It’s one year since I wrote the post called Learning from Wimbledon. Andy Murray had just lost an emotionally charged final to Roger Federer. His tearful speech in front of a packed Centre Court and millions more on TV was hard to watch. But, despite the despair and pain that he (and his followers) felt, it was clear that something had changed. His raw talent was clearly good enough to win the major prizes. His tactical awareness was not in question. His physical fitness had been transformed such that no-one in the game worked harder to ensure they were able to go the distance. The final piece of the jigsaw for Andy was conquering his Inner Game. For years his temperament had been called into question. He cracked at the big moments. The pressure placed on him by the British media and public, hungry for a British Wimbledon men’s champion, was becoming unbearable. If Andy was to succeed, it was going to be a victory inside his own head that would secure the breakthrough.
The Inner Game is played out completely inside the brain. To succeed in the Inner Game one must quieten the ‘voice’ in the head that judges, criticises and worries. It can act in many subtle (and not so subtle) ways, but basically it does one of two things. It either causes us to dwell on and regret past events (e.g. a poorly executed drop shot at the end of the last rally that cost you the game), or it worries about and raises anxiety levels about future events (e.g. if I don’t win my next service game, my opponent will be serving for the match). Neither of these thought processes are useful or conducive to delivering your peak performance. To perform at your best, you need to be operating neither in the past nor in the future, but with total concentration on the present.
“A good half of the art of living is resilience.” ~ Alain de Botton.
As companies embark on another tough year ahead in 2013, and a climate of ongoing uncertainty, they are increasingly placing ‘resilience’ as one of the most important qualities they are looking for in their people. But, how do you recognise resilience in people, and how do you help people develop it further?
GlaxoSmithKline have defined ‘resilience’ as: “the ability to succeed personally and professionally in the midst of a high pressured, fast moving and continuously changing environment”.
Traditional views are reflected in the language often used to describe resilient behaviour:
“Bouncing back after being knocked down”
“Taking the blows and coming back for more”
“Living to fight another day”
These expressions are adversarial and have their roots in war-like and conflict-driven situations. It is arguable that a mind-set of resilience, steeped in this language, is likely to generate more friction than collaboration.
What would it feel like to be resilient ‘in the moment’? Not walk away to ‘re-group’ and then come back re-charged and ready for the fight. Not retreat in order to re-think your strategy and make sure you win the argument the next time.
But instead, there and then, you were to demonstrate emotional resilience, to really hear what was being said?
What if you could ‘flip’ the situation, get behind what was being said, and assess the dynamics objectively and not react?
What if you could show genuine curiosity in what’s happening, to hang around long enough to ask questions, to listen deeply, and to hear people out?
What might happen once they have been heard? What different level of engagement might then be possible?