Finding My Rhythm of Resilience
by Erica Godwin
27 May, 2020
At the Public Relations Society of America Employee Communications annual conference Connect in May 2019, I listened to laudable case studies from numerous speakers. While I relished hearing fellow communicators share great outcomes, I was reeling from what felt like a major setback.
Not comparing their highlights to my real-life circumstances was a struggle, despite intrinsically thinking they must have encountered challenges and missteps along the way. (Right?) After all, no road to success is paved without a few potholes of failure.
In planning an engagement initiative, I failed to account for how people involved might change the process I had outlined. The shifts led to an outcome different from the set goal in a way that I feared may potentially cause a disconnect, which it did for a few.
As internal communicators, we fundamentally believe employees are the heartbeat of any organization. We spend our time and energy to help keep our colleagues engaged because we care deeply, and we know our work matters.
So, what happens when we are not engaged ourselves?
With my feelings of failure in tow, I briefly disconnected from work through these stages before fully showing up again. (Thank you, hindsight.)
First, I had to acknowledge what happened and be vulnerable with myself. Fortunately, a friend came alongside to help me process my thoughts and the situation. Talking about the failure—and my feelings—aloud helped eliminate the intensity and sting of failure, and more importantly, led to parsing out lessons learned. (After all, failures are really learning opportunities.)
The conference was well-timed as it allowed me to physically and mentally take a break. Stepping away to see the situation from a distance was worthwhile and necessary. As my takeaways crystalized, I was able to see the failure as an opportunity to learn more about my colleagues, and myself, which allowed me to better re-engage.
From apologizing to coworkers to trying new ideas, I felt inspired to exercise courage after reading the first few chapters of Dare to Lead and watching “The Call to Courage,” a Netflix special. Author, speaker and social researcher Brené Brown states that courage is a trait we can develop over time. Like building a muscle, we get better at vulnerability and courage through practice.
Seeking wisdom last spring, a cursory search for inspiration resulted in a popular quote ascribed to Sir Winston Churchill.
“Success is moving from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.”*
While the quote is erroneously attributed, it still resonates with me. At its core, the sentiment highlights how success is inextricably linked to resilience. By acknowledging the situation, taking a break and exercising courage, even with smaller issues, I am practicing moving through the steps more swiftly to stay engaged.
At first, I saw the ABC process as a path to overcoming failure. Now I see it as a rhythm of resilience.
Here’s to celebrating success and building resilience—without a loss of enthusiasm!
Erica Goodwin is the Global Communications Manager at Heifer International, a global nonprofit working to eradicate poverty and hunger through sustainable, values-based community development. With a 20-year career in communications, Erica is on a mission to put employees first by discovering the best ways to implement employee communications and drive engagement in the workplace.
*According to writer and historian Richard M. Langworth of the Hillsdale College Churchill Project.