In leadership terms, we define resilience as the ability to adapt in the face of multiple changes while continuing to persevere toward strategic goals. In the current environment where change is the norm and time to bounce back between stressors is minimal at best, we, as leaders, need to think about how we manage our personal resilience and also how we support our organization in adapting to the changes it is facing.
We break resilience into four primary categories (link to resilience assessment):
- Maintain physical well-being
- Manage thinking
- Fulfill life purpose using emotional intelligence
- Harness the power of human connection
Each of these categories is interlinked with the others and has a domino effect. It’s hard to think clearly if you are physically exhausted and so on. Resilience is an essential element of leadership that becomes increasingly important during times of change when uncertainty can cause high-performing people to become distracted and uncertain.
I’m working with a client whose organization is navigating a major transition. Her boss has just taken a significant promotion and, as of this writing, the impact on her and her team is uncertain. It’s likely his promotion will mean a promotion for her. To support her personal transition into an even more stressful job than she already holds, she has been taking steps using a fitbittm to manage, track, and maintain her physical well-being. Her efforts are paying off; she’s moving toward consistently meeting her personal goals and finding that she has more energy and is more able to navigate with ease during highly stressful situations.
In addition to building her personal resilience, she also brought her direct reports together to discuss resilience and explore how they can become a more resilient team in advance of the next round of changes. This discussion focused not only on managing thinking and how individuals respond to challenges, but also on physical habits that support healthy sleep and exercise.
“What was most fascinating to me about this conversation,” wrote my client, “was the impact that it had on our entire team. We have a very open, supportive culture, but when one team member spoke up during our monthly leadership meeting with Maureen, and said that nighttime emails gave her a sense of pressure to respond immediately, several other people spoke up and said they felt the same way. Although I often say that there is no expectation of work outside of business hours – and I encourage the entire team to focus on self-care and work-life balance – my own nighttime emails were having the exact opposite effect. What I said and what I did were not in sync and this was creating unspoken tension on the team. As soon as one person brought it up, we all realized that few of us wanted to be on email regularly outside of work.”
“We are a diverse group with a wide range of interests and passions outside of work. I have seen again and again that the most creative and passionate employees on my team are also extremely creative and passionate in their lives outside of the office. By taking time outside of our regular work routines to check in, not just about what the work is that we do, but how we do it, and how we can work as a team to be successful, we were able to make a small but vital shift to our practices. Now the people who want to work through email at night or on weekends simply write messages and save them in draft form till morning. This lets each of us work at the time and in the ways that are most comfortable for us, but our inboxes have a chance to settle down outside of work, so we can too.”
“I was surprised to realize that just talking about a few ways to increase resilience has led to a very broad set of changes for our team and for all of us as individuals too. Once we started talking about the ways that we are already taking care of ourselves, and also articulated a personal goal for resilience that we’d like to move towards, the team’s culture started moving more towards practices that support resilience. I regularly hold walking meetings, in particular for one-on-ones or small group conversations. We have started bringing healthier snacks to our team meetings, people check in about opportunities to de-stress or support each other in our personal and collective goals to take better care of ourselves. What I love most is that this leads to healthier, happier individuals and healthier, happier (and more productive) professionals too.”
Many leaders struggle to find a balance in life, maintaining physical well-being, managing the stress of high impact jobs, finding the quality and quantity of time for family and meaningful supportive friendships, and even time to volunteer. As careers progress, the demands generally increase, so creating agreements that support fun work environments and group resilience become an important foundation for work groups to perform at their best.
To become a more innovative leader please sign up for the online leader development program or purchase the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global Leaders – coming April 2014. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, reading the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations and participating in the online innovative leadership program with coaching. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.
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