Build What’s Strong


“Build what’s strong” instead of “Fix what’s wrong” is the credo of the American psychologist Martin Seligman. We know that this works based upon countless management methods. Whenever we focus more on the positive results, then we become stronger and reduce the risks of depressive symptoms. Precisely in our fast-paced lives these days, we must focus more on increasing our resilience. In the digital world, we are currently experiencing a massive increase in information which we are supposed to process daily, a higher work volume and ever-increasing deadline pressures. This taxes us physically and mentally, and leads to more and more illnesses. However, if we possess the fitness of resilience, then it is high time to climb off this digital express train and once again develop more mental resistance.


Digitalization is a change process which opens up many new possibilities for us. Again and again, I hear people muttering about how everything has become so terrible – instead of positively embracing these new opportunities and, firstly, seeing the advantages and, secondly, utilising them in one’s professional (as well as also in one’s private) environment. However, this works only – as with each change process – if we possess a high degree of resilience. With resilient people, problems and obstacles just seem to fade away: They see an opportunity in every crisis. Now, I would like in no way to assert that the digitalisation represents a crisis, but if we regard the new opportunity of the digital world as being a threat and constantly reject it, then it may become a crisis for one or the other of us. The psychologist Georg Kormann makes the observation that non-resilient persons make two fundamental mistakes: “They complain about their difficult fate whereby the entire matter only then becomes worse – and promote the crisis by devoting their entire attention to the problem and its origin, but do not sufficiently ponder the question of how it could be solved”.


In many management workshops, I repeatedly see that even top managers always only see risks during the discussion of strategic goals. Paradox interventions, in which we initially then concentrate on what has to be done to force the company to ruin as soon as possible, reveals then required creative potential which results in the following reframing processes the positive thinking. I often then ask myself what role model these managers provide to their employees and what culture they are then establishing at the company in this manner. With a suitable reframing, the path towards successful implementation can then be found again by then moving away from focussing on our weaknesses, but rather on our strengths.


Through learning, we can improve our strengths which will occur, but only if we (are allowed to) make mistakes. Because one then quickly speaks of a “learning from our mistakes” culture at the company and, at the same time, those who make mistakes are immediately punished. However, in our first years of life, this wasn’t how we “learned to learn”. Back then, we fell down enough until we learned to walk. Back then, we went a long time not being able to speak words correctly before we learned to talk. However, in school, we were punished for our mistakes and became more cautious – I hope that the current pedagogy in the schools is moving in a different direction because we need (young) people who have the self-confidence to be able to move out of their comfort zone while maintaining, at the same time, the psychological security to do so.


But what do we understand under psychological security? It is the security that individual team members have to not be punished if they make a mistake. Studies show that psychological security generates a higher willingness to assume risk and thus generates more creativity as well. The reason for this lies in our brain structure: The brain processes a provocation (as it constitutes a punishment) from a colleague or supervisor as being a prehistorical “life-or-death” threat. In this regard, the amygdala is the alarm clock in our brain. It releases stress hormones such as adrenaline or noradrenaline and temporarily blocks our cognitive brain from placing the body in a state of alertness and providing it with all its required energy resources for a “flight-or-fight” mentality. The consequence of this encompasses emotional states such as anger and aggression. Strategic thinking and logic are blocked in the state of stress.


In a world which is becoming less and less predictable – in a world which dramatically and quickly changes itself in order to adapt, we need more psychological security. Only by so doing can we develop higher-performance teams – teams which also show higher resilience even during a change process and thus be able to utilise the opportunities that are offered as the result of the changes instead of constantly seeing only the risks. In this regard, each of us must work on ourselves and regain those abilities which we mastered so well at the beginning of our life. We can do it, we only have to relearn it!

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