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Resilience

The practical tools and techniques to learn and develop resilience to cope with pressurized jobs, unwanted change and difficult life events

Is too much resilience bad?

Resilience is good, right? But is too much bad?

I was asked this when running a resilience training workshop for 30 Local Councillors. They were newly-elected and from three different political parties.

We were looking at how personal strengths influence resilience. I was blown away that 40% of them had Bravery in their top five strengths profile. Bravery is defined as speaking up for what is right and acting on one’s convictions, even if it’s unpopular. Usually it’s only about 15%.

Bravery is a wonderful strength. We need bravery to resist social or peer pressure to conform, to speak up and to keep on doing “the right thing”. You need a lot of that to be a whistle-blower and be resilient.

The Local Councillors told me they need bravery for … how did they put it? Oh yes, “robust” and “full and frank exchange of views” with each other.

Strengths can become weaknesses however, if they are used inappropriately. When bravery is used at an inappropriate time or used too much, it becomes overconfidence and foolishness. People stop listening. They ignore you. You end up being disrespected and labelled a troublemaker.

That’s when one of the delegates asked: “Is too much resilience bad? She explained that a senior leader boasted: “I don’t have stress. I give stress. I am stress carrier.”

Continue reading

Performing under pressure when it counts the most

Highly successful people are able to perform under pressure when it matters the most. Even when there are high stakes outcomes, they are able to stay focused and achieve their objectives.

In contrast, for most of us asking for a salary increase, dealing with a workplace bully or coordinating multiple projects are very difficult situations. The higher the stakes, the greater the pressure and that’s when our brains turn into porridge.

Fortunately we can learn from highly successful people who cope well with pressure. Build your resilience to improve performance under pressure by doing the following: Continue reading

Is your home more stressful than work?

Work is stressful, but home is less stressful, right? That’s what many of us say, but not necessarily what actually happens.

According to a new study from Penn State University, both men and women have significantly less stress at work rather than at home, and this difference is even more pronounced for women than men. In addition, they found that the women in their study were happier at work than at home, whilst in contrast, men felt happier at home than at work.

Whaaaaat? How can that be? Continue reading

Your stress is not my stress – why stress is experienced differently

ID-10065994No one welcomes the feeling of being stressed. We prize performance, competition and perfection and if we don’t feel competent it causes stress.

So is stress bad? The answer is yes and no. Without some level of stress, life is positively boring, but on the other hand too much stress is debilitating. Thus there should be an optimum level of stress for motivation and engagement for every one.

It turns out that this is true, but what is experienced by one person as motivating and exciting, may be experienced by someone else as overload resulting in anxiety and reduced efficiency. Continue reading

Five strategies to build your resilience in a stressful job

Resilience orbTo survive in our rapidly changing economic environment, many organisations are making large-scale changes which ratchets up pressure on everyone. More output is required from people using fewer resources. Many people are working longer hours and complain that work is more stressful than ever before.

If this applies to you, you need to be resilient. Resilience is the ability to stay task focused and productive during difficult times, to recover well from sustained pressure and adversity. It also enables learning for the experience to become personally better rather than bitter; stronger rather than weaker.

While this might sound like magic, it is in fact ordinary magic that everyone possesses. The good news is that it’s made up of a set of skills and behaviours that can be learnt and improved.

In our research on personal resilience (more here), we found seven elements that make up resilience, as shown in the model. From these elements, there are five practical strategies that can immediately assist to build your internal coping resources to become more resilient. Continue reading

How to ask for help and enhance your reputation as a leader

ID-10046852Successful leaders get things done. They think big, drive for results, take risks and deliver on their plans. They also do something that is less known, and that is they ask for help. When facing difficulties, they ask for help in a way that builds cooperation and respect.

Some leaders don’t feel comfortable asking for help, when self-sufficiency is prized in our western work. They fear asking for help may be seen as a sign of weakness or that they are not competent. Yet, the same leaders often struggle with an increased work load and lament the lack of cooperation in their organisation.

If leaders are reluctant to seek help themselves, it sends a signal to their team members that admitting vulnerability and not coping is unacceptable in the organisation. If this happens, feelings of isolation and alienation will increase with the rise of organisational uncertainty.

It’s only when leaders model that seeking help is not only acceptable but is actually desirable, that the team and ultimately the organisation will be able to proactively get the resources they need to support themselves and to transition the organisation through difficulties.

This was also borne out in my research on personal resilience (more here), which found that asking for help and also giving help was one of the seven components of resilience.

So how can you overcome an inherent reluctance to ask for help, and to ask for help in a way that enhances your reputation as a leader, rather than diminishes it? Here are some ideas: Continue reading

Finding strength to be a resilient leader during difficult times

strengthTo remain viable in the present rapidly changing business world, organisations are introducing multiple, deep-impact change initiatives. It’s well known however, that large-scale change has a very disappointing track record of being successfully implemented on time and within budget.

“People naturally resist change” is often given as the reason. This is incorrect. People will accept and even welcome some types of change. They will however logically resist change which threatens their comfort; confidence; control and competence.

When change is experienced as disruptive or even unwanted, people feel dislocated, become obsessed with present problems and lose their perspective. These negative emotions feed on each other and entire teams can quickly become despondent and directionless.

Individuals and teams are particularly vulnerable if they feel their work activities no longer have meaning. If that happens, the leaders’ role becomes substantially more difficult. Not only do the leaders suffer as much as their followers, but they are also responsible for implementing change with demoralised and listless team members. Continue reading

Get your free copy of The Building Resilience Handbook!

The Building Resilience Book

The Building Resilience Book

The Building Resilience Handbook is normally available as an e-book from Amazon Kindle at US$11.39. To thank you for reading my newsletters about resilience, I am making it freely available to you for a limited period. It will be only available free from 25 May to 29 May, 2016.

Have a look at some of the reviews of the book:

  • “Inspiring and applicable throughout one’s lifetime” Fred Irumba, science teacher, Jakindaba Senior Secondary School.
  • “Easy to implement at work and home. The results are remarkable!” Brent Beilinsohn, Manager, Old Mutual Investment Group South Africa.
  • “Mind blowing! Implementing these practical exercises has made me a better person” Fanuel Kakuiya, Senior Superintendent, South African Police Services.

Imagine having abundant inner strength and resourcefulness to withstand and recover quickly from whatever difficulties life may throw at you. With The Building Resilience Handbook you can.

Packed with practical exercises and inspirational stories, this groundbreaking, research-based book of 314 pages will guide you step-by-step to develop inner strength and realistic optimism. It’s the formula to not only survive but thrive in the face of life’s challenges. Continue reading

Leading with resilience in the face of uncertainty, surprise and change.

exposed-tree-rootsOrganisations today operate in highly complex, fluid and uncertain environments. The organisations typically have multiple change initiatives on the go, each with deep impact. As a result, uncertainty, surprise and change have become pervasive in organisations.

Unfortunately, the skills of leaders to lead in this environment, and team members to cope and recover well, are not equally pervasive.

The change initiatives are sometimes beyond the ability of leaders to manage effectively. Also, team members often struggle to cope, particularly if the changes don’t make sense to them, or they are not sure of their priorities or they don’t feel valued.

The challenge that leaders face is to make fast-paced and extensive change a normal part of working life.

The following Resilient Leadership strategies will help your team members to cope during uncertainty, surprise and change: Continue reading

Help! I’m tired of being tired!

ID-100157605 (2)People tell me that they feel more over-stressed and overwhelmed than ever before. They have so much on their plates that they can’t find the time to do everything, let alone take time out to recover and refresh themselves.

They say that their usual solutions don’t work. They can’t find time to meditate, or exercise and even sleep properly. Life-work balance is a joke. No matter how hard they try, they seem to be achieving less and feel exhausted by demands at work and home.

Like them, are you also tired of being tired? If so, here are seven actions you can take right now to break out of this distressing cycle: Continue reading

How to develop resilience – strength for life

DrowningWe all experience difficulties in life, but sometimes it goes from “In every life, some rain must fall” (YouTube link here), to a flood. It can be caused by an unrelenting volume or pace of work. Or it can be caused by something deeply upsetting such as being retrenched or ending of a love-relationship.

When difficulties reach flood levels, some people are stretched beyond their limits. They don’t cope well. They feel defeated and sometimes spiral into hopelessness. Its’s as though they are drowning in a flood of difficulty and hardship.

In contrast, others cope and recover well. They manage to keep their experience of stress positive and struggle well. They are like a buoy in an ocean storm, submerged from time-to-time, but quickly bob up again. Continue reading

How to develop the ability to struggle well

stormy weatherAre you over-stressed? I often hear people despairing that they are over-committed and over-stressed at work, and don’t know how to get off the treadmill. Work-life balance becomes unreachable, and they feel increasingly unable to be the loving parent or partner they would like to be.

This sentiment is echoed by M Scott Peck whose opening sentence in The Road Less Travelled is: “Life is difficult”. Even the Buddha teaches that the first of the “Four Noble Truths” is “Life is suffering”.

This is a rather bleak commentary on life, so let’s put it into perspective.

It’s true that we all experience some degree of difficulty, heartache, disappointment and even adversity. The practical implication for me is: can I minimise the suffering in a way that doesn’t also diminish experiencing the positive side of life?

Put differently, is it possible to cope well with what life throws at me and also to experience love, joy and happiness? Continue reading

How sports coaches up the performance of struggling teams

3135102614_748ba182ed_mRight now the world’s eyes are on international rugby, football, cricket and other sporting competitions.  Each match is “to do or die” for the players, with money, prestige and national pride riding on the outcome.

What do successful coaches say to their teams when they’re losing and are often frustrated and demoralized?

Is threatening the most effective strategy? In other words, motivate them by kicking their butts. Or is it more effective to find something that they are doing to praise? In other words, motivate them by making them feel good about themselves? Continue reading

Thinking errors that erode resilience

brain for newsletterWhen you experience difficult times, or when adversity strikes, you need to be able to recover and bounce back. That’s called being resilient or mentally strong. Being continually stressed or dealing with unrelenting difficulties however makes this difficult to achieve.

When we experience low points in our coping, our thinking and decision making can be most at risk. This is ironic, because it’s at these trying times that we need to be at our best in terms of thinking clearly and making good decisions.

There are five common thinking errors that you should be aware of that can substantially erode your mental strength and resilience: Continue reading

The Building Resilience Handbook is going free!

The Building Resilience Book

The Building Resilience Book

The Building Resilience Handbook is normally available as an e-book for Kindle at $13.65. To thank you for reading my newsletters about resilience, I am making it freely available to you for a limited period.

Have a look at some of the reviews of the book:

  • “Inspiring and applicable throughout one’s lifetime” Fred Irumba, science teacher, Jakindaba Senior Secondary School.
  • “Easy to implement at work and home. The results are remarkable!” Brent Beilinsohn, Manager, Old Mutual Investment Group South Africa.
  • “Mind blowing! Implementing these practical exercises has made me a better person” Fanuel Kakuiya, Senior Superintendent, South African Police Services.

Imagine having abundant inner strength and resourcefulness to withstand and recover quickly from whatever difficulties life may throw at you. With The Building Resilience Handbook you can. Continue reading

Seven Habits of Mentally Strong People

roots-of-big-old-treeSeven Habits of Mentally Strong People

GREAT NEWS! Watch out for the free Kindle book offer in the next email on 10 September!

Would you like to be able to cope better with difficulties, unwelcome change and heart-ache? To stay the course and not give up?

If so, you need mental strength!

Mental strength is really good stuff. It helps people persist in achieving a long-term excellence, as opposed to those who start off well, but loose enthusiasm and give up. It’s also the best predictor of success in school, the military and corporate sales, rather than intelligence or even luck.

Mental strength is built through consistently following seven habits: Continue reading

Are you completely overloaded?

Don't-overload-your-trailerOrganizations pride themselves on being “lean and mean”. Shareholders love it. For the people working there however, it often boils down to meeting higher targets with fewer people and less resources.

If this applies to you, let me guess:

  • You receive way too many e-mails?
  • You feel compelled to take on even more work?
  • You start the week determined to get your work load under control, only to end up with more items on your “to do” list?
  • At home you can’t switch off?

You end up overcommitted and overloaded.

Here’s the interesting thing: everyone complains about this overload and overstress! So is this the so-called “new normal”, and do we just have to accept it? Continue reading

Stressful job? You need mental strength!

ID-10099094

If you feel you have a stressful job you’re not alone. 83% of workers in the USA feel stressed out by their jobs (reference here) and in South Africa it’s estimated that 60% of lost working days each year are a result of stress (reference here).

Some working conditions make jobs particularly stressful:

  • dealing with the public (nurses, teachers, call-center staff)
  • dealing with dangerous situations (fire-fighters, police)
  • complex decision-making (executives, airline pilots, project managers, IT)
  • time pressure (medical workers)
  • repetitive work (factory staff)
  • persuading (sales)
What can you do if have a stressful job?

If you can’t change stressful working conditions, then you need to develop mental strength (more here). Here’s four things to do: Continue reading

How to disagree with your boss

ID-10091466 (1) - Copy

When you know you’re right, and your boss is wrong, deciding whether to speak up is often difficult. You may feel that to be respectful you have to tone down your disagreement. And if you are to be honest, you’re going to hurt her feelings.

You don’t want to make things worse, but not voicing your concerns feels like you are agreeing. Right?

This dilemma comes up often in my coaching practice, and we have found a way of tackling it. Here’s what works:

 

Step one: Understand your motivation

Why do you have the feelings you do? Is it only about the issue, or does it also bring up other issues you are not happy about? Continue reading

Help! I am feeling overwhelmed!

Lost and Confused SignpostToo many people making demands on you, too much to do and too little time to do it do it in? Too many e-mails and too many meetings? Everyone wants a piece of you?

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. People working in organisations today seem to be increasingly stressed, having to achieve more with fewer resources.  In a recent Knowledge Resources survey, 80% of the respondents said their workload had increased substantially and most felt overwhelmed. This is in line what I have also found (more here).

You know feeling constantly overwhelmed is an indication of a dangerously high level of stress. You also know that high levels of stress will have severe negative impacts on you, affecting your productivity, your colleagues and your loved ones.

But if you’re like so many others, understanding the negative consequences of feeling consistently overwhelmed doesn’t automatically translate into knowing what to do to change.

Fortunately there are things you can do to help. Here are seven things that have helped leaders and managers I coach and may help you too: Continue reading