll look at my favorite place where media has provided us an example of the benefits of going beyond our comfort zone and the incredible growth that can take place out in the unknown.
Finding Nemo is the 2003 Pixar film where Marlin is the single father to his son, Nemo. Nemo, however, has a short fin which makes swimming dangerous. Nemo spends his early life with his dad trying to ensure he has everything set up for as much success as possible and keeping him safe and comfortable.
On Nemo’s first day of school, his dad tries to continue keeping him safe and comfortable in a way the Nemo clearly finds embarrassing. In an attempt to prove himself Nemo swims off the dreaded drop off and toward a “butt”. Upon touching the boat, Nemo begins his triumphant return back, only to be captured by a diver. Continue reading