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4 October 2021


And how to build it

The definition of resilience is that it is:

  1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
  2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

I like both of these definitions, though I prefer the second as it is more visual. I can imagine prodding a jelly and it wobbles and springs back. It is this ability to spring back and reform when challenged that is resilience in my opinion.

Resilience was a hot topic before the pandemic and has become a hotter topic since. Our ability to build and maintain our resilience, to face the everyday challenges that already existed and then the additional layer of pandemic challenges has been a tough ask for many.

So, what can we do to improve our resilience? 

Dr Mark Winwood of AXAhealth identifies five ways to be more resilient, which resonate with me, as I reflect on conversations I have had with clients recently:

  • Improve your energy
  • Create meaningful relationships 
  • Try and get some perspective
  • Think about your priorities 
  • Work on your emotional intelligence

How you improve your energy levels, so you feel more able to face whatever comes your way is quite individual; for some people it might be about getting more sleep, eating more healthily, or getting more exercise. I have had coaching conversations with clients on all three of these approaches, exploring what is required to ensure that they make time for taking better care of themselves so they feel more energised and ready to face the day.

Creating meaningful relationships: 

Whether work colleagues, friends or family, with whom you can talk freely about what is happening for you at a point in time, talking with such people is a great way to get stuff off your chest. Sometimes just verbalising what is happening is a good way to park it, stop it absorbing your thoughts and put it into perspective. The better the person in the relationship is at listening, the more value you will get from talking through what is happening for you. 

A coach can also play this role, though a coaching relationship should be time-limited (i.e., an agreed number of sessions), so it is important to have other people you can unload to. As a coach, I have had many clients unload whatever is playing on their mind. In fact, I positively encourage it, as often until they have talked through whatever is bothering them, they are not really in the right frame of mind to look at whatever coaching goal they want to focus on.

The challenge for CEOs and other senior leaders is that it can be difficult unloading to work colleagues when you are the boss, so it is important to think about who may be able to assist. 

Also, remember this is a two-way relationship, just as they are there for you, you need to be there for them when they need a friendly ear.

Try and get some perspective: 

Sometimes when you are in the thick of it, it is hard to see the way forward. The ability to step back, take a break and look afresh at where you are, where you are going and the best route forwards is key. You may want to re-evaluate your options, what you have learnt so far and whether that changes your planned approach. This is something you can do on your own or as part of a meaningful relationship conversation. 

Sometimes it’s helpful to get a different perspective on a particular challenge to help shape your thinking regarding how to proceed. As a coach, using creative techniques to help a client visualise a challenge or role-play an important conversation is a good way to build confidence around their proposed approach and, as such, feel more resilient in delivering it.

Thinking about your priorities:

Thinking about priorities can certainly flow from getting some perspective if it helps you identify what is important to work on first. Similarly, we should all be looking at workload and responsibilities (both in work and outside of work) from time to time and asking ourselves, which of these add value, which is actually my responsibility, and how much time should I be investing in them versus how much I am investing in them?

I recently asked a client to write down the tasks that occupy the majority of their time. I then asked them to prioritise the tasks and to estimate what percentage of their time they spend on each. They then captured which are their responsibility and which, for whatever reason they are doing, that should be done by someone else. In doing so, the client identified that they could recoup up to 20% of their time if they held their direct reports to account for tasks they were responsible for, rather than doing them on their behalf.

Work on your emotional intelligence:

The better your emotional intelligence, the better your relationships. The better your relationships, the better supported you will be through good times and bad and the more likely people are going to be to help you out, when you need another pair of hands or a friendly ear.

A key part of emotional intelligence is your self-awareness; how are you showing up, how are you behaving, how well are you listening to others, how well are you supporting others? Being able to remain objective when things get tough is a key leadership attribute and worth investing some time in exploring how you measure up and what you can do to improve it. This is a classic coaching conversation, often driven by stakeholder feedback that may have identified it as a development area.

So, five ways there to help you build your resilience and take whatever comes your way in your stride.

They all make good coaching conversations to explore where are you are now, where you want to get to, and what options you have to achieve these goals. So, as always, if this has prompted any questions, please get in touch and I will be happy to talk these through with you.

From the author:

As coaching is not an advice-giving service, these blogs are not written with the intention of proposing solutions to common leadership challenges. Instead, they are thought pieces with the aim of prompting the reader to think more deeply about the topic and reflect on whether it warrants further exploration, with or without a coach.

If you would like to hear more about coaching and how to make it work for you, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter and to share this blog with anyone that might be interested in learning about executive coaching, how it works and whether it could be of benefit to them.