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Facebook APAC VP: resilience lessons from a year like no other

Facebook APAC VP Dan Neary: resilience lessons from a year like no other

Reflecting on a tough year with a lot of change, Facebook VP, Asia Pacific, Dan Neary offers tips on how to face another year with resilience.

January was a month of reflection and action but even more so now when we have emerged from a year like no other. I’m sure many of you are surprised that we are already in the second month of 2021.

I returned to my ‘physical’ office space at the end of November 2020, nearly nine months after the work-from-home experiment had turned into a semi-permanent state for many of us. We’ve just passed the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic and it is still astonishing to look back and see how quickly people and businesses pivoted to survive in the new normal. The pace of transformation has been intense and it is only set to accelerate.

I recognize that the road to recovery is not straightforward. The pandemic has forced people around the world to adjust to new routines, cope with isolation and navigate feelings of loss, grief and loneliness. It has been incredibly tough for many of us in so many different ways – both physically and mentally. If there is one thing that has struck me deeply over the last year - it is that mental health and resilience are at the very core of our survival.

This is why our teams have been working with mental health experts to make it easier for people to find support, connect with friends or supportive communities, and search for evidence-based information through our apps. Another key lesson from working and living during a pandemic is the fact that nobody can do it alone. We need to collaborate, whether this is on a company level, like Facebook where we partner with regional health authorities to deliver reliable information, as a business leader motivating our teams or as an individual who shows up for their family and community.

Given that work and life now overlap much more closely, we all need to pay attention to our mental health and adopt ways to nurture resilience. I’d like to share three key lessons I’m carrying into 2021.

1. Adopt a protagonist mindset

The protagonist mindset is all about embracing change and moving forward. During times of adversity, this means focusing on what you can control and accepting what you can’t. I was inspired by a session we had with mindset coach Ben Crowe who believes that our greatest growth can come from our darkest moments. He points out that we are so distracted right now focusing on things we can’t control or focusing on the future which we also can’t control. Refocusing on the things you can control can increase confidence, remove distractions and anxiety. Crowe also advises that replacing expectations with appreciation and gratitude can help us shift to focus on what we have rather than what we do not have. To simplify, this mindset looks like A x B = Results where A = controllable and B = uncontrollable. I tell my teams to accept B and focus on A!

2. Manage your energy, not just your time

We worked with The Energy Project to have our employees take an energy audit to understand their energy levels across four dimensions: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Getting a sense of your energy deficits is the first step to fixing them. According to Tony Schwartz, author of The Way We're Working Isn't Working, it's not the number of hours you put in that drive productivity, it's how much energy you're able to invest during the hours you work. Energy is finite and won’t automatically expand to meet demand. But small fixes can be easy to implement and make a huge difference in creating balance and ease for ourselves and our teammates. For me, I tried switching to phone calls instead of video calls for some meetings. I’ve been taking calls during my daily walks and I find the change of scenery and fresh air really refreshing.

3. Cultivate optimism, operationalize resilience

Amidst all the difficulties of 2020, one thing really stood out for me. Small business owners in Asia Pacific held on to one of the most optimistic outlooks in the world. The Future of Business – an ongoing study conducted by Facebook in partnership with the OECD and the World Bank surveyed over 150,000 SMB owners across the world. We found that 55% of small-medium businesses in our region reported a fall in sales due to the pandemic, yet more than half of them said they were optimistic about their future. It showed that 45% of small-medium businesses in East Asia and the Pacific made more than a quarter of their sales through digital channels. We saw that businesses that pivoted to digital channels and made over 25% of sales through these channels, were not only less likely to report a decline, but they were also actually more likely to report an increase in sales and less likely to reduce their workforce.

My teams and I continue to be inspired by how positive they were in the face of both personal and professional challenges. We have seen so many examples of such businesses pivoting to adapt and even reach and find more customers during the economic conditions brought about by the pandemic. It is this optimism that drove digital transformation and pivots leading many of them to business recovery.

While optimism is often a mindset, resilience takes practice. Like everything worthwhile, it takes discipline. Set aside time to focus, to write down your vision for the year ahead and rules to protect and restore your energy. Find ways to record your gratitude, block time for yourself every day and take time off at least once in a quarter.

These tips may sound basic but as the year progresses and new challenges arise, it is easy to fall back into established patterns and routines. Leading by example and enabling employees to self-care is not just a nice-to-have but a must-have if we are to move from surviving to thriving.

Dan Neary is Vice President, Facebook Asia Pacific. He leads Asia Pacific for Facebook and is based in Singapore.

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