Resilience in Difficult Times
In the best of times, it can be difficult to be resilient.
This becomes even more difficult in the midst of a crisis. Yet this is just the time when resilience is the most important.
The good news is that resilience is a muscle you can build. Here are some ideas to help build both your leadership resilience and your mental resilience.
Resilient leaders see failures as temporary setbacks they can recover from quickly. They maintain a positive attitude and a strong sense of opportunity during periods of turbulence.
Joseph Folkman, in Forbes magazine, identified “7 Ways to Become a More Resilient Leader.”
- Communicate your intent clearly and powerfully. When you communicate effectively, you help others understand changes, expectations and new directions.
- Be open to feedback. Resilient leaders not only accept feedback, they act upon it to improve.
- Build positive, trusting relationships, which builds strong teams.
- Develop others. Help others to learn from their failures by giving productive, honest feedback and coaching.
- Be decisive, willing to make decisions and to move forward.
- Be a bold risk taker. Don’t be afraid to try new ideas.
- Champion change, which takes courage and requires a vision about where the organization is going. Resilient leaders embrace change and encourage others to change.
Resilient leaders recognize the impact that a crisis can have on the people in the organization. They know that in times of crisis emotional intelligence is critical. Their first priority is safeguarding their staff, ensuring their health, their safety and their economic well-being. They express empathy and compassion for the human side of the upheaval.
Resilient leaders stay vigilant in protecting the financial performance of their company throughout a crisis. According to a Deloitte paper, “The Heart of Resilient Leadership,” there are several critical steps in protecting performance:
- Centralizing decision making for consistency, speed and decisiveness
- Cataloging the sources of cash the company has available
- Rapidly articulating economic scenarios
- Modeling the projected financial impact
- Defining the non-negotiables
- Identifying the levers leadership has available
- Determining the actions to take now.
Resilient leaders drive purpose throughout the organization. In the midst of the crisis, it is crucial that all decisions made tie back to the organization’s purpose. Companies that are purpose driven will thrive during challenging times.
- Purpose cultivates engaged employees who are more likely to ride out volatility and be there to help the company recover and grow.
- Purpose attracts loyal customers who will stick with you in a downturn.
- Purpose helps companies transform in the right way. When purpose is put first, profits usually follow.
Resilient leaders know that, in times of crisis, perfect is the enemy of good. There are times when they have to act on imperfect information. A crisis is also a time to encourage more initiative and decision making at all levels of the organization. Resilient leaders trust the deep expertise of those on their team. They practice flexibility and allow for autonomy, knowing this allows their teams to come up with creative approaches for addressing unanticipated needs.
Building Mental Resilience
Mental resilience means managing our minds in a way that increases our ability to deal with the challenges that tumultuous times may present. Mental resilience is the skill of noticing our own thoughts, letting go of non-constructive ones and rebalancing quickly. One of the key ways to build resilience is through mindfulness. In the Harvard Business Review article “Build Your Resilience in the Face of a Crisis,” Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter share strategies to build mental resilience.
First, calm your mind. With a calm mind you are able to observe and manage your thoughts, holding your focus on what is important to you and keeping distractions at bay. The more you practice keeping your mind calm, the more you build your resilience, allowing yourself to stay in the moment, which increases your capacity to cope and deal with a crisis.
Look out the window. Frustration, disappointment and fear can lead to poor decisions and overreactions. During a crisis, it is important to step back and reflect. Often in those moments, clearer answers emerge.
Connect with others through compassion. Compassion is the intention to be of benefit to others. It is a mindset. Throughout the day, ask yourself this question: “How can I help this person to have a better day?” According to Hougaard and Carter, “that simple question…expands the mind, and the eyes open to who and what is really in front of us and we see possibilities for ourselves and others that are rich with hope and ripe with opportunity.”
The Center for Creative Leadership, in “How to Be More Resilient,” suggests three practices to strengthen resilience.
- Personal energy management. Show up, give your best, relinquish attachment to the outcome and stay in the present.
- Shifting your lenses. Take charge of how you think about adversity. Understand your beliefs about the situation and choose your response. Exercise compassion for yourself and others.
- Sense of purpose. Develop a “personal why” that gives your life meaning.
In the face of certain challenges and uncertain risks, a resilient mindset will serve both you and your organization well. Remember, resilient leaders can turn a crisis into an opportunity to move forward, creating even more value for their companies and having a positive impact on society. You have the resources within you to become more resilient. In these challenging times, it’s exactly what is needed!