A Coaching Power Tool Created by Michelle Jewell
(Business Coach, UNITED STATES)
At work, I have the privilege of leading a small team that handles all of our new employee on-boarding. Our company has been growing rapidly recently, keeping us busy. However, with growth comes lots of other changes needed to scale a business beyond just more people. We have been faced with changing processes, changing tools, changing people and changing stress levels.
Change after the change had me thinking about my own resiliency and the resiliency of the team. I started to have conversations with each of my team members about resiliency. In one conversation, I was asked how they could tell if they were being resilient, or complacent – a question that stopped me in my tracks and drove me to dig in and explore these two qualities, how they can be triggered in times of stress, and how to intentionally shift perspectives between them.
So what is resiliency?
The American Psychological Association defines it as the process of adapting well in the face of stress, adversity, or trauma. People often call this “bouncing back”. It is what allows us to experience the ups and downs of everyday life, be able to process the parts that are difficult and keep going. This is an innate part of being human and it is also behavior and mindset that can be learned, practiced and developed.
To be resilient, you have to be brave enough to be vulnerable; to feel the strong emotions that stress may trigger, recognizing that they are temporary and appreciating the opportunities they may open up for you. However, when trying to be resilient people can default to one of two anti-patterns.
First is attempting to act fearless or tough, and just push through. While in the short term, this can allow people to make progress in spite of challenges, stress or adversity, in the long term, constantly putting on a brave face and suppressing those true emotions can lead to burning out.
Second is similarly ignoring those painful emotions, but instead of powering through, becoming passive and treating the adversity or stress as something that just happens to them. It allows them to handle change after change, stress after stress, and believe that it is not affecting them. In actuality, this safe or easy feeling is actually having a profound effect.
And this is where complacency comes in. Complacency is officially defined as “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.” It can feel good, safe and familiar. But it can also blind you to what is really going on, and dampen those difficult emotions which can teach us so much.
This is where it clicked for me – “am I being resilient, or am I just being complacent?” This is a valid question, especially for someone who has been sustaining a significant period of stress. It can feel easier to just accept what is happening and let things happen to you. It is not making you any more resilient, however, and may even be lowering your ability to be resilient.
A subtle but powerful shift. Shifting perspective to building your resiliency will enable you to learn from challenges, acknowledge failures and grow in the process. Complacency will hold you back from stretching outside of your comfort zone, and in the long run, limit you. For this reason, being able to explore the perspectives of resiliency and complacency when working through stress can be a powerful exercise to maximize your potential.
Resiliency and complacency are similar in that they are sets of behaviors, attitudes, and perspectives that can be employed to help you deal with strife. They both have an element of acceptance, recognizing there are forces at work shaping the circumstances around us that we do not have control over. And both, in very different ways, making it feel easier to manage stress, change or adversity.
Complacency creates a safe feeling by putting up a wall or blocking out any of the potential negative feelings or impacts – they simply do not exist. Often times, this is confused with contentment, a perfectly great place to be. However, the lack of appreciation for the realities of the situation limits our ability to learn and grow from the situation. It certainly is a lower effort way to manage stress but it risks becoming a limiting factor for future growth.
Resiliency, although it can take time and effort to build, leverages a growth mindset allowing you to have an awareness and appreciation for all elements of a situation, even those that feel heavy, focusing on what can be learned and how to keep moving forward. This empowers you to manage stress and find contentment in that place of strength.
The major difference is effort. Resiliency is harder; it requires a strong growth mindset, the mental fortitude to face difficult situations and strong emotions head-on, the vulnerability to accept and learn from failures, the strength to release judgment of others around you, and quite simply the time and headspace to process all of these things. Complacency feels easier; Que sera, sera (what will be, will be) at its worst, disempowering you which is where this power tools power becomes so powerful!
Who is this power tool most valuable for?
This power tool can be useful for anyone who has faced prolonged challenges or stress, as well as leaders and coaches who work with them. It is applicable in both professional and personal environments. Some signs that someone may be struggling with this:
- They say they feel powerless
- They are facing constant change or stress
- Their response to how they are handling stress is “it’s OK” or “it’s fine”
- Their energy feels consistently low or flat
- They flat out ask “Am I being resilient or complacent?”
What is the value of this power tool?
If complacency takes over, it has the potential to hold you in the same place, preventing you from moving forward. It takes away your power or control and you become a passive receiver of all the circumstances around you. The rut that complacency puts you in only gets deeper the longer you stay there making it harder and harder to see a path out.
This power tool can help shift perspectives to focus on building a strong sense of resilience. By challenging yourself or your client to face the emotions that stress, and adversity present, it will enable them to learn from and grow from them, allowing them to accelerate forward. It will encourage a more positive and empowering perspective.
As opposed to getting stuck and letting complacency become the “safe” or “comfortable” space, reframing the perspective of what is happening in these stressful times can enable a powerful breakthrough for clients. It puts them back in control of a situation that they may perceive as completely outside of their control.
How to reframe complacency?
There are countless strategies out there to build resiliency but the first step needs to be the perspective shift from one of complacency to one of resilience; from the dis-empowered to the empowered. All of your coaching tools about reframing perspectives are applicable here but these are some of the most beneficial to deal with this specific scenario.
Listen. Especially in times of high stress, powerful listening will provide the space for the client to explore the situation, their reactions and their emotions, potentially enlightening themselves to a deeper level of understanding.
Structures. Having some perceived distance between the stressors and figuring out what to do with them can enable things to come together in totally new ways. Encourage your client to think about structures that grant them the space to explore their perspectives, and what structures they may need to get rid of to remove any obstacles. Feeling beat down by constant change and constant stress can leave you feeling emotionally and mentally drained. Acknowledging that and applying some structures that can unburden a client can allow for the expansive thinking needed to make this perspective shift.
Questions. Ask powerful questions that can help your client explore what complacency feels like, how it serves them and how it may not. Challenge them with future-focused, empowering questions about what could be different. Change the scope and ask them how they would handle a particular stressor if it were the first one they faced, as opposed to one in a long series. Change the point of view and ask them what advice they would give a friend dealing with a similar situation.
Acknowledge. Clarity is often lost when someone is stuck in complacency and encouragement can be a strong tool to help someone take the first step towards this reframing of perspectives. As you start to recognize any perspective shifts, acknowledge it. Acknowledge the difficulty of this particular shift. Most importantly, promote the celebration. Resiliency is a journey that can be heightened and strengthened with celebration.
Once a client is able to look at their situation from the empowering perspective of resiliency, then it is time to turn to other tools, techniques, and tactics that have been proven to help build and foster that sense of resiliency. Of course, as a coach, let your client decide what to do with this new perspective. The simple awareness may be all they need to shift their actions, behaviors, and attitude without any specific tools or training.
While there is great value in recognizing what it within and outside of your control, there is great power in recognizing that your perception, awareness and resulting behaviors or actions are always within your control regardless of the circumstances presented to you.
 Source: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience
 Source: Dictionary.com