Resilience Engineering #9: Personal Success and Leadership

by Gary Monti on August 9, 2011

Resilience engineering (RE) supports personal success, adaptation, and growth. Remember the definition of resilience?

Resilient: A system is resilient when it can adapt to internal and external challenges by changing its method of operations while continuing to function. While elements of the original system are present there is a fundamental shift in core activities that reflects adapting to the new environment.

This applies to personal life quite well. The question is, “How?” How can this be, especially when a lot of what’s been presented in this series has to do with accident models? The answer lies in where RE places its focus – it is actually on success. RE is about looking at the socio-technical complex and determining how success is sustainable. To do that there is a need to pay close attention to failures. Consequently, the accident models are “out front,” so to speak.

Okay, that sounds fine but what about the fact one has a busy life and working on changing oneself while getting other things done seems a bit too much? Also, isn’t this for presidents, CEOs, and prime ministers? It is for all of us.

Mythology is filled with stories about the threat of falling apart if the hero continues striving to move forward dealing with obstacles seemingly impossible to conquer. There is the threat of losing it all because life is complex and complexity can let failure emerge just as much as success. The way to increase the odds of success is to be resilient and change with the dancing terrain.

Carl Jung was a big believer in this. According to Jung we each need to be our own hero or heroine. He felt the job or station we have in life had a primary purpose of helping us discover who we really are. The job itself is a vehicle rather than an end in itself.

So what does this have to do with resilience? Look at it this way, think of robustness. In the previous blog Rupert Murdoch’s mistake had to do with robustness. Remember that definition?

Robust: A system is robust when it can continue functioning in the presence of internal and external challenges without fundamental changes to the original system.

He put his goals first and lost sight of what was happening. He just keeps on doing what has always worked in the past and continually tries to amplify it.

There’s a saying in Buddhism:

Paying attention and living by habits are mutually exclusive.

Paying attention is resilient. Living by habits is robust.

What does this all come down to? Is there a difficult person who has the power to influence your life? Do you feel they distract you from your work? Jung would say deciding how to take ownership of your situation and respond to that person comes first. The desire to have your job go the way it always did is the distraction. That difficult person is a wake up call asking what principles are important and what is the best way to use them.

Behaving this way shows others you are working from an inner force that is self-directing. You have a plan and are sticking to it. People see something they want for themselves and will allow you to influence them. This is power.

Thus, the paradox is by taking care of oneself and maintaining commitment to something bigger even while things are in flux the leader emerges.

Be resilient!

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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