In challenging times, how do some organizations manage to pull together and foster a supportive environment while others succumb to apathy, angst, or dysfunction?  Author and theologian C.S. Lewis wrote that pain can be a “megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  We’ve endured a collective suffering over the last year like many of us have never experienced before in our lifetimes — and for some, it’s been a wake-up call.  No one looks forward to difficult times, but Oprah Winfrey’s advice is solid: “Turn your wounds into wisdom.”   The formula might not be as simple as a 3-step plan, but we’d like to humbly submit a few areas of reflection that may help build resilient organizations and lead to healthy growth in the face of difficulty.

Strive for Transparency and Truth

Unfortunately, discovering truth is easier said than done.  We’ve all experienced situations where truth seems uncertain.  Or, we’ve been in conflicts where we felt were were unequivocally “right.”  Almost certainly our opposition felt the same.  What can we do?  In a 2017 Psychology Today article, Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D writes, “To counteract your brain’s tendency to construct “truth” out of comfort, convenience, and confusion, you can access your Reflective Intelligence to try to sort through your filters. This isn’t easy, but if you are courageous enough to accept a different reality, you might be able to see what else could be true.”  She goes on to challenge readers to question the fears and assumptions that may lead us to accept unsubstantiated opinions.

Let’s work to foster an environment that encourages people to ask questions and listen to responses.  We must also commit to choosing truth even if it is difficult or inconvenient.  When our organizations face times of adversity, some good questions to ask might be:

  • What is our mission? What are our values?
  • How (and who) do we hope to serve? What are we helping them accomplish?
  • What things keep us from doing it well?
  • What things help us do it better?
  • What blind spots do we need to correct?

Be Humble

Answering hard questions together requires us to be humble, and to accept that we need other perspectives in order to see clearly and fully.  Supportive organizations avoid an attitude of “putting people in their place.”  Instead they favor of an environment where all are respected regardless of differences in title or background.  Supportive organizations win together, not of at the expense of each other.  People share the burden of each others’ setbacks and the joy of each others’ successes.  We all need a course correction from time to time.  Importantly, we must be willing to surround ourselves with people who will call us out when we’re headed in the wrong direction and help us get back on track.

“There’s nothing about humility that makes it incompatible with strength and courage. Quite the opposite,” writes Jeff Hyman in a Forbes article entitled Why Humble Leaders Make the Best Leaders.  Hyman goes on to say, “When things go wrong, humble leaders admit to their mistakes and take responsibility. When things go right, they shine the spotlight on others.”

Recognize the Good

In difficult times, many of us dwell on what’s wrong.  It is important to face and fix our errors, but we are also wise to pay attention to what’s going right.  Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool.

Supportive organizations celebrate wins together and highlight the good things that happen.  As an employee recognition provider, Terryberry has decades of experience administering employee recognition programs for all types of businesses. The programs that are successful long-term use recognition consistently to remind themselves of their values.  They also prioritize inclusion and celebrate how each team member contributes to the heathy whole.

Practice Gratitude

Organizations that have a culture of gratitude are more likely to have highly engaged employees, according to culture expert Lisa Ryan. “When employees feel appreciated by their managers, colleagues, and clients, they are more productive, profitable, and a lot nicer to be around,” Ryan says.

Try making gratitude a daily habit.   Need a reminder? Terryberry’s downloadable Recognition Calendar provides 12 months of opportunities to practice gratitude. By the way, Employee Appreciation Day is coming up on March 5.  Terryberry recommends practicing a culture of employee appreciation everyday. If your organization wants to start up a recognition program to launch on Employee Appreciation Day, now is a great time to talk to us about ideas.