February 28, 2019

How the Grit Grows Into the Pearl

Last week, a dear friend who leads women’s coaching groups, sent me a photo of her web conference set-up. I laughed so hard I was crying.

Renovations were going on outside her apartment windows and the only place to avoid the construction and jack hammers was, well, the bathroom.

She was poised on the rim of her tub, wedged next to the sink and toilet, with wires crisscrossed everywhere.

But of course, none of this was visible to the camera. All her clients could see was a well-dressed, smiling and professional woman framed by the burgundy (bathtub) curtain backdrop.

We all know this place. Call it: Necessity is the mother of invention. Or fake it ‘till you make it. Or fake it after you make it. When we’re grinning widely at the absurdity of a situation, we’re in a good place.

Sometimes, though, faking it isn’t fun at all. A client, we’ll call him, Pete, shared a story of a colleague, also a high-level professional, who found herself in the bathroom almost daily to hide her tears. Given her work place challenges, her reaction was understandable – even appropriate. The emotional and intellectual strain had stretched her to the limit.

People often equate grit as the core ingredient to develop resiliency. In other words, how well do we shoulder-up to life’s irritants, over and over again? How well do we muscle through our challenges for character development?

Pete well understood the stressors of his colleague. Both their jobs are packed with grit and required the ability to remain calm and controlled in emotionally charged situations. However, when this work is done in a vacuum, without a safety net of rewarding relationships to balance the stressors, burnout is a constant threat.

It’s true that with well-developed resiliency, we have a healthy drive toward self-improvement. We are motivated and find joy and satisfaction through meaningful work and play. It looks to the world like we’re in charge and in control of our lives.

But we don’t get there alone. There’s no resiliency without relationships.

Resilient people have a network of mutually rewarding relationships – at home and at work. They give and receive trust, compassion, and warmth and are comfortable being authentic and vulnerable with others. In this rich reciprocity of relationships, they further grow in self-regard, motivation and optimism – all essential to success.

And that’s how Pete made his personal shift. Last year, life provided him with so much grit that it wore him nearly to the bone. And while his professional life was rewarding, it was also lonely. He lacked people with whom he could openly and honestly share deeply his hopes, dreams and frustrations.

Today, he’ll tell you there’s a remarkable transformation in his life. He began, slowly, to open up, be a little vulnerable and share his own learning and growth challenges with his peers, direct reports – even his front line staff.

To his surprise and delight, people seemed hungry for his insights. He’s receiving more positive and constructive feedback, more ideas, information and problem solving than he thought possible. With all this support, he even has more time for his personal life now.

And his colleague who was in tears? She’s finding her resiliency once again. She and Pete meet regularly now for coffee. She’s feeling safer sharing her vulnerability and as a result, they’re learning more about their shared challenges – and possible solutions.

Resiliency requires meaningful relationships. If all you’ve got is grit – if faking it is no fun at all – consider that your best, next step isn’t to solider forward but rather to take a risk and talk to someone.

Because it’s through the reciprocity of rewarding relationships that we polish the grit into shared pearls of wisdom, opportunity, growth and success.

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Leadership Development, Resilience, Stress Management , , , , , , , ,
Deene Morris
About Deene Morris
Leadership is a relationship - first and foremost with yourself, and then with others. Better team management begins with better self-management because teams and systems don’t change - people do. You do. As a former entrepreneur who then spent decades in the non-profit sector, I've walked the same path as my clients. My joy and passion is to help individuals and teams at every level work better together. My clients regularly report breakthroughs in innovation, collaboration and problem solving - moving from resistance to resiliency and conflict to creative solutions.

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