Stay connected with others. The biggest protective factors for facing adversity and building resilience are social support and remaining connected to people. Whether it’s your family, friends, coworkers, or neighbors, don’t take these relationships for granted. Make the effort to check in on the people in your life often in good times and bad. They will in turn be there for you when the going gets rough.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Laurie Cure.
Laurie is the CEO of Innovative Connections, a consulting firm focused on enhancing organizational effectiveness by supporting leaders and teams with change management, culture and leadership development. She holds a doctorate in industrial and organization psychology and a master’s degree in business administration. She is the author of Leading Without Fear, published in 2012.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
I am an entrepreneur and have been the CEO for Innovative Connections since 2008. We are a small leadership and business effectiveness consulting firm that assists leadership teams and organizations become more successful using the power of their people.
My book Leading Without Fear explores the role fear plays in our lives, both personally and professionally, and offers strategies for moving through fear.
My career started in business, marketing and strategic planning and my work taught me very quickly that the business side cannot succeed without recognizing and nurturing the human side. As I sought to personally seek fulfillment, purpose, advancement and “balance” between a thriving career and a blossoming family, I wanted to ensure our work also supported leaders and organizations to embrace the balance between business outcomes and the health of their workforce.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that? New question: Can you share an interesting story and the lesson or take-away.
Like many of your readers, in my life, I have often been told, “you can’t do that” or “that will never work.” This is a familiar sentiment faced by many leaders.
For over two years, I allowed other people’s fears for me overshadow my own desires. I finally started my business in 2008 at the start of the Great Recession. While the timing did not feel ideal, it worked out in the long run. While my lessons from that significant life experience were great, what I will share is this:
- Say yes and follow your path; the pieces will fall into place if you plan properly
- On that note, plan properly. Consider all the risks, opportunities and scenarios. Brace yourself for what is possible (both good and bad).
- Don’t share your dreams too soon. They need to be protected until you have enough confidence to allow others in. Start by sharing with people you trust and those who will offer support and realistic feedback (as opposed to those who will only project their own fears onto you).
- Take the necessary steps forward. Some people spend their entire lives building up the courage to follow a certain path. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, just make sure you are moving in the right direction.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We have a different philosophy. We value partnership with our clients and believe it is that relationship that will foster the best path forward. We bring a great deal of leadership and organizational development expertise and we trust our clients know their organizations best. It is that partnership that allows us to help organizations, teams and individuals unleash the best talent and solutions.
We know there are limitless possibilities and options for how to lead, and finding the best option for each situation is not always easy. We support leaders in a variety of ways to bring forth their best so they can do the same for others.
For example, we recently assisted an organization who was engaging in a significant change that would impact and touch every department and person in the company. While it was a necessary part of their strategic efforts and critical for the company’s future sustainability, people were confused about why the change was necessary. They were fearful and angry and highly resistant to doing anything differently.
To address this resistance, we helped establish working teams to oversee the various efforts. This included a solid leadership team who would oversee the vision and provide resources, boundaries and guidance.
Project teams were developed and charged with ensuring that stakeholders had an active voice in the work processes and the recommendations. The groups ensured clarity of roles, purpose, outcomes and timelines. Meeting and communication structures were put into place to ensure the teams were collaborating.
In the end, this process allowed for the best possible recommendations to come forward, directly from the people who knew what was required. Everyone’s involvement supported employee buy-in and through the process, we were able to bring in various tools and facilitation methods to ensure the right conversations occurred in the right way to build relationships.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Early in my career I encountered a leader who challenged me. This leader introduced new ways of thinking that I was resistant to, there was a sense that nothing I did was correct and I felt that none of my skills or expertise were valued. Over time, I made the difficult, conscious decision to stay engaged in the relationship and try to learn from them. This individual ended up being someone who has shaped my trajectory, both personal and professional, in profoundly positive ways. The pain of the early relationship offered great lessons that got me to where I am today. I am eternally grateful for the gifts this leader offered, despite the challenges at the time. This experience was a testament to how perseverance and openness allows lessons to emerge that I would have otherwise missed.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
In short, resiliency is a life vest that prevents us from drowning. Thankfully, resiliency is also something we can consciously build. Here’s how to attack it from multiple vantage points, especially during this time of constant uncertainty:
1. Physical Resilience requires you to take care of your physical health and well-being. Beyond eating healthy, getting enough sleep and regularly exercising, you can cultivate physical resiliency by taking time for yourself. Don’t forget that breaks and doing things you enjoy are necessary for rejuvenation. Give yourself permission to focus on your physical health needs. Build breaks into your calendar or close your eyes for a few minutes to clear your head.
2. Mental Resilience is about ensuring continued discipline and boldly accepting new challenges. I hear many describe their current life situation as similar to the movie Groundhog Day — they wake up to the same routine over and over. While it may seem counter-intuitive, growing your mental resilience may require you to take on new challenges and step outside your comfort zone. Dig deeper into what you actually have control over and don’t worry about the rest. While it’s common to worry too much over what we don’t have control over, the opposite is also true. We often forget to include our purpose, our emotions, or the creation of possibilities in the list of what we can control. Create goals and challenge yourself to meet them.
3. Emotional Resilience centers around the ability to integrate and manage your emotions. If your emotions are driving the bus, versus the other way around, fear, anger, sadness or guilt can easily trip you up in the face of struggles.
To cultivate emotional resilience, you must work on establishing strong and healthy boundaries. When you are feeling triggered by someone or if something “sets you off,” it can be a sign that you need to establish different or stronger boundaries. An example of a work boundary might be shutting off your computer and email at a certain time to respect your personal needs.
4. Social Resilience is about connection to others. While each of us has differing needs for connection, the key question here is whether you’re supported by family, friends and coworkers in a way that fosters connection. Having close friends with whom you can discuss events in your life or having a network to lean on during challenging times helps build social resiliency.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
I have been privileged throughout my career to work with some truly resilient leaders. My earliest lessons in resiliency was from my parents. My father had a “never give up” attitude, which was balanced by my mother who emphasized, “pick your battles.” Between those two perspectives, I was able to carve a path that helped me discern when to call upon my resiliency to be strong and fight, and when my resiliency needed me to let go and take a new path.
One of the first influential leaders in my life was an activist for underserved communities. What I have appreciated most about his modeling of resiliency is that despite social pressures, professional and personal challenges, he called upon resiliency to keep him grounded in purpose.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
There is a quote I love, “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” People usually have good intentions when they say something is impossible or they do not want you to pursue a certain direction, but too often, they are projecting their fears, concerns and worries onto you. Being resilient can help accomplish the impossible. When we take care of ourselves and practice resiliency, we are better equipped to discern what makes sense for us and how to move forward.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
The example that comes to mind here was when I was completed my dissertation. I had a five-person committee that was a part of the 18-month journey. About six months into my research, I had an individual meeting with each of my committee members. One individual was highly critical of everything about my dissertation. My topic, my methodology, my literature review –
everything. I was disheartened and devasted. I considered all my options and the one that felt most appealing was giving up. After a great deal of thought, I decided to proceed and integrate his feedback. In the long run, it was not only a great lesson, but it strengthened my work significantly.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
There are often stories of trauma or hardship that we reference as experiences that build resiliency. The notion that suffering generates growth bears great truth. However, we can also consider those experiences that allowed us to flourish in new ways as examples of resiliency. My grandparents were lifelong entrepreneurs and I was given many opportunities at a young age to manage businesses. I always refer to my grandfather as the dreamer — he has all the ideas and my grandmother was the manifester — she made things come to life. As I think about those childhood experiences running businesses with the two of them, I was given safe opportunities to build resiliency through failure and recovery.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Stay connected with others. The biggest protective factors for facing adversity and building resilience are social support and remaining connected to people. Whether it’s your family, friends, coworkers, or neighbors, don’t take these relationships for granted. Make the effort to check in on the people in your life often in good times and bad. They will in turn be there for you when the going gets rough.
- Develop a self-care routine and stick to it. Maintaining a balanced diet, exercise, sleep schedule and meditation are essential to developing resiliency. The more we are in tune with ourselves by staying healthy, the better equipped we are to react to challenging circumstances. If you do a little bit every day, it starts to add up and you get momentum, and even if you miss a day, start again. We must be gentle with ourselves and keep on.
- Don’t ignore your mental health. When we are in crisis, it is easy to push our mental state to the back of our minds and hope things get better on their own. In order to build resiliency, you have to be in the right headspace to begin with. Seek professional counseling if you are feeling depressed or anxious beyond what you are used to.
- Accept the unpredictable. If 2020 has taught us anything, it has been that we do not know what tomorrow will bring. Countless predictions are made every day for when this pandemic will end and how, when a vaccine will be available and how it will be administered etc. The best we can do is take each day as it comes and focus on what in our lives is predictable.
- Focus on what you can control. There is no use is dwelling on the unknown. Just like no person can control the weather, we also can’t control how others feel about us, when this pandemic will end and other broader societal issues that can cause unnecessary stress. We can however, control how we spend our energy maintaining positive relationships, practicing self-care and addressing our mental health concerns.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would want others to see beyond their fears and realize the potential they hold in the world. I don’t want people to think that realizing their potential is all about achievement of something great (job title, salary, fame or status). I think potential is just that, the ability to develop or become something using talents or abilities that you have not explored. We all hold amazing potential that goes undeveloped, but when it shows up, it not only strengthens our resiliency but improves our happiness and life satisfaction. If our state of being could shift in that way, imagine the impact we would have on others just by being in a different state.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I was once asked, “If you could have dinner with any 5 people, who would it be?” My list is the Pope, the Obama’s, Parker Palmer, Desmond Tutu and Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen (who is an expert on the topic of resiliency).
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!