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Leading through Challenge – the importance of resilience

Neil Hughes Neil Hughes

Over the past few months you are likely to have been navigating through significant changes, dealing with situations you haven’t come across before and sifting through an ongoing flood of information.

For many of us the disruption in our external environment has brought us to a place which feels different, strange and unfamiliar.  And for many of us through all of this disruption, we have still been leading our organisations and teams.  There is still a significant road ahead before we emerge from the current challenge and there will no doubt be new challenges we will need to lead through.  To help you deal with this challenge, you will need to sustain, to lead with energy and purpose, you will need to be resilient.

Resilience is more than just bouncing back.  In today’s world, where change and disruption are constant, simply bouncing back is no longer a sustainable strategy.  Resilience is broader than well-being, it is about how quickly we overcome and stand back-up. We are human – and it’s not only acceptable, but it’s expected that we won’t always be constantly happy.  What matters is that we do overcome; and we do stand back up.

Resilience involves behaviours that can be learned and developed by anyone.  The key is knowing which personal resources to target. Rather than saying you are resilient or not resilient, you might begin by thinking about whether your current levels of resilience are low or high.  Resilience is about thriving through difficult and unpredictable times, not just surviving.

As you reflect on your own current levels of resilience, it is important to reflect on the specific areas and behaviours that will build your resilience levels.  These areas, not surprisingly, include balance, support, belief, purpose, recovery and growth. 

Balance is probably the most important of these, but that will often depend on the individual.  Having a balance between enough challenge and enough rest; finding good balance between working too much or too little; placing a daily focus on those things that energise you are so important in transitioning from that survive to thrive mode.

Think about your day as a set of scales, with those activities which create stress on one side and those activities which energise and restore you on the other. Does your scale balance?  If not, could you boost your energy reserves with non-work or restorative activities.  Balance is about regulation.  Reduce your drain on your emotional resources and conserve your energy if possible.  Recognise the situations that deplete you and try to reduce emotional exhaustion.  Mindfulness can help create balance throughout the day, helping you to experience what is actually happening, rather than filtering your experience through an internal dialogue, and is proven to reduce emotional exhaustion.

As a leader you plan for a wide range of scenarios and circumstances.  Developing a resilience plan to ensure that you can survive during long periods of challenge is no different.