The Greek philosopher Heraclitus, is considered the first person to declare, that “change is the only constant”. If he only knew…! Having been through the most challenging economic period this country has faced in generations, followed by the legacy and impact of the bank guarantee, rise in industrial and social unrest, government collapse, government u-turns, crippling rent rises, homelessness, increases in the public pay bill, the rise of populist politics, challenges from Europe to our tax system, challenges to everything from Brexit and the protectionism of the US President, change truly is endless.
Four years ago, when author and Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter wrote “Surprises are the new Normal, Resilience is the new skill”, half of the above had yet to happen, the most threatening half at that. Kanter believes the difference between winners and losers is how they handle losing. No one, no matter how successful, can avoid troubles and pitfalls and therefore, the real skill is having the resilience to climb back up and bounce back.
We now truly live in an era of constant uncertainty, having to adapt and pivot almost on a weekly basis. Planning is nearly abstract, adhering to a plan almost notional. Resilience is about adapting well in the face of adversity, threat or other significant sources of stress. While it is about emotional control and management, it is not about emotional suppression. Resilience demands the ability to make plans and action them, finding and building on inner confidence to retain a positive outlook. It means solving problems on the fly, while communicating consistently with all stakeholders.
Resilience is the cornerstone of good leadership, in an era when we must not only bounce back from trip-ups or falls, but must also drive on through the storm of “what ifs” that leaders face daily and still come back tomorrow for more. Resilience is not an inherent trait, but rather it is a learned competency. While we are all different in how we react to adverse situations, there are five core steps to take to build resilience.
Resist the temptation to hide away from others. Make connections, keep good relations with family, friends and colleagues. Learn to rely on others, take the offer of help when available, that in itself is a demonstration of great strength.
Recognise, that nothing is insurmountable. High stress situations will always arise, failure will always be a factor, it is how you interpret and respond to these events that matters.
Accept that change will always be with us. Sometimes adverse situations will require you to adjust your goals to keep them attainable or to change them to make them more relevant to the new circumstances.
Understand when you are accountable. Be decisive, take responsibility, collaborate with others where possible, recognise the small wins and reliefs. Shirking or hiding from the situation is an unhealthy cul de sac.
Keep things in perspective, remain optimistic. See the adverse situation as having some learning value and focus on a positive outcome on the other side of the difficulty.
Uncertainty and volatility bring challenge, disruptions, obstacles and setbacks for us all. Resilience involves maintaining flexibility and balance in your life as you deal with stressful circumstances and difficult events.
Fragile, negative managers create chaos and hurt in their teams, so in these unprecedented and unpredictable times, resilience is the core leadership competency.