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8 Habits of an Agile, Resilient Professional

This is the second post in a series titled “The Agile, Resilient Learner.” The first: “3 Problems With Learning Today.”

Agile is a big buzzword these days that’s being applied in several contexts, including the world of learning and development. Thought leaders like Megan Torrance have even developed a methodology around it (cleverly named LLAMA) as an alternative to more traditional methods of content creation.

Resilience is another word I’ve heard a lot more lately. It gained popularity in the early 2000s, coasted for awhile and now seems to be making a comeback in organizational vernacular. In fact, Forbes included it among “5 Workplace Culture Trends You Can’t Ignore” earlier this year.

Beyond the buzz, what does it mean to be agile or resilient professional in today’s workforce and why should you care?

Well, agile is a term that comes to us from technology development.  A group of smart people got together in 2001 and came up with four core values that frame what’s called “The Agile Manifesto.” Several educators have adapted it for a learning context. Here’s how I think it’s relevant for you:

1. Set up learning “sprints:”

  • At the beginning of a week, ask “what do I want to learn over the next week?”
  • Set a target: 3 chapters in a book, 2 TED talks, 4 blog posts or podcasts.
  • On Friday or  Saturday, review what you’ve learned – did you hit your target?
  • Need a place to keep track? Consider our Action Plan.

2. Conduct a daily “stand up:”

  • What are your tasks (learning or otherwise) for the day?
  • What are the three most important things you need to get done?
  • When will you complete them? Book time on your calendar, if possible.

3. Get a mentor / accountability partner:

  • Tell someone else what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Invite them to ask how you’re doing.
  • Schedule regular time with them to review your progress.

4. Learn and adapt quickly:

  • Based on your daily, weekly and mentor-based reviews, define what’s working.
  • Do more of what’s working (i.e. are you more focused at a particular time of day?)
  • Tweak or eliminate what isn’t (i.e. are there places where you’re more distracted?)

Be fluid and flexible with your learning and growth. Have a plan and take advantage of brief moments here and there to knock out your sprint assignments.

In terms of resilience, it’s all about bouncing back when you run into road blocks. Every one of us experiences barriers to progress on a daily basis. Distractions are constant and perfect performance is elusive. The key is how you respond to moments when things don’t go your way. There are at least 10 traits of highly resilient people. I’ll highlight four:

1. Keep in mind that everything is temporary.

  • Don’t get stuck in a moment; negative thoughts and feelings usually fade fast.
  • Savor your victories; keep a list of accomplishments you can review regularly.

2. Take a deep breath.

  • Seriously, just pause and take one full, slow breath.
  • Count to 10 on the inhale; do the same breathing out.
  • You’ll be amazed at how this simple action can reset your mind and body.
  • I also recently used an app called HeadSpace for guided, mindfulness exercises.

3. Find some aspect of the situation where you can exercise control.

  • What can you accomplish or influence right now?
  • Even if there’s nothing you can do, you can choose your reaction.
  • Sometimes the best response is to do nothing; don’t force it.

4. Get insight from others.

  • Ask clarifying questions (not just “why,” but “how can I help?”)
  • Gain perspective from people who aren’t close to the situation.
  • Avoid triangulation; be as candid and direct as possible if you’re in conflict.

In other words, to be resilient, stay centered and focus on the bigger picture. While the onus and impetus is ultimately up to the individual, savvy, 21-century organizations will create cultures that foster these attributes as well.

How are you advancing yourself in an agile way? What do you do to remain resilient?

Next up in this blog series: “Looking Inward – The Mind (Perspective and Creativity)”

Also, you might want to check out another GovLoop blog titled, “How to Be Agile, Fearless and Flexible in Your Government Career.”

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