Resilience: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
“Air. For some reason it’s getting thinner. Maybe it’s not the air itself but my body that can’t seem to get enough out of it. Something’s wrong, it has to be. It must be the air, it has to. I can’t breathe. My eyes itch, I blink faster. Everything is a blur now, I can hear my own heartbeat pulsating in my head. I can’t breathe and my head hurts. Air, I must have air. Why can’t I breathe?”
That is what, in almost his exact words, a fellow manager answered when I asked a simple question: “how are you doing?”. He was having a bad day like any normal person does sometime. He was great at his job, one of a kind, a star. And yet, he was having a bad day and didn’t know how to deal it it. “I’m not going to make it.” was the one thought in his mind that kept coming out when I asked.
Truth be told, he had a bad year rather than a day, that’s all, only it’s never that simple. It was a catastrophe for him. You see, he could see the problems coming before they happened. He was that good. He planned to avoid them and work extra hard to get things done. And yet, things kept going the wrong way and he was, day after day, suffering. It got so bad at one point that he couldn’t sleep at all, couldn’t rest and eventually felt like he was drowning.
As a manager you eventually learn that a bad day for you can have devastating effects on your team. You might even feel that even though you are still as accountable as your team, there’s more to it: it is your responsibility, glory or loss more than it is theirs. You own it. The good and the other. Regardless of how open minded you might be, there is a point in your career as a manager when you just feel you’re not doing it right, any of it.
Those bad days, those moments when you feel your errors are worse than those of your team, well…they are not that bad. You might feel they are, that’s why you call them “bad”, but they don’t need to. They shape your mood for sure, they make you feel powerless, useless and sometimes they taste like failure. We all hate them, so how can you make that change? How can you start breathing again when you just can’t see the way?
Just ASK for help
Who, you might answer back, do you think can help you out of that? Your team looks at you and they are puzzled. Your boss is just staring and your peers suddenly went quiet and decided they need to give you a bit more space. Who will help you? Who can help you? Well…let’s try all of them and then some more. Before you go out crying for help though, one thing alone is important: have you understood what went wrong? Are you prepared to accept it and try to understand whatever was that made that a bad day or year?
This will lead you to a simplistic and yet real answer: regardless of the origin of what’s bad for you at that moment, only you can change it. You are just having a bad day. You’re not drowning. Your eyes are fine, they are just frustrated as you are. The air (your salvation) is out there, all you need to do is breathe. Before you can reach out for help, you need to make a very conscious decision: command your hand to reach out. Un-freeze and re-direct your energy, get out of your survival mode and when you’re ready, don’t just offer your hand to whomever might be passing out and feels like helping: name your helper. As a manager you are accountable for many things but it doesn’t mean you are alone.
A personal choice: I’ll always reach out to my team first but only after I’ve surrendered my fear of failing and I’m ready to be helped. My fresh air comes from those I serve and work for, the ones that hear my plea first. That’s where the power to change bad into good resides: in me first, and then in those that are willing to help me.
That is why bad days can only be good: a bad day is a day when I surrender control, accept my limitations and get help. A bad day is a learning day, and that’s always good.
Also published on Medium.