There is a popular misconception within leadership circles that hard situations require an even harder response. Good leaders respond to challenge with a steely exterior and unflinching approach. If you’ve spent any time around my community, it will not surprise you that I disagree with this hard-nosed approach, and have actually found a surprising benefit to employing the softer side of resilience. And many of my clients want to know what I think it means to be resilient.
The past year and a half have been hard. That’s an inescapable fact. And it’s true that I have seen these challenges met with strong, tough words and approaches. But where I have seen the most successful heart leadership is in the softer responses. Responding with empathy and kindness when employees struggle – feeling disconnected because of work-from-home setups, not having adequate childcare during work hours, worrying about family members’ health and safety, not making payroll, and feeling burned out after working long hours and being expected to work more. These scenarios are playing out in every organization right now.
The leaders who are answering the call and showing up for their people are the leaders showing up and following the three R’s of resilience: relationships, recovery, and reframe.
When you put time and attention into building and nurturing relationships – both professional and personal – in the workplace, you pave the road for an easier path when you encounter challenges or bumps in the road. These relationships help you feel connected to a community and like you’re not in it alone.
Think about the people you lead and the customers you serve – are you building responsive, personal relationships with them? If you think that building empathetic, trustworthy relationships doesn’t matter, consider that 48% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after a poor experience. Engaging personally, leading with empathy, and showing compassion – all traits of strong relationships – results in lower customer turnover.
To improve your relationships in the workplace and start building your resilient leadership skill set, try this simple but powerful “Foster Your Team” exercise. Write down the names of your important support network (at work and at home). Under each name, write down two things you can do to strengthen your relationship with that person in the next week. Then show up and do the work! You will be surprised how quickly relationships can strengthen and deepen with just a little intentional action.
Recovery (and recharge) is where you manage your energy. Resilient leaders take self-care seriously. They know that the long days, sleepless nights, blurred lines between home and work, worry, overworking, and mental energy drain of the past 18 months take a toll on their own ability to lead and their employees’ ability to perform.
Stress doesn’t just go away if you ignore it, and there are steep consequences for failing to recover and recharge appropriately. According to stress.org, US businesses lose up to $300 billion every year as a result of workplace stress. And that’s just the financial loss. Burnout and exhaustion also lead to chronic health conditions, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
When asking, “What does it mean to be resilient?” you can’t escape the integral importance of recovery. But don’t worry – recovering and recharging can be accomplished with a few small, intentional daily actions.
Simple, Effective Ways to Recover:
Resilient leaders are excellent at reframing. In stressful situations, we tend to naturally focus on the negative – What’s the challenge? What went wrong? What’s bad about this situation? But flipping the script and reframing a stressful situation in a positive light and finding the upside of stress is a key differentiator in developing resilience. If you’d like to dive deeper into reframing, Kelly McGonigal wrote an excellent book called The Upside of Stress about how to use stress to your advantage.
Looking at the upside of a challenging situation is scientifically proven to enhance your resilience, help you feel more engaged, and experience less negative thinking overall. In practice, this looks like flipping the narrative we automatically adopt. Rather than challenge, think opportunity! Rather than victim, think victory!
To practice your own reframing skill, try this quick and easy exercise. Think about a stressful or upsetting experience you have had lately – it can be something as small as missing a deliverable at work. Now, instead of the frustration (and anger, shame, guilt, etc.) you experienced when this happened, reflect on three positive things that came out of the experience. Maybe it helped you have more empathy when an employee missed a deadline the next day or led to a bigger, more important conversation you needed to have with your team. Whatever it was, notice how focusing on the positive takes the sting out of the experience and reduces your stress.
Resilient leaders regularly practice the 3 R’s: Relationships, Recovery, and Reframing. Focusing on these three areas will help you show up with compassion, lead with empathy, and ultimately help your team succeed. Stressful situations don’t require hard-edged responses.
If you’re interested in working with me to teach your team more about the power of resilient leadership and how the 3 R’s can help them be more effective leaders, please contact me for details.