Resilient! You’re kidding me! I need to raise my game!

Last week I explored some notions about resilience, defining what I meant by that term, and identifying six strengths or traits that underpin a leader capable of rebounding.

Man on railway tracksIn this article, I provide fourteen tips on how to use those strengths to become more resilient. I’ve drawn my ideas from my decades of experience as a leader and manager. I learnt them through trial and error, coaching and mentoring, academic study, and like all good leaders, reading. Though my learning journey continues, I hope you find my ideas helpful.

My resilience

I believe that I am now more resilient than ever before, mainly because I practice what I preach and have done so for many years. However, my practice does not remain static.

The important role of learning and feedback

My resilience remains dynamic because I am open to learning, and do so each and every day. I also secure feedback from those I encounter.  I consider all data I receive and use it to make a better me. I also use it to amend and adapt my practice.

The modern development context

In the face of a highly dynamic and evolving world, we need leaders who are ever more resilient to increasing complexity and uncertainty. They need to challenge received wisdom, plot new paths, develop compelling visions of the future, and reassure those they lead about the potential benefits and outcomes. It is a highly stressful, demanding and relentless environment.

Dealing with this challenging environment, you do need to raise your game. So how do you do that?

Fourteen tips from my leadership journey

I don’t claim that it is easy to become more resilient. In fact, it can be downright difficult and often extremely stressful. However, after twenty-five plus years in the public sector and thirteen plus years working as a consultant in the private, public and third sectors, here are fourteen tips on how I’ve achieved my level of resilience.

  1. Re-affirm your organisational vision – how do you align with the current vision and how does it relate to your sense of the ‘bigger picture’? How do you relay this to your staff? What sense of ownership do they have?
  2. Translate the theory to practice – ‘live’ the vision in as authentic a way that you can muster. Developing and displaying trust is critical to your continued best practice, so ‘walking the talk’ is ever more needed.
  3. Remain flexible, adaptable and disciplined. Agile and remote working have become more prominent as different ways of working are sought to deal with the pressures inherent in organisations. Critical here is the ability to flex with your role, while staying disciplined about productivity, outcomes and focus.
  4. Seek better clarity about your role[s] and responsibilities. Your Job description may say one thing and your practice may be very different. Jobs evolve, though systems often are slow to catch up. Make sure yours are aligned.
  5. Be more reflective and learn from your own and others’ experiences. Too few people take time out to think. Busyness is a modern corporate disease that looks good but produces little.
  6. Ensure you are equipped to do what is needed. Do you have the right tools and resources, skills and knowledge? If not, seek out and acquire them. A major lesson from my journey was invest in yourself, as much as your team. You are their leader. They are looking to you often for answers, vision and direction. If you are not up to date and up to speed, how will you do that/
  7. Keep a focus on your individual quality – in output, outcome and impact terms – as this offers a strong example. Stay focused too on responding, within your organisation’s constraints, to the needs of those using the service[s] you provide.
  8. Stay focused too on your contribution to the organisation as a whole, by being clear about the value that you add to the offer made to those service users. Be clear about that value, and ensure that you add to it as you can. Also, be unafraid to let people know what you think your values is.
  9. Retain the evidence that underpins both quality and contribution – it strengthens your sense of worth and, when hard, often personal, choices need making, provides strength to your position. You also need to remember that leader, or not; you are still accountable for the things you do.
  10. Continue to collaborate – with your main partners [who may be feeling the same or similar pressures to you] by being inclusive and responsive, wherever possible. In my experience, it is more than not likely to improve the outcomes and impact for your stakeholders.
  11. Be solution focused, rather than problem-fixated; and be prepared to seek help from those who are willing and able to do so. In my experience, help often arrives from unexpected quarters and should always be received with gratitude.
  12. Listen actively; and be welcoming, transparent, and open. People respond much more positively to authenticity, and they are usually good judges of falseness, deceit and dishonesty. I’m a firm believer in ‘practice what you preach’ and ‘what goes around, comes around’. Stay positively focused and positivity will return to you, again, often in unexpected
  13. Use humour to defuse overly tense situations and relationships. The business of effective leadership is serious stuff, though you don’t need to take it seriously all the time.
  14. Learn to say NO assertively and maintain your position. Perhaps, be prepared to delegate responsibly, giving authority to those people to act. Vacillating does your credibility immense harm. Try to stay constant, decisive, and firm.

Help! My motivation is shot!

Of course, if your morale is already low, motivation to do these things may clearly be difficult to build or sustain. I imagine this would be worse if not inspired by a clear and compelling vision; lack stretching but achievable goals; and perhaps feel a little, or maybe a lot ‘invisible’ or ‘less valued’!

Difficult though that may be, my suggestion is this. Develop the intent to act and then do so – now! Do so within the constraints you know and understand, and then seek to push out those boundaries.

Don’t wait to see if someone else does this for you, but take the little steps you do have control over and make a difference for you! You will be surprised, I believe, at how soon a critical mass forms of like-minded individuals that provide you with greater support and motivation than you might have imagined possible!

[Tweet “We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over. – Aneurin Bevan”]

I am always happy to listen and ready to help. Please reach out to me if you feel I might be of assistance. I love to engage in meaningful dialogue, and I’d appreciate your connection.

Thank you for reading.

[This is a repurposed post, written by John Thurlbeck, from February 2011]

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