Resilience for Leaders
The truth is, you’ll never get it done. There will always be the next task, the next deadline, the next challenge. The hits will keep on coming. What determines the quality of your team’s response will be how often they are at their best – in other words, their resilience.
While resilience is personal, there are many things a leader can do to promote resilience and performance. The next question is, how are you building their resilience and helping them be at their best?
Here are a few ideas to help you develop a team that will bounce in every day (almost – everyone’s entitled to a day off once in a while) no matter what the challenge.
Every high performance leader know that when it comes to team performance, it’s not what you say and do that matters so much as how you walk around the office. Don’t expect your team to practise anything you don’t embody. You set the standard for behaviour though your actions. If you are resilient and able to be at your best, you’ll find your team will naturally reflect your enthusiasm. Not only that, you’ll also begin to attract more star players into your team. Effective and resilient people like being around effective and resilient people.
We all have a need for certainty. You might also call it a need for safety or security, and it’s a need driven by the ego for the purposes of protection. The protection it seeks is from social pain, such as embarrassment, failure or humiliation. While each person’s needs for certainty will be subjective, for most it is a key ingredient for resilience.
Many of the most heroic deeds of those in dangerous and even deadly service roles (such as soldiers, firemen, police officers) find their beginning in the safety of the team. When asked why they do it they tend to say “I know they’d do the same for me.”
Steps you can take as a leader to create certainty and build resilience:
1. Be Consistent
If your team don’t know whether you are going to be Attila the Hun or Mother Theresa on any particular day, you are driving their performance backward. Look after your own resilience and show up ready to engage your team.
2. Set Clear Expectations
Tell them exactly what you want and/or how you want it. Don’t leave it a mystery and then complain when it doesn’t fit your expectations.
3. Hold Yourself and Your Team Accountable
It’s great to set expectations, but you have to follow through with consequences when they’re not met.
4. Avoid Snoopervising
Few things can kill enthusiasm and torpedo resilience like the leader who won’t let go. The inescapable inferences from ‘snoopervising’ include “I’m not valued, I’m not trusted, (s)he thinks I’m stupid, (s)he’s out to get me, etc”. How would you feel if that tape was playing over in your head every day?
As Dan Pink told us in Drive, autonomy is one of the big 3 when it comes to personal motivation. You can make it easy by:
- Set times frames and expectations with your team and then back off. If you’re concerned about a timeframe dragging on, require ongoing updates but let them get on with it.
- Give your team members freedom to choose, even if it is only a small choice. A choice between starting today or tomorrow might be enough, as could the ability to choose approach A or approach B.
- Listen. Hear your team members out before problem solving or interrogating or accusing. To be heard is to be valued and you will find often they will solve their own problems, discover what they missed, and apologise if they were wrong. That’s called learning and will make your job a lot easier.
5. Encourage Frequent Winning
Have you ever been in a job where you turned up everyday only to get it wrong again and again? Have you ever had to lose every day, day after day, and then be reminded how badly you’re failing? This is the antithesis to resilience building.
Everyone wants to win. Even though it’s an irrational idea in a competitive world, most take losing personally. The leader’s challenge is to make it possible for people to win and then to make it probable. Here’s a few ideas on how:
- Winning is a matter of perspective. Set achievable targets that are the signposts on the road to the outcomes you want
- Once you have the right people on the bus, get them in the right seats. Leaders who build resilient and high performance teams ensure each team members focuses on what they’re good at.
- Break large or marathon projects in to smaller sprints and celebrate the outcomes.
6. Reframe Failure
Like winning, failure is an opinion. It’s also never permanent. Shift your perspective and you’ll see it’s always temporary. Opportunities are like buses – there’s always another one coming along, but if you’re caught up in the last ‘failure’ chances are you won’t see it.
Help your team focus on what they did well, what they learned, and how they’ll do it different next time. Growth comes from adversity so cherish the stuff-ups: they’re often your greatest blessings.
7. Discover a Why
From Maslow’s self actualisation to Dan Pink’s purpose to Simon Sinek’s golden circle to Jim Stengl’s top 50, the evidence is overwhelming. The WHY not only matters, it’s a key differentiator in individual, team, and organisational performance. Your team wants to do something worthwhile, to be part of something that has meaning beyond profit and KPIs.
Any person who has a big why will find remarkable resilience and overcome seemingly impossible odds. The same goes for teams. So what’s your why? Why does what you do matter? The next step is to ask your team.
There’s a good chance you are taking it far too seriously. You’re on this planet for a short time and death is one of the few inevitables. The uncomfortable truth about life is that it’s all about the journey, not the destination, so lighten up. Enjoy the game. Don’t wait until you’re nearing retirement to realise that you’ve been fighting your whole life and you haven’t allowed yourself to laugh along the way.
If you can get your head around that, do the same for your team. Resilience grows as you realise the drama is not only unhelpful, but best observed from a distance.
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