Grant’s and Sandberg’s Option B

Wednesday, 07. March 2018

Grant’s and Sandberg’s Option B:
Why Leaders Should not Miss to Read the Highly Personal Book
by the Organizational Psychologist and the Facebook Manager

In his latest book, “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy”, the organizational psychologist Adam Grant discusses the topic resilience. Co-author is no one less than Facebook-COO Sheryl Sandberg, who after her husband’s unexpected death had to deal with the question: What can you do if option A – in this case sharing her life with her husband Dave – is no longer an option? The answer: Make the most of option B! Numerous personal stories in Sandberg’s and Grant’s book illustrate how this can be achieved. Moreover, these stories are underpinned by profound scientific findings.

The Secret: Resilience

Psychologists use the term resilience to specify the capability of resistance of the soul not only to regenerate in the face of crises but also to go beyond them. Besides personal experiences by Sandberg and others, the book contains a variety of most applicable hints on what to do for anyone to become more resilient – be it within a crisis in their own lives or as a support for others. However, the book is also about the significance of resilience in the work environment and how to promote it. It is clear that anyone can learn this kind of self-regulation skill – not only top managers such as Sheryl Sandberg.

Resilience of the Individual: Meeting Challenges
Individuelle Resilienz

Resilience doesn’t just mean putting up with whatever comes you way without even muttering. It’s rather about finding individual ways how to accept and overcome challenges. In situations, when option A doesn’t work any longer, the first step towards a resilient reaction should always be facing the facts: Only if they become clear, they can be accepted. Resilient people deal with difficult situations by re-framing them. This may cause concern of disquiet, but on this basis, different approaches to find a solution can be evaluated and subsequently implemented.

This doesn’t have to happen right now. It was bit by bit that Sheryl Sandberg took up again activities the family had enjoyed doing together with dad Dave previously. The most important thing is to develop self-efficacy. “It might happen that things go better just like that. But instead of only appreciating this, you should become active yourself”, says Grant. “Find out what you yourself can contribute, and do it – this will strengthen your self-confidence.”

Organizational Resilience: Promoting Self-Reflection

Especially in the digital age, it happens all the while that things we take for granted today have become obsolete by tomorrow. Therefore, organizations constantly have to re-invent and re-position themselves. Staying flexible helps a lot, for example through agile management approaches. Making your organizations resilient is also a promising way – for example by promoting the resilience of teams as the smallest organizational units.

Single team members, who are resilient personalities, can be of advantage here. However, it takes more than resilient members for the whole team to develop more steadfastness. Having an initial look at the facts is important again in order to adjust exterior requirements and the cooperation within the team. Revealing hidden potentials means having to reflect on external as well as internal factors: The only way to draw the right consequences is to understand and asses current developments and to adjust internal structures and processes accordingly. Rethinking processes and the division of labor within the team is intrinsic to this.

Don’t only concentrate on negative aspects, though, but also acknowledge and appreciate things, which are already great. You should aim at resolving possible discrepancies. However, you can only succeed by addressing them openly. Supportive measures to required changes by subordinate units would be perfect – for example the provision of additional resources.

“You can strengthen resilience like a muscle”

Resilienz lässt sich trainierenSheryl Sandberg’s example is interesting with regard to both kinds of resilience: Her gaining individual resilience will certainly impact her style of leadership and therefore sooner or later the organizational resilience of the company she works for. But we don’t rely on exterior factors to develop resilience: “You can strengthen resilience like a muscle”, Grant confirms. This is true for organizational resilience as well as individual resilience. He lays out three skills, which are utterly helpful to further develop organizations, teams and individuals:

  • Looking at things from a different angle.
  • Addressing issues openly.
  • Identifying and leveraging toe-holds for further development.

According to Grant, enterprises should promote resilience to become an essential part of their human resources and organizational development. You need to acquire the right set of skills and expertise to deal with new kinds of tasks – for example by taking courses or going through training. In the same way, exercising for more resilience can become an important success factor for teams or individual leaders.

More by and about Adam Grant

We have already written about Adam Grant and his work on our SOLYP strategy blog several times. Many aspects of the organizational psychologist’s philosophy belong our company culture. For this reason, we have collected and summarized some of his inspiring and even surprising insights here:

"Who Gives, Wins: A Tribute to Adam Grant"

"Adam Grant’s Originals: How to successfully create ideas"