Join John Ullmen for an in-depth discussion in this video Build resilience and resourcefulness, part of Executive Leadership.
- My friend, Gary Palmer, is known as the father of the prepaid card, credit cards with preset amounts loaded on them to make specific types of purchases. For example, a $30 gift card for Starbucks. Gary had the original idea long before these cards became wide-spread, but he was young and inexperienced. So he asked a retired executive to be CEO and help him raise money for the venture. After hearing Gary's proposal, he said, you have a bad business structure, you have no experience, I certainly don't want to work anymore and I wouldn't give you a dime of my money.
What now? Executive leaders need to be resilient and resourceful, and Gary's reaction illustrates the first of several methods to build those qualities. He met resistance with creative persistence. After being told no in every way imaginable, he immediately replied, I understand, but could I ask you to meet with me for a few short minutes and share some advice? Fast forward a few months, this individual, now Gary's CEO, was with him in Silicon Valley raising money and the rest is history.
Creative persistence doesn't always work, and that leads to the second point. Bounce back from setbacks. Winston Churchill said, "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." And even more bluntly, if you're going through Hell, keep going. Psychology research shows that people who interpret setbacks as permanent, pervasive, and personal tend to have much more difficulty than those who do the opposite, seeing failure as temporary, specific and external.
Let's illustrate this with how Gary Palmer might have applied each step. It's not permanent, it's temporary. The retired executive's no is just one person's response today. I can ask other potential CEO's and investors going forward. It's not pervasive, it's specific. The persuasive case I made today didn't work, but I can use this instance to make the case even stronger next time. It's not personal, it's external. His no isn't a judgment of me as a flawed person, the proposal just didn't fit his preferences at this point.
If I keep going I will find a match. Someone will either find this opportunity attractive or I can even come up with another business idea. When you run into resistance and setbacks, go through those three steps and look for ways to make sense of it as temporary not permanent, specific not pervasive, and external not personal. You'll bounce back faster and inspire more confidence in others. You'll also want to integrate your wellness. The pressures and demands of executive leadership can be draining and consuming. So find ways to fortify the four key elements of your well-being.
Mental wellness. I coached a CEO who was named a finalist for Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. As he stepped into his role, his predecessor said, here's my number one piece of advice, set aside two hours twice a week just to think and read. He said it might be the best advice he ever received because there is always too much to do unless he proactively protected that time to think and refresh his mind, it would never happen. Another CEO of a Fortune 500 firm I know frames it like this: Every week he blocks four hours to think 10 years ahead.
Make time to refresh your mind. Whatever helps you do that, don't just put it on your to-do list, lock it into your schedule. Emotional wellness. Barbara Fredrickson's research shows that people whose ratio of positive to negative emotions is 3 to 1 or higher are happier, perform better, are more creative, more resilient, and build more relationships. Choose more experiences that help raise your ratio, and surround yourself with ratio raising people. Physical wellness.
Develop routines of healthy nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress relief. And, if relevant for you, spiritual wellness. Whatever gives you meaning and purpose outside work. In a survey of 4,000 retired executives that asked, if you could live your life over, what would you do differently? The most common responses were: Care for my health better, spend more time with my family, do more fun things, put greater effort into self-development activities, focus more on my spirituality, and devote more time to community service.
What would your answers be? What can you do about that now, starting today? A way to bring all this together is to create what I call compound interest habits, daily and weekly routines that pay massive, long term dividends on your performance, development, and well-being. For example, start the day well with a brief routine that helps your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well being. One of my mentors told me, if you start the day poorly it tends to go poorly, but if you start the day well, it tends to go well.
Start your compound interest habits, the sooner the better. After all, Gary Palmer didn't wait until after becoming a great executive to use creative persistence. It is because he was already in the habit that he became an executive and remained a great one.
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The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- Understanding the four disciplines of executive leadership
- Thinking strategically
- Creating shared purpose
- Inspiring confidence—even under pressure
- Motivating and communicating
- Establishing priorities and focus
- Leading change
- Developing yourself<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.