Framing a Challenge for Resilience

Challenges come in many sizes. Some are so trivial, addressing them lacks meaning; some are so large, addressing them defies comprehension. And some are just right.

Getting a challenge to the right size requires some packaging from leaders. The world does not define itself in bite-sized chunks. However, leaders can define things in a ways that convert the ongoing flow of events into narratives that make sense to people.

One nugget of wisdom that came my way lately was the power of small gains. An accomplishment need not be a major big deal. Any large scale project comprises a series of small steps, any one of which can be celebrated on its own. An exclusive focus on the BIG project can be discouraging. Its overwhelming scale may discourage people from even beginning.

When building team resilience, a leader plays an important role in chunking the workgroup’s tasks. This role includes both task design as well as building a narrative. The task design is to define meaningful pieces of the task that the group can complete with a reasonable amount of time and effort. The narrative quality is to talk about the task in ways that convey its importance.

    Define Bite-Sized Chunks. An immediate focus can be an asset. Rather than thinking of completing a round of golf, focusing on making the most of the next stroke makes everything more manageable. Rather than focusing on a 10K run, focusing on getting your shoes properly tied for you run is more manageable. Rather than focusing on the entire, annual report, writing a good intro paragraph is more manageable.

    Small Step To Do Lists. Putting large chunks on a To-Do list can be discouraging. One glance at a large task—writing the annual report—and procrastination kicks in. The natural inclination is to put off tackling that project until you feel brimming with energy and confident of large tracts of uninterrupted time ahead of you. Those conditions are a pretty tall order. It is more constructive to take the extra step of breaking down the large project into its component steps. For example, gathering some financial data for the annual report could be one manageable component of the task.

    Celebrate the Small Steps. A central part of building a resilient team narrative is celebrating shared successes. If the workgroup waits to celebrate only grand accomplishments, they are losing opportunities to build a stronger team. Acknowledging the small stuff creates many more chances to strengthen a team’s identity and confidence.

So, does reading this post count as one bite sized chunk?

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