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Developing Resilience

| July 12, 2022

by Kathy Pletcher

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is by Kathy Pletcher, MOR Associates Leadership Coach.  Kathy may be reached at [email protected]]

Have you noticed that when some people face adversity, they are able to push through problems and setbacks to achieve success?  Have you also noticed others get stuck in a web of negative emotions? Why is that? 

It is very likely that those who push through to success have a high level of resilience. Resilient people have learned to acknowledge their mistakes and commit to positively changing their behavior. They face failure with a curiosity to understand what went wrong and what actions are needed to overcome the failure.  They move forward in a healthy and effective way.  The more setbacks they overcome and work through the stronger their resilience. 

Resilience provides confidence to step up and lead.  Resilient leaders are able to overcome their own setbacks, and help others overcome their setbacks.  Leaders are always on stage.  People notice how leaders respond to adversity.  As a leader, if you respond with calm and positivity your team will be inspired to follow your lead.  On the other hand, if you express fear and anxiety your team will also feel fear and anxiety.  They will lose confidence in your ability to lead them through.

The good news about resiliency is that it can learned and developed!  Dr. Stephen Southwick and Dr. Dennis Charney published their research findings in Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges.  They concluded that with practice, patience, and persistence, the brain’s neuroplasticity people can be trained to be more resilient.

Resiliency requires a growth mindset that is focused on exploration and learning.  In her book Burnout to Breakthrough: Building Resilience to Refuel, Recharge, and Reclaim What Matters, Eileen McDargh defines resiliency as follows: “Resiliency is growing through challenge or opportunity, so you end up wiser and stronger.” She goes on to say, “Building resilience is like building a muscle. It takes persistence and patience.  With use it becomes easier for us to refuel, recharge and reclaim what matters.”  

Resilience is developed over time.  When experiencing stress, such as a setback at work or a personal crisis, if we respond with a growth mindset we build resilience.  However, suppressing stress and ignoring our failures will lead to burnout.  By facing our mistakes, disappointments, and losses we can become more resilient.  Here are some simple steps to follow:

  1. Admit to yourself that you made a mistake. Acknowledge your emotions (fear, embarrassment, anger) and analyze why you feel that way. 
  2. Reflect and learn from your mistake.  What do you think went wrong?  What could you have done differently?  Consider getting feedback from others to gain a full understanding.
  3. Be compassionate with yourself.  Everyone makes mistakes. Resilience requires making a commitment to change your behavior.  What actions will you take?
  4. Rebound from the failure.  By following your action plan you will feel a sense of accomplishment. You will build confidence in your ability to grow through challenges.  You will seek more opportunities for growth outside your comfort zone–where the magic happens! 

Resilience can also be defined as the capacity to adapt to negative change.  A negative change is one we did not choose; rather, it is thrust upon us.  For example, a restructuring of your organization may affect your career goals and upend your sense of comfort/safety.  When change is thrust upon us we may feel out of our comfort zone and a loss of control.  Try to regain some sense of control by asking yourself:  What do I have control over?  Acknowledge what is beyond your control and let it go.  You cannot control what other people do, but you can control your thoughts and actions. Then ask yourself:  What are my choices? By examining your choices you will regain some control and you can choose how you respond to the situation.    

What can you do to develop resilience in yourself?

  • Define your personal vision: a sense of purpose and meaning is a core component of resiliency.
  • Build your emotional intelligence. (Lead with Emotion But Don’t Let Emotion Lead You)
  • Reframe your mental models by challenging assumptions.
  • Take care of yourself: exercise regularly; eat nutritious food; have a positive attitude.
  • Have meaningful connections with others – find new connections and strengthen existing ones.
  • Identify what you can control/influence and what you can’t. Focus on what you can influence.

Resilience is a leadership competency.  It can be a game changer in successfully leading people and leading change initiatives.  What is your level of resiliency?  You cannot help others develop resiliency if you have a low level of resiliency yourself.  Do you need to improve your resiliency?  What is your action plan for becoming more resilient? 

This Week’s Survey

Which do you feel would be most helpful to further developing your own resiliency?

From Last Week

Last week, we asked: Which of these would you be most likely to do with the next week to lift others up?

  • 57% said be aware of others and call out great work when you see it.
  • 16% said start with self.  First find ways to lift yourself up so that you can lift others.
  • 15% said start a team meeting by recognizing others.
  • 12% said regularly write emails to express gratitude.

There are two parts of lifting others up.  First is paying attention for that greatness.  Second is recognizing that greatness in a way that lifts up that person.  Different people like to be recognized in different ways.  If you haven’t already done so, now is a great time to individually ask your team members how they like to be recognized.  Oh, and don’t forget to recognize yourself and stay away from negative self-talk.  Lifting others up works best when you yourself also feel lifted.