Learning our way forward

Learning Resilience Together

Our superintendent cohort met last week.  Resilience and strategic alignment were our themes:  coping with the present and cautiously moving forward at the speed of trust.  Here (not polished yet) is an emerging toolkit of our collective thinking on resilience.  How we went about it is, in itself, a case study in resilience:

Becoming Resilient


We need each other in crisis.  Here is one process: what to do when you don’t know what to do.

  1. A few of us (facilitators) pooled what we knew about resilience.
  2. We looked for research on resilience, and shared three big ideas (keep reading below).
  3. The superintendent cohort started with those big ideas to prime the pump.
  4. Then in a small group they added in what was working for them.
  5. We collected notes from our discussions.
  6. Added tools from our previous work.
  7. Loaded it into Google shared folders and made links.
  8. Shared the outline of the learning (also below).

This process, I have noticed, is a great way to engage each other in sharing the load.  It gives visibility and transparency to our work by showing (not telling) that we are all in this together.  It is a concrete protocol illustrating the ideas in my You’re It review.

Best Cohort Ideas

Here is what we learned from each other:

  • Acknowledge emotions: name it and frame it.
  • Connect to our Why, our Purpose.
  • Stay connected: build a “community of resilience”–collective resilience.
  • Find a balance between toxic positivity and raising the white flag.
  • Find themes that resonate:
    • Freedom within structure
    • Belonging is essential
    • Defined autonomy
    • Gratitude
    • Hard but worth it to have our kids back
    • Put your own “oxygen mask” on first
    • Stay calm and affirming
  • Share ideas across leadership team to reinforce and grow capacity for resilience.

Research on adults/teachers says resilient teachers:

  1. Have a sense of purpose to mitigate constraining factors and benefit from enabling factors.
  2. Embrace uncertainty, reframing negative experiences into learning experiences.
  3. Use relationships with colleagues, students, and school leaders to endure challenges.

Vulnerability Openers

Use the first 10 min of every meeting to build relationships/trust.

  1. Routine gives a breather (like a palate cleanser) to refocus in the moment.
  2. Routine gives certainty in an uncertain world … I know I can count on a positive 10 minutes.
  3. Warm ups help build relationships … sorely needed in a disconnected world.
  4. Vulnerable warm ups build trust.
  5. Top ten virtual team builders from Jon Gordon.
  6. Mood Meter (Marc Brackett) is a great tool for this.

Adaptive Leadership 

Heifetz and Laurie, in their Harvard Business Review article, offer ideas on how to engage our teams in challenging and UNcertain times.

  1. Name the adaptive challenges and bring them into the open.
  2. Focus on a few issues at a time.  Stay calm.  Listen.
  3. Give work back to the group.  Engage everyone in doing the hard work.

Stand-up meetings:  Many leaders hold open “come if you can” sessions to provide updates, dispel rumors, ask for feedback, listen, answer questions, acknowledge the challenges, and share progress.

Dare to Lead

Brene Brown nails it in Dare to LeadBraver leaders and more courageous cultures are needed for leaders to be successful in a complex, rapidly changing environment where we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation.

Daring Leaders:

  1. Lean bravely into vulnerability.  Stay curious and generous.
  2. Are courageous in how they behave and show up in difficult situations
  3. Create a culture in which people feel safe and seen; heard and respected.
  4. Care for and stay connected to those they lead.

Helping each other through challenges today grows our collective resilience reserves for a lifetime!



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Larry Nyland – Leadership Coach and Consultant.
Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

To talk about growing extraordinary "high capacity" leadership for your team …
Contact: Larry@Larrynyland.com | 425-418-4398 | LarryNyland.com