The resilience tactic: tips for getting 'bounce-backability'
It’s been a difficult year for almost everyone and especially tough when, on top of the challenge of managing during lockdown, managers and leaders must also take care of themselves mentally, physically and emotionally, while demonstrating strong and compassionate leadership.
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, ‘bounce-backability’, it has been described as ‘a universal capacity which allows a person, group or community to prevent, minimise or overcome the damaging effects of adversity’ (Grotberg, 1997).
Like an elastic band, at some point you come back to your natural shape and it matters because you need to look after yourself before you can take care of the rest of the team; like the safety drill on an airplane – put your oxygen mask on first so that you can help others.
Leading when the team is dispersed and managed remotely, leading workers who are perhaps home- schooling or caring for elderly or vulnerable family members is tough, so managers need to function at their best. Resilience needs to be part of that because highly resilient people are able to maintain performance under pressure. It’s not an innate quality that you either have or do not, it can be developed from any starting point, and the benefits reach beyond the workplace.
At 10Eighty, we believe that if you have a clear sense of purpose, you are more likely to be resilient. Your values play into this together with a need to prioritise what energises you to provide a sense of fulfilment each day.
Nurturing your resilience during lockdown is a win-win tactic. Think about how you want to be perceived at work – inspirational, fostering talent, compassionate, people-focused etc and think about how your behaviours impact on both your team and on those around you.
As professionals we are working harder than ever; probably not commuting but we still have pressing time management issues. Sometimes working from home can make it even more difficult than usual to find time to do things you want to do. Managing your workload efficiently will help to build your resilience. Plan to respond to emails at certain times of the day, block out time in the diary to think and reflect, as this is important for creativity and innovation. When you effectively control your time, you reduce stress levels and can create boundaries for yourself at home and work, making time for personal development, self-care, exercise and allowing yourself to stop working and say ‘no’ when it is appropriate.
We recommend that you make it common practice to set your intention daily – you'll achieve more clarity, focus and sense of accomplishment. This is separate from your to-do list and goals. Ideally intentions are a mix of confidence and hope with realism; and set out one or two things you want to do which will help you to focus, prioritise and structure your working day, things around behaviours and how you are perceived rather than specific tasks.
Consider setting a daily or weekly intention around what to say ‘no’ to. This will ensure you have enough oxygen for yourself before helping others and will foster your ability to remain calm and patient while increasing productivity.
Resilience relies on an approach which is rational and logical rather than emotional; never let your emotions take control of you. A key attribute of a good leader is that they remain calm at all times. When the going gets tough and the odds seem overwhelming, take a deep breath and talk yourself down until you feel more relaxed.
Learn and grow
Old dogs can learn new tricks if they have a growth mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset); we all know there’s nothing more injurious to creativity and progress than that dreaded phrase “we’ve always done it this way”. It’s important that we are open to learn, observe, improve and reflect – we only have so much emotional bandwidth, but an open mind and willingness to explore new ideas and new ways of doing things is the difference between maintaining position and scaling new heights.
Reflection is another key skill for leaders and managers. Our lives have been disrupted and that is not necessarily a bad thing; we can learn so much from disruption, but it’s important to reflect on what has been learned and what we want to return to after the crisis is over. Taking stock of all that has changed and contextualising it will enable you to put your organisation on a sound footing for the future; there’s a lot to recover and more challenges ahead.
Reflecting on your own role and contribution is vital and allowing yourself recovery time and breathing space will make the challenges easier to deal with. Time away from the screen and from back to back Zoom meetings might mean exercise, gardening or meditation – whatever works for you – ‘different strokes for different folks’ will allow you to recharge your batteries and meet the next challenge head on.
Down time is important to maintaining resilience levels so be definite about this and block out time in your diary to give yourself thinking space in order to reflect. In our super-charged, distracting environment it is hard to find this time and we recommend 'Why we Sleep', a book by Matthew Walker; it explains the positive effects of sleeping on mind, body and health and the negative effects that not sleeping enough has on them. The book will help you explore how to best exploit your energies and adapt a supple work schedule that will allow you to adapt as best suits you.
Building resilience at work allows you to bring your best self to every task and challenge and enables you to deal effectively with change and disruption. As we embrace home working and experiment with different ways of running our teams, we are calling on all the resilience we can muster to maintain our equilibrium in a difficult situation.
When we ran an event The Resilient Leader recently we used a quote from the boxer Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.” Leaders need to be resilient enough to roll with the punches and recover quickly in order to seize the opportunities inherent in a fast moving and changeable business environment.
Remember that the leadership context is continuously changing and evolving and so the ability to reframe that perspective will support your leadership style and presence. We recommend that you try to adopt what we call a ‘flexible perspective’ - think about your leadership context and ask yourself searching questions. For example, when faced with a difficult situation ask yourself:
● Am I jumping to my conclusions?
● What else can be true in this moment?
● What is important to me and my team right now?
Resilience is not an end in itself but a process of adaptation and growth within a challenging landscape.