Remember when Terminator 2 was released? (If you don’t, please keep your answer to yourself) The technology was new and cool. It was covered in many of the reviews. And equally covered was Linda Hamilton’s character. The strength, both physically and emotionally, of her character was epic. She endured. And yet, some commentaries highlighted the fine line between resilience and pure defiance. She missed understanding her son’s need in significant ways. Her defiance towards almost everything overshadowed her ability to be resilient.
The more I think about being resilient, the more careful I feel I need to be. If some-thing is resilient, it’s a more consistent quality than if a person is. A pot that takes a beating in the kitchen but still maintains its shape is resilient. A person who takes a “beating” in the office might be considered resilient or a glutton or a dope. Where’s the line?
Not everyone has the capacity for resilience. We would like to believe so, but it’s not true. Some do not know how to muster a tough disposition. Understand, too, that tough doesn’t have to mean attitude. I know plenty of attitude-ridden people who do not maintain a fraction of toughness. Tough brings that ability to bounce back, deal with adversity in a proactive manner and heal decisively from a difficulty. Size, age, gender…none of that matters. There are some wonderfully tough people who are petite, elderly women. They are resilient.
In human resources, we might not be seen as tough. For many, the moniker of “necessary evil” for human resources has lasted for an entire career. When you start from a position of weakness, it takes an incredible amount of strength to move passed it. The resolve that’s needed has to be based on a fierce belief that what you have to offer is unlike anything else the company could ever find. Do you believe it?
Our resiliency is masked, too, at times due to our kinder nature. We’re right to be kind, but we must work to make sure our kindness isn’t mistaken for weakness…or stupidity. Having been able to be a fly on the wall, I have watched leadership look at one another and shake their heads when the senior HR person leaves the room. Usually I will call that out and ask where it’s coming from. The scariest part is that they’ll tell me. I’ve heard, “Don’t get me wrong, we love (insert HR pro name), but he/she just isn’t able to handle what we’re trying to do.” I have asked if the HR pro is weak, and the majority of times I am told “yes.”
We are not weak, but there must be something in the way we demonstrate our expertise that translates as weakness. Being compassionate and resilient can work hand in hand. Where have you not shown the capacity for both? Start there.
And for those who have fought back and swung the pendulum the other way, the defiance may not be helping you either. It’s not difficult to sense someone who is masking. Bravado is a good skill at times, but not a course of consistent action. It does show more weakness than you might imagine, even if you’re able to defeat monster machines from the future.
Let’s be genuinely resilient – a toughness that lasts. One where we offer strength and compassion in the work we do; where we offer smarts and hearts. Basing our resilience on honest confidence, healthy compassion and critical thought will allow us to address issues from the surface to the core. And no execs will shake their heads when we leave the room; they’ll likely follow us out.