This week’s blog post was written by one of our coaches, Lisa Iverson, innovative leadership coach & mental health counselor. Last week we discussed resilience and how it’s helpful in the workplace by exploring the first two of four elements. This week we will discuss the remaining elements and how they can be applied.
Let’s look at an example of a client who is currently in a very tough leadership role. He has excelled his entire career, but is now facing challenges he hadn’t experienced before. His strategies are no longer working like they did in the past. Specifically, he is finding his responses to colleagues and people he respects and cares about are leaving him short tempered and agitated. This agitation comes out in his ability to respond in a supportive manner. The first step we took was for him to not only review his professional contributions and agendas for meetings, but to also prepare for the amount of emotional energy required. Now, when he is going into what is likely a challenging meeting, he takes two minutes in advance to calm himself and review his goals for the meeting. He also reflects on his appreciation for the talented team with whom he works. He appreciates his colleagues and finds that this momentary reflection helps him improve his ability to focus on the progress they are making rather than on the challenges they continually face.
3. Be aware of and manage the way you think and speak to yourself.
Learn and practice the essence of more positive psychology. In his book A Primer in Positive Psychology, Christopher Pederson introduces positive psychology in the following manner:
“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what goes right in life…It is a newly christened approach within psychology that takes seriously as subject matter those things that make life worth living…positive psychology does not deny the valleys. Its signature premise is more nuanced but nonetheless important: ‘What is good about life is as genuine as what is bad and therefore deserves equal attention.’”
Learn to focus on and recall the positive aspects or your life:
- your experiences
- your behaviors
- your opportunities and potential
- the gifts, strengths, and talents that you offer to other people
- aspects of life you are grateful for
- learn to reinforce these positive thoughts as opposed to dwelling on the negative
- learn to “reframe” challenging situations and develop a wider perspective, imagining that something positive might arise from the challenge
4. Build Emotional Intelligence: Self-Knowledge and Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is certainly not a skill that can be learned overnight nor through a weekend workshop. Developing true self-knowledge is a life-long process that must be attended to on a daily basis, and it matures and deepens as long as we value the process and give it time and guidance to develop.
Robert Wicks, in his very helpful book Bounce: Living the Resilient Life, writes,
“If resilience is to be strengthened, if stress is to be limited, and if the quality of our personal and professional well-being is to be enhanced, then self-knowledge is not a nicety… Self-knowledge leads to personal discipline and self-management, which are essential to resilience. Psychologists call this ‘self-regulation.’”
Wicks identifies eight major themes that should be considered in an on-going self-reflective process:
- understanding our unique self and being true to that self
- embarking on a disciplined search
- elements of clarity
- awareness of our own agendas
- facing failure in a productive way
- critical thinking
- appreciating and overcoming our resistance to change
- improving self-talk
Very few people will find all of these characteristics of “a resilient person” easy to cultivate. While each area of effort seems healthy and worth the pursuit, most of us are not trained or programmed to be aware of our stress level and our personal triggers, to self-regulate our emotions, or to change our self talk, nor is it easy for any of us to carve out the time for the many positive suggestions that are offered to increase our resilience. Yet, I believe that the skill sets described here are as vital to our leadership toolbox as any other, perhaps more so in the long run. These skills, once developed, are as applicable to personal life as to our work places and simply make us happier, more resilient, and more effective human beings. The skills inherent in being resilient improve our overall quality of life.
Most of us can build these skills on our own, to some degree, but the assistance and guidance of a coach can both speed up and further deepen this important area of development. If, like most of us, you are either challenged by stress or are working hard to develop some element of the skill set mentioned in this article, consider a hiring a coach to assess your current status, and to guide, encourage, and assist your progress toward greater resilience.
Cultivating resilience is an effort and a gift to yourself you won’t regret.
Lisa Iverson is a certified coach and a licensed mental health therapist. Lisa was also the founder and was the long-term Executive Director of NOVA School, an independent middle school for highly capable students. She has spent years in senior leadership roles running this and other schools. During this time she honed her skills in leadership, organization development and individual leader development. She now focuses on providing innovative leadership and organizational development coaching and consulting. Lisa coaches her clients to effectively navigate the complex terrain of transformational leadership in organizations as well as in entrepreneurial settings.
To learn more about becoming a more effective leader using Innovative Leadership we recommend taking leadership assessments, reading the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations and participating in the online innovative leadership program with coaching. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.
Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, Metcalf, Maureen and Palmer, Mark
Bounce: Living the Resilient Life, Wicks, Robert J.
A Primer in Positive Psychology, Peterson, Christopher
The Power of Resilience, Brooks, Robert and Goldstein, Sam
Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, Graham, Linda MFT
photo credit: www.flickr.com wetzel