Leadership development strategy concept

Why leadership resilience matters (and how to develop it)

Resilience is undoubtedly one of the key development focuses for leaders right now, certainly from the conversations we’re having. And it’s easy to see why. There is significant uncertainty all around us, with plenty of it stemming from Brexit. And naturally, this is impacting on businesses and workplaces.

In fact, I’d argue that we’ve never been in a more ‘VUCA’ place with people worrying about workload, job security, financial matters, and a whole host of other things. What’s needed is greater support for our people, particularly leaders, to help them manage these pressures in an effective way to ensure performance remains strong.

Rise of resilience

The intense market competition and degree of organisational change taking place in the workplace in recent years has long meant that resilience has been a much sought-after skill in new hires, as well as a key leadership development need. Businesses now more than ever need their people at their best, and to be equipped to manage and bounce back amid adversity.

All that being said, ‘resilience’ has been in danger of become a ‘buzz’ word in an organisational context. While a huge positive that it has brought attention to topics like workplace mental health and wellbeing, it has also led to some myths emerging about what it is and what it isn’t. Arguably the biggest and most dangerous of these myths is that you either have resilience, or you don’t. This, quite simply, isn’t true.

What is resilience, and how can we measure it?

Resilience is made up of a number of different component parts, and each one of those is developable. And that’s great news for all of us! So where should you start? This is often one of the toughest parts of any development effort.

In this case, it’s helpful to first gain a deeper understanding of where you are currently from a resilience perspective. A really intuitive tool to give you this baseline view is the Roffey Park Resilience Capability Index (RCI). Based on robust research, it comprises a short online questionnaire to help you assess your own resilience capabilities across five core domains. The output is a simple report showing where your areas of strength and development are across those domains, with a comparison to a norm group. This could also be supplemented by 360 degree feedback to give you a rounded view of how you and others perceive your resilience. From here, you can then reflect on where you want to focus to build your resilience levels.

Practical tips to develop resilience

There are a number of practical tips and techniques that anyone can do to address each of the component parts making up resilience, in order to develop it further. But what I’ve found is that invariably it’s the practical behavioural shifts that can have the biggest impact. Here are three examples of this:

1. Keeping perspective ‘in the moment’

Improving your ability to take a step back and maintain a sense of perspective in times of challenge can be invaluable. One exercise you can do to build this capability uses Covey’s circle of influence model. This focuses on getting into the habit of controlling the ‘controllables’, and not expending energy on things that you can’t influence or control.

2. Building a support network

Having a supportive network of ‘connections’ is another important part of building resilience. Draw out a visual map showing who you have in your network and what role they play (i.e. are they a good listener, an ‘ideas person’ or someone who challenges your thinking). This is a simple (but really effective) way of seeing where gaps might be and what you might need to add.

3. Developing self-awareness

A fundamental part of becoming more self-aware is your ability to manage emotional triggers so you don’t get ‘emotionally hijacked’ during tricky conversations. A coach could help you with this but we often suggest using actor real-plays in workshops we run to really embed new techniques and strategies for managing yourself and others in realistic scenarios.

Resilience is good for business

A great deal of building resilience is about self-awareness, and then forming and embedding small, new habits. Resilience really is a trait which can be practiced and developed. And becoming a more resilient person can protect and sustain you both inside and outside of the workplace.

What’s more there’s no doubt that investing in employees’ resilience is good for business too, not only for its impact on our wellbeing, but also from a people performance perspective.

So in an uncertain, challenging and fast-changing context where competition is fierce and small margins are important, organisations must act to develop resilience in their leaders and employees. This could be one of the most critical actions you put into place this or any year.

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