What lies beneath… the path to resilience
Much like the lack of an agreed description of leadership, resilience is a somewhat slippery item to define. Yet it’s the topic of the moment and something organisations, teams and individuals are eagerly seeking. So, why is it important that CEOs and leadership teams invest in it both for themselves and their people?
The impact of our times
Life is complex, with unending volatility for countless reasons; be it the exponential pace of technological advancement, the big ‘P’ and little ‘p’ political climate, cultural change, life, death, marriage, divorce, any number of factors that challenge our daily existence, we are full!
The pressure to succeed, whatever that uniquely means for an organisation, seems to be demanding that people work at a consistent, rapid pace, with ever-increasing demands, change around every corner and an agility much like that of an acrobat juggling fire sticks whilst somersaulting off a trapeze. Skilled as we may be, this unending challenge is having an impact on our physical, mental and emotional health in a way that is not sustainable.
So, what is this much sought-after resilience?
As someone dedicated to understanding us brilliant humans, I’ve waded through a few dark nights of the soul and studied both formally and informally how we respond to life’s challenges. Resilience is simply put (yet less simply developed) the ability to flex, bend and turn without breaking, to stay steady through changing conditions, to have faith in and be curious about solutions, and, most importantly, to know, to trust and to believe in yourself.
Human beings are resilient. We use it from the moment we arrive on the planet, albeit as with other human traits some have more propensity for it than others. However naturally inclined you are, in this increasingly challenging world, more attention and effort is required for us to access and nurture our innate resilience so that we may live not just to stay afloat, but to lead with courage, grace and strength.
Maybe one day we’ll create a resilience pill, pop it and away you go to be your most resilient self. Until that time, dedicated, regular action is the way. I benefit daily from my years of practice, in all aspects of my life, and I’m thrilled to be in a position where I can share this practical wisdom with others at a time when it seems most needed. At Wondrous we are consistently finding that small, carefully led interventions with groups of leaders and their people can make a powerful difference to people’s physical, mental and emotional health. This difference results in a greater ability to lead both self and team expertly through volatile times, and a happier, more productive workforce.
People matter. They are our number one resource, we all know that. Investing in practical, pragmatic support for people during times of challenge is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity. The right support shifts attitudes and behaviours and creates greater awareness and accountability, resulting in healthier people and teams that thrive rather than survive.
How are you, really?
It may be foolish for me to say this out loud but, working with the topic of resilience is nothing new, there’s no secret-formula, it isn’t complicated; working with humans however, is. You might expect me to say this as a coach, but I get unrelenting joy from working with humans. Recently I’ve been utterly humbled by the human spirit and our capacity for resilience. I’ve witnessed clients walk through the door to a workshop ready to explode, frustrated at the idea of an afternoon away, go from overwhelm to disintegration to action-planning and steadiness; I consistently sit across from clients who show dogged determination to deliver, to not fail, to carry their team, to prove their own credibility as a leader, all impressive traits, but at what cost?
What often lies beneath is struggle, overwhelm, frustration, shame and unspoken desperation at not knowing how to change things. The right support enables to people surface what’s real, and take steps to building and maintaining behaviours that lead to helpful emotional, physical and mental states. True power is not pretending to be who or how you’re not, it’s being and showing who and how you really are, this quality can lead us all to success.
Small steps, big results
There are many ways we can stay steady and grow resilience. As with any other skill we wish to master, it takes dedication and practice. Time and time again I see clients make the smallest of changes, to their mindset, their habits, their commitments, and realise almost instant results. The power of providing an environment where your people can come together, understand they are not alone in their stresses and struggles, work with tools and techniques that support resilience, and help them access their innate wisdom, skill and will is not to be underestimated.
What defines us and the organisations we lead is how we show up, how we react and the decisions we make. It’s a courageous decision to choose to be resilient, it means staying self-aware, having healthy physical, mental and emotional habits, facing into difficulty and revealing the good, the bad and the ugly. The reward is feeling strong in your own skin, safe on your own two feet, confident in your abilities and open to connecting with the people and challenges around you so that you, your teams and your organisation can flex with ease to whatever’s around the next corner.
The right support
The simplest of actions can bring instant awareness to what’s present, what’s being impacted and what’s needed to move through challenge to a place of control and confidence. The statement ‘we are what we repeatedly do’ could not be more true. We and our organisations are unique, the trick is to find what works for you in your context and repeat the hell out of it: a mindful walk for 15 minutes instead of a sandwich dash; a reflection question; a deep breathing break before a Board meeting; realistic prioritising, daily; screens off at 8pm to aid quality sleep; having that difficult conversation; stopping.
As executives, leaders and coaches we must be brave enough to acknowledge what’s really happening in our organisations, with the people who are in front of us every day, and with ourselves. How many hours are you working (including phone time)? How is your sleep? How well is your body? How emotionally balanced are you at work and at home? Overwhelm is commonplace, from the frontline customer service advisor to the CEO; this complex, fast-paced existence is taking its toll and we must lead the way by being brave enough to face into what’s real, committed enough to practice habits that keep us resilient, and connected enough to provide the right support to our people.
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