Seven Tips for Cultivating Resilience: Part One

January 28, 2020
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The world moves fast, and daily demands on attention and energy can create stress in our personal and professional lives. Over time, stress can contribute to mental and physical health issues, some of them quite serious. While it would be great if we could come up with ways to eliminate stressors, we often can’t sufficiently control our environment to pull this off. So how can we counter the effects of stress? By cultivating resilience.

Resilience is the ability to recover from stress and other negative challenges and to flourish in spite of them.

It is an important part of successful leadership, and while there is a genetic component to a person’s resilience, that is only part of the equation. Research has found that anyone can train themselves to be more resilient.

We asked our consultants for their recommendations on how leaders can cultivate resilience. Their observations distill down to seven key tips:

  1. Be attached, but not too attached.
  2. Keep learning.
  3. Accept help when it’s needed.
  4. Stay in the moment.
  5. Develop both mind and body.
  6. Maintain an attitude of gratitude.
  7. Follow a routine to close each day.

Specific insights are offered here and in subsequent articles.

Be Attached, but Not Too Attached.

Nick Twyman

Maintain the right level of attachment. Being driven and focused with clear stretch goals is a quality much admired in leaders. However, becoming too attached to outcomes can lead to too much personal association with the results. When results are at risk, we tend to focus on the negative and lose perspective and objectivity. This can have a physiological effect that has a strong adverse effect on clear thinking, logic, and decision-making—the resources a leader needs to perform optimally.

Keep Learning.

Use setbacks to learn.

Jeff Kirschner

What matters is not falling down but getting back up and moving forward. We all have negative experiences, but the important thing is to learn from them and use your experience to build knowledge. That knowledge will help you traverse the challenges in your future.

Look back, forward, and somewhere new.

Liza Jager

During times of pressure or uncertainty, leaders can feel stuck. Looking back, forward, and somewhere new is an easy framework that can keep leaders moving ahead while also building resilience and cultivating new learnings. Here is how it works: First, look back and think of a time when you were able to move past a challenge or stressor, or accomplished something extraordinarily difficult. What kept you going? What made you resilient? And how can you apply this learning to the current situation? Connect that moment to a feeling or thought that you can keep in mind as a source of internal inspiration. Second, look forward by taking a long-view perspective, keeping desired end results in mind. This will help contextualize the current situation, reminding you that it is only a single step or moment among many on the path to achievement. Finally, look somewhere new to incorporate a new approach and get out of your comfort zone. Small additions, such as looking at the situation through someone else’s eyes or asking questions in new ways, can help you to gain new perspective and ensure continuous learning.

Accept Help When It’s Needed.

Ask the right people for the right help and accept it when it is offered.

Maja Egnell

Sometimes a leader operates under the assumption that responsibility for resolving challenges means taking on the tough stuff solo. They might see the act of asking for or accepting help as a weakness and, therefore, to be avoided. This can result in the opposite of resilience, creating unalleviated stress that has a negative impact on the ability to lead. A wise colleague recently told me that, “Challenge plus support equals resilience.” Accept the support that others are willing to give and proactively ask the right people for the right help. When people say, “Let me know what I can do to support you,” respond by requesting very specific assistance. It could be picking their brains over a meal or asking them to roll up their sleeves and go tactical on necessary tasks. Asking for help can be a humbling experience, especially for those in leadership roles, but in reality, it creates closer and more enduring bonds with others. Accepting someone’s help is a symbol of both vulnerability and strength and can be inspiring and motivational to those around you.

In Part 2 we discuss increasing resilience by staying in the moment and developing both mind and body.

Nick Twyman is passionate about enhancing the quality of leadership around the world so that all people are treated fairly and businesses leave a net positive impact on the world. He believes in the need for more enlightened leaders and that good leaders are guided by principles founded on strong ethical and moral foundations.
Liza Jager is a partner at RHR International. Leveraging her executive leadership and organizational development expertise, she enables strategic change for leaders, teams, and organizations ranging from startups, nonprofits, and government to multinational corporations.
Maja Egnell
Maja Egnell is a talent-management executive at RHR International. Leveraging her 20 years of industry experience and a multinational worldview, Maja works to fulfill a simple goal: to impact change and help people succeed. Born and raised in Sweden, Maja brings her business-psychology background, leadership-development skills, and global perspective to the table.
Jeff Kirschner
Jeff Kirschner has over 35 years of leadership development experience. Jeff delivers CEO succession, board effectiveness, senior executive coaching, assessment, and executive team development services to multibillion dollar and Fortune 500 companies.