David Wray

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Pressures Mount, Time to Sharpen Resiliency Skills!

Calvin cartoon demonstrating resiliency. Credit Bill Watterson

What does resiliency mean?

Resiliency is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as: “the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult situations.” Its 17th-century origin is from the Latin verb resilire, or “to leap back” or “to recoil.” 

Resilience is both an emotional capability and a leadership skill, one that pandemic recovery demands more than ever. Resilience is often associated with hard or excessive work, the latter of which has a counterproductive effect on resiliency. The real secret to resilience is trying hard, taking a break, recovering, and then trying again. Why do I say this?

It comes down to a concept my father coined “life is a marathon not a sprint”, the basis of this social science concept is homeostasis. It describes how a person under conflicting stresses maintains a stable psychological condition (meaning well-being).

So how can this personal leadership skill be built?

Start by recognizing our brain needs as much rest as our bodies

Change is within our grasp! But only when we open ourselves up to the idea that a different way might be more useful to us than the one, we currently lean on. I will use a common story to illustrate.

Imagine that you work a fixed number of hours tethered to a workplace (physical or virtual). Each day you tackle complex challenges. The kind of day where you keep thinking about work-related things even when you are not working. Perhaps as you prepare a meal, watch TV, or go out for a walk. As the day winds to an end, you go to bed. You may have physically rested, but you can still feel exhausted the next day. Why? It’s simply because rest and recovery are not the same things. Physically stopping does not equate to rest. Our brain needs a break from high mental arousal states, something made more difficult for many during the pandemic. Some companies are recognizing the need for recovery and giving employees time off, most recently are Nike and LinkedIn, both granting a week off to destress.

This is a significant step towards slowing down mental arousal and taking a recovery break. It is the same benefit we get from taking annual vacations (although that seems like a distant memory for many these days).

Beyond the notion of a break, there are four actions we can take to build resiliency during challenging times.

Four actions to build resiliency

Copyright: David Wray, 2021 - Four steps for building resiliency.

Resiliency, build it every day not just in a crisis

We don’t, however, have to wait for a crisis to build resiliency. We can build it at work every day by establishing some parameters around during work and after work recovery periods. For instance, during work: build micro-breaks into your day, block shortish (90 minutes maximum) work periods in your calendar to complete tasks, or go for a coffee and chat with a colleague. After work: take holidays, spend time with family and friends, attend cultural events (like the theatre) or enjoy a pastime.

Basically, resiliency is built when we make a conscious decision to draw boundaries and stop. Gift yourself with the time and resources needed to leverage during and after-work recovery time. 

Try this strategy to see it in action. On your next business flight, build resiliency by choosing to relax, sleep, watch films, draw, or listen to great podcasts. This will ensure that when you get off the plane, instead of feeling drained or tired, you will be refreshed and ready to jump back into your high-performance role!

Final Thoughts

We need to start talking more about the ways we can increase resiliency in leaders if we want to run successful companies. And we need to model resiliency, so our team members become inspired and motivated to build their own resiliency.

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your views and ideas on how to develop resiliency for personal or professional situations.

Give it a try!

Cartoon credit: Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbs

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