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Episode 26: Reinventing Resilience

Paul Thallner, Founder & CEO of High Peaks Group and author of Reinventing Resilience, joins this episode of Change@Work. Listen as he and host Chris Thornton, discuss why Paul wrote his new book and why organizations must evolve and grow so workers aren’t forced to continually bounce back. Paul shares how to use his model to reinvent resilience and create great work cultures that attract and retain the best talent.

For more information, visit Paul’s website here: www.reinventingresilience.com/changeatwork

 

Transcript

This transcript was automatically generated with artificial intelligence. It’s in the queue to go through a review with human eyes!

00;00;00;00 – 00;00;33;09
Chris Thornton

The Change at Work is a podcast about the ever evolving world of work and the human behaviors that drive it. I’m Chris Thornton, senior principal here at Tiger Woods Group. Together with partners, clients and leading experts from a variety of industries. We’ll share what’s happening in the world of work, how leaders can prepare for the future, and how to engage employees along the way.

00;00;33;11 – 00;00;54;09
Chris Thornton

Joining me today is Paul Tanner, organizational change expert and principal here at Tiger Wing Group. Paul, I know you. Yes, I work with you absolutely. Every day, almost. Paul, you’ve got over 25 years of experience working with executive teams to identify and implement strategic change initiatives. I think we can also call you one of the most beloved team members.

00;00;54;10 – 00;01;12;17
Paul Thallner

My goodness, you’re a somewhat recent joiner attacker. Wing How long have you been here? Just celebrated one year last week. Well done. Well done. It’s been a good year. Has been that your care? Thanks. All right, Paul, I know you’re a listener because you also refer people to the podcast. And some of our recent guests are through use.

00;01;12;17 – 00;01;36;24
Chris Thornton

I know you’re very familiar with it, so get ready. We’re going to get to know you. Paul What are your hobbies and how did you get into them? I am an electric guitar player. Well, I play notes on an electric guitar, but it’s one of those hobbies that I took up because I needed something to do just for the pure joy of it.

00;01;36;26 – 00;01;54;26
Paul Thallner

So I have no goals, I have no aspirations. I have no dreams to be a rock star or anything like that. I just do it for fun and it’s awesome. It’s a nice oasis in the middle of my day. Are you a just somebody who, like, picks up the notes and you make it up and whatever comes out comes out.

00;01;54;26 – 00;02;20;06
Unknown

Are you trying to play actual songs? I am trying to play actual songs. I actually have an instructor that helps me, but mainly my goal is to make as much noise as I possibly can. It feels really good. And what kind of genre are you into? Well, I hardcore punk and reggae. So to answer that, no, expect to love it so much.

00;02;20;09 – 00;02;38;03
Chris Thornton

Oh, Paul, that is incredible. If I were privileged enough to be in the same space with you and your electric guitars and I said, Paul, play a song for me, you’re like, No, no, I can’t. I like Paul. Please play me a song. And you’re like, Okay, fine. What song would you play? I would play God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols.

00;02;38;04 – 00;03;02;05
Paul Thallner

Incredible. Incredible. That’s a beautiful answer. All right. Let’s keep going on getting to know you. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Well, this is perfect question for this month, because October fest is here. Yeah, And my wife makes unbelievable Wienerschnitzel. Oh, yeah. So I’m an austrian-american. My dad emigrated to the U.S. from Austria.

00;03;02;12 – 00;03;18;20
Chris Thornton

So German food has been part of my life forever, and I love a good schnitzel. So if there were no health ramifications at all, I would eat schnitzel every day for the rest of my life. Now, do you make it or just your wife? My wife makes it. She’s good at it. Can’t hold a candle to that. Fair.

00;03;18;22 – 00;03;46;20
Chris Thornton

Yeah. And last question. And getting to know you. What activity instantly calms you? Is it the Sex Pistols song? You know me well enough to know that it’s not easy to calm me, but you drink the chilliest vibe every time. Yeah, I was going to say your voice, Chris, but there are. Yeah, I mean, I’ve been especially recently during the pandemic and everything, getting really into meditation.

00;03;46;23 – 00;04;06;03
Unknown

And we’re going to talk a little bit about some of that wellbeing and wellness stuff a little later on. But just calming me and getting myself grounded through meditation really does put things in perspective and get me set for the day. That’s great. Yeah. Well, let’s get into the new book that you wrote called Reinventing Resilience. First of all, congratulations on writing a book.

00;04;06;03 – 00;04;23;10
Unknown

Thank you. Huge. I know that my copy is in the mail. Yes, it is. I thought you mailed it yesterday, so I haven’t read it, but so spoil it for me. Or at least give me a little teaser of what I’m in for. And then our listeners let them know What made you want to write your new book?

00;04;23;13 – 00;04;47;23
Unknown

So when I was a kid, my mom worked at Three Mile Island, a nuclear power plant in central Pennsylvania. Right. Wow. She was amazing. She was a shift worker, blue collar, you know, union labor. And she was very, very resilient. But she still suffered. She was the only woman on her team. She was part of this very tough, macho kind of environment.

00;04;47;25 – 00;05;14;15
Unknown

And it was very, very hard on her. I would say it was a misogynist workplace. But despite the fact that she was resilient and she got up every day to do her thing, it was the workplace that was the problem, not the worker. So as a change management expert, you know, I’m pulled out of bed every day to really help organizations become more human centric so that people and businesses can really work in a way that enable people to thrive.

00;05;14;15 – 00;05;36;19
Unknown

And so people don’t have the kind of experience my mom had. Wow. That’s pretty intense, Paul. Yeah. You know, I was talking with my dad recently and very different job. And I think when you get to a certain age and I don’t know what that age is, I’m sure it’s different for everybody. And you start looking at the work that your parents did and you view it from that you could be their coworker.

00;05;36;19 – 00;05;55;25
Unknown

It takes on a different meaning, doesn’t it? Oh, for sure. Because you only see your parent as their job sometimes, like my mom is a blank. But then when you sort of start thinking about they have to go in and talk to people every day and interact with other members of their their team. And they have management and they have, you know, expectations and performance reviews just like we do now.

00;05;55;25 – 00;06;18;28
Unknown

You know, it’s like, wow, that must have been unbelievable. Yeah. Yeah. Especially for your mom in that environment. Mm hmm. So when I looked at the name of your book, Reinventing Resilience, I always stop and think, What is this about? And I think I know what resilience is, but why does it need to be reinvented? So maybe we start with what is resilience?

00;06;19;01 – 00;06;44;06
Unknown

Yeah, so a lot of folks think of resilience as the ability to bounce back after a setback. And that’s exactly right. Of course it’s that. But I redefine resilience as the courage and confidence to grow through challenges. Why? Well, because our current definition of resilience really keeps us in what I call gap closing cycles. So this is the perpetual state of getting up after being knocked down.

00;06;44;09 – 00;07;08;06
Unknown

So the way we think of resilience doesn’t really contemplate growth and change. So we need to reinvent resilience in order to move past where we got knocked down. My book does talk about resilient organizations as well. So as someone who does change management for a living, there’s already been a lot written about individual resilience and there’s a lot of great information out there.

00;07;08;06 – 00;07;29;27
Unknown

But I’m really fascinated with what makes an organization resilient, and that’s what I researched for this book. I got to dig in there. Yeah. What does it mean for an organization to be resilient? There’s a couple of things that I found out in my research, so I interviewed dozens of leaders trying to answer that exact question. So there are a couple of things that I discovered.

00;07;29;27 – 00;07;53;03
Unknown

One is that resilience is really dynamic. So when you think about a sponge, for example, or a steel rod, like just what happens when you squeeze a sponge? Chris Right. You squeeze it. It deforms and then you let go and then it just bounces back to whatever shape it was before you squeezed it. Similarly, a steel rod, you try to bend it and it just resists that bending pressure.

00;07;53;05 – 00;08;13;23
Unknown

So I did a thought experiment during my research and said, Which one people is resilient? And a lot of people said, you know, the sponge or they’re still right, or both or whatever. But the fact is they’re both resilient, but they’re both static. So they don’t actually change as a result of whatever was affecting the so-called challenge that’s affecting them.

00;08;13;26 – 00;08;39;25
Unknown

They just return to the way they were before. So we apply this definition in to people. But people, as you know, are a lot different than sponges. We change when we experience these kinds of setbacks. So that’s why I think we need to look at resilience and how it scales up in organizations to think about it in the context of that space between people and how organizations are formed and what really keeps an organization going.

00;08;39;25 – 00;09;02;14
Unknown

And of course, it’s the people, but it’s not simply adding up the resilience of all the individuals that makes an organization resilient. It’s about how the organization is and how it’s formed and the fact that an organization itself can be resilient, not just the people in it. That’s really, really good. So when I think about why we need to reinvent resilience, it feels like you’re leading me somewhere.

00;09;02;14 – 00;09;28;05
Unknown

That if we think about it, in the old definition of I get knocked down, I get back up again. That’s really, really limiting in how we think about what we’re capable of as individuals and certainly as an organization. Am I on the right track? Absolutely, yeah. When we’re in organizations, I think we all are aware of the fact that organizations are really good at solving the problems that are right in front of them.

00;09;28;06 – 00;10;02;21
Unknown

A lot of times. But just like people when they encounter an unexpected challenge or, you know, so-called setback, sometimes organizations get stuck to just like individuals do. And there’s not a lot of strategies that organizations can use to get to bounce forward or to grow through that challenge as opposed to simply bounce back. So that’s why I created a model in Reinventing Resilience that provides a roadmap for organizations to cultivate and build resilience so that they can not just bounce back from a setback, but actually grow through that challenge as well.

00;10;02;23 – 00;10;20;23
Unknown

Sometimes when I pick up books, focus in on business leaders. I think what problem are you actually trying to solve for me? Are you just trying to sell me something? I feel like you’re actually trying to solve something, Paul For people. If I were to open up the book when I get at what do you think the problems are that this book will help me think through you?

00;10;20;24 – 00;10;43;26
Unknown

Chris had some alarming stats emerge when I was doing my research, and one of them that really stuck out was that the workplace is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Oh, my God. Yeah. According to Stanford University professor Jeffrey Pfeffer in his book called Dying for a Paycheck. Oh, I mean, that’s an incredible situation to think about.

00;10;43;28 – 00;11;08;13
Unknown

Similarly, the World Health Organization has declared workplace stress as a global epidemic, and this was even before COVID. So as leaders in organizations, we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to create workplaces that don’t kill people. Right. So at a minimum. Right. At a minimum. At a minimum. But I’ve been fascinated with this idea of not just creating workplaces that suck less, right?

00;11;08;13 – 00;11;35;18
Unknown

That don’t kill people. Right? We have to create organizations that enable their workers to thrive and hopefully even live longer as a result of working there. And I think doing change right is one way to create organizations that help people not just bounce back, but bounce back stronger, create great business results, and ultimately enable the organization to thrive and exceed its wildest expectations for a long period of time.

00;11;35;21 – 00;12;00;16
Unknown

Paul I got to believe that there’s like a framework or some model that people can think about how to address this. Is that right? Yeah. So in Reinventing Resilience, I created this framework that I believe can be a roadmap for organizations that want to build and cultivate organizational resilience at scale. So there’s really two kind of fundamental things I discovered about resilient organizations in my research.

00;12;00;16 – 00;12;21;22
Unknown

They have two core qualities collective efficacy, which is basically the belief that they can get through whatever it is that they’re experiencing and staunch realism or the awareness of the situation around them. They don’t sugarcoat things and they don’t catastrophize either. They just really have a good solid sense of what’s really true and they don’t debate what’s true.

00;12;21;24 – 00;12;43;22
Unknown

So those two things really end up being the core of the model. And I have strategies to help organizations build both of those things that together create the courage and confidence to grow through challenges. And those are great conversations that organizations can have to build up their capability to really weather the next storm. And there’s some storms coming for sure.

00;12;43;22 – 00;13;11;06
Unknown

So this feels like a very well timed book and incredibly important. Paul, I love working with you and I loved our conversation today. Where can people buy your book? You can buy the book on Amazon. It’s available in Kindle version and paperback, but also Barnes Noble and all the other places where books are sold. Paul Tollner, principal at Dagger Wing Group, Coworker and Friend and author of the book Reinventing Resilience.

00;13;11;08 – 00;13;30;21
Unknown

Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks so much, Chris. Appreciate it.

More in the Series

Chris Thornton is a Senior Principal and member of the global leadership team at Daggerwing Group. In his role, Chris serves as a source of strategic counsel for Senior Executives with client firms, advising them on how to help clients achieve Executive alignment, transform their cultures and equip and enable people managers to lead and embed change. An expert in the people side of change with both client-side and consulting experience, Chris has worked with leading companies including Nestlé, Pfizer, and GE Aviation to do change right and make it stick. He is also an active speaker on business transformation, a driver of innovation in Daggerwing’s breadth of change consulting services, and the host of Daggerwing Group’s podcast, Change@Work. Chris and his wife were featured in the New York Times for their love of pie.
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