This week I had the chance to visit with Adam Markel, former attorney, entrepreneur and CEOof More Love Media. He’s also a bestselling author of the book “Pivot: The Art and Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life.”
The book is an excellent read that re-examines the concept of “pivoting.” In my own life and career I have made several pivots. Each was painful but was also a vital step on the path of reaching my highest fulfillment and goals. As I look back on these events, I realize the greatest experiences of my life would not have occurred if I had not lived and learned from the phases of unexpected change and disappointment as well.
Adam Markel is a bestselling author, speaker and expert onperformance and leadership skillsMORE LOVE MEDIA
In business, the concept of the pivot is a frequent and even expected occurrence: “We created a gaming system. It works! But the market didn’t respond in the way we’d have liked, so the pivot is ….” (and the company moves to Plan B). Granted, there is much more to a successful business pivot than simply re-assigning a target, but failing fast, learning from missteps and moving forward with clarity is a concept I love.
In particular, Markel and I discussed his thoughts on resilience. As a principle, I regard resilience so highly that it is one of the key principles in my own book, “The 7 Non-Negotiables of Winning.” There are aspects of Markel’s thinking, however, that turn the world’s typical view of resilience on its head.
As Markel sees it, there are three main steps in resilience. When a challenge arises, you must do the following:
- Reframe. The art and science of framing a situation is a masterful skill. “This is a disaster,” “I suck at this,” and “We’ll never survive this” can be replaced by “This is our opportunity to learn and share a better story.” “Other companies are facing this, too,” and my personal favorite, “So what did this just open up for us?” For example, consider the story of Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson upon hearing that two African American men stepped into a Starbucks store to use the restroom and were subsequently arrested. It was an unexpected call of the kind no CEO would want to receive. In the heat of emotion, he could have dealt with the scenario in a variety of ways. Lawyers and others might have advised him to deflect blame, shield the company’s reputation and blame and fire the manager, or blame the two gentlemen or the police. Instead, he went on national TV the next morning and owned the entire situation. He took personal responsibility and vowed to find out the root cause of the situation and make it better. Weeks later the company resolved the situation legally and amicably with the two men who’d been improperly treated. Two months later, 8,000 Starbucks stores were closed for 4 hours for all staff to receive training on unconscious bias. It was not an instantaneous cure, but an admirable step in the right direction in the face of a threat that could have erupted in loss of stock valuation and departure of talent. Instead, he reframed the occurrence in a way that was costly, of course, but that would bring about more loyalty to the company and brand. He allowed the world to see Starbucks as an organization doing its best to learn and move forward.
- Mine for Insight. Markel talks about his grandmother Edith, a great cook who made tiny cakes the size of a half dollar. When Markel asked her about the tiny size of the cakes, she said, “Little things in life can have a very big impact.” She called the cakes “little gems.” This is a vital principle in resilience as well. We must find the little gems in any situation. Ask yourself…What is the lesson, the hidden opportunity, and the ultimate benefit the hard situation can bring?
- Recover. This principle is the one Markel emphasizes most strongly to the companies he advises, he said, that turns our traditional thinking about resilience on its head. Most leaders and businesses think about resilience as a form of endurance: “We’ve gotta muscle through this, survive on less sleep, earn the night owl award, roll up our sleeves and be a model of endurance.” Yes, the ability to rise up and endure is a component of resilience. But equally important and often ignored is recovery—the need to restore our strength and reserves after a period when our highest grit is required. Think of Rocky Balboa in the original Rocky Movie, Markel says. He notes a series of Harvard Business Review articles that studied top performing athletes. Those who do the best, he notes, are not necessarily the ones who practice the longest or who endure the most pain. The top athletes, research has concluded are those who recover more quickly. They have mastered self- care. They have recovery rituals to regain their internal and external strength, and they build these rituals into the process of performance.
Let’s examine this principle more fully. In your life and in your business, recovery is a vital part of the process for becoming a high-performance individual or team. When you face a tough deadline or an impossible challenge, what are the personal and professional rituals you use to replenish and repair?
In my own businesses I have stressed the need to match hard work with hard play. Lunch hour hikes. Biking teams. Fitness classes. Touch football.
Markel notes that his own upbringing was not a life of ease or high wealth, but that every Friday his parents would take the day off of work to do what they wanted to do—visit the health food store, the chiropractor, or to schedule in some recreation and fun. The “Freedom Day” was part of their plan for success.
Sadly, this is a principle many leaders in business have lost. As the “great recession” of 2010-2012 left many organizations in the fight for their lives, participants at every level were pressed to do more with less. But in too many cases, although the economy is now stronger, the urgency and pressure to over-perform never left.
It is not the stress of business that kills us, Markel says. It’s actually the lack of recovery from exhaustion and stress. Disengagement takes over, costing our economy more than $500 billion per year. Indirectly, the stress leads to depression, self-medication and addiction, leading not only to lost revenue but loss of happiness, loss of fulfillment and in too many cases, loss of wellbeing and even of lives.
Resilience is vital to personal and business success…and recovery is a critical key.