The Spark Lab Speaker Series continues its tradition of connecting businesses in Aotearoa with international thought leaders. Our recent guest was Dr Alia Bojilova, a psychologist and inspirational change-maker whose career began in the elite branches of the New Zealand Defence Force. She helped shape their organisational process to optimise individual performance in the most acute situations. Now, she shares those learnings with organisations to help them thrive.
She joined Simon Curran to talk through a myriad of solutions and approaches for today’s changing world.
Their talk spanned a redefinition of resilience through to some practical and applicable tools for everyday use, be it as an individual or in an organisation. Four key themes emerged as Alia spoke, and they fit into an ABCD framework. She likes to use this when working with organisations to help them develop.
Any challenge will require both kinds of awareness, and they're intrinsically linked. There may be a situation where you don't have full control of what’s happening. However, if you're first to control yourself, you can re-evaluate the situation and how you approach it. Knowing one's strengths and response to challenges allows you to ground yourself in the reality of the situation and confidently look for a solution. Alia talks about “scooping up your best self”, be it through simple acts of control (presenting yourself at your best, focusing on what you can control) and going forward from there. In any situation, by taking control of the small moments, you can build towards those larger challenges.
Dr Alia describes belonging as the most fundamental human need and mission critical for a team to perform at its best. Creating this sense in your people is key to rallying them and thriving in times of uncertainty. It runs deeper than a mission statement or set of values. People need to see themselves in the job they're performing – those values or that mission must align with theirs or be understood in a way they feel on a deeper level. Part of achieving that comes down to understanding the difference between a belief and a behaviour. The behaviour is the true manifestation of that sense of belonging – when the belief is enacted. Belonging helps us avoid drifting off. It aligns teams with a common purpose. While they may take different paths to get there, what they do along the way builds them and their sense of belonging. Belonging can still exist even when groups are apart – it’s a deeper sense of what you’re collectively trying to achieve.
Dr Bojilova is quick to stress the importance of the value of curiosity in an organisation to grow and innovate. Allowing that to happen requires the creation of a place that has clear expectations and parameters to explore, but removing the set path to get to that objective and any fear of failure. This gives your team a chance to explore different ways to achieve the desired outcome. In doing so, new opportunities might also be found along the way.
One of the key tools to encourage curiosity in your team is to reframe the relationship with failure. It should be a process of learning along the way that is appreciated. Although the desired outcomes may not be achieved, you've still learnt how to get close, and another chance to get it right with new skills next time.
Our expectations on individual drive and how we should assess it need to change. Drive shouldn’t lead to burnout through tireless pursuit. Don’t confuse drive with grit and relentlessly chasing a goal or objective. Drive is as much about replenishing and re-energising in those quieter moments as it is about chasing the win. We need to achieve an equilibrium that allows for moments of rest so that we’re capable of performing at our best when it really matters.
Dr Bojilova has put together four quick tips to perform at your best under pressure and thrive in changing times, which you can watch here.
You can also view the whole Speaker Series conversation with Simon Curran below.
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