Building resilience 6: Comments round up

Having finished what I wanted to say about Resilience, I thought it worth picking up on some of the great comments on the posts. 

The second post in the series was about setting your mindset away from “why is this happening?” and towards “what are we going to do?”. 

Steve commented along the lines that in high pressured environments, places in which safety and security, or millions of pounds, are genuinely on the line, the need to set your mindset this way is obvious. And so not that helpful really. 

Which is fair enough. But in some ways, it is where the lesson comes from. Emergency services in the middle of a multiple location incident don’t waste time wishing that the second fire hadn’t started. They prioritise, work out what they’re going to do and then get on and do it as best they can. 

Now. If this keeps happening over and over, something has to give. Emergency services, air traffic control, other critical systems units, set themselves up with shift patterns and rules that limit individual exposure to relentless pressures. 

Some of us have to do that ourselves though. 

Lyndsey commented that she often sees people who think they’re being resilient but are really just in “endurance” mode. Ploughing on, despite signs that a break is what is needed above all else. 

She’s so right when she says: Resilience is NOT endurance. 

Sometimes the answer to: What am I going to DO about it? is just… Stop. Breathe. Go home. Rest. Come back to it tomorrow. 

And as I said in Part 4 of the series on working your priorities, the stuff that makes you you, the stuff that recharges your batteries and resets your mindset is always important. And very rarely urgent. 

Whether it’s time with your kids, knitting, exercise, your special show you share with a friend or spouse… Make being you-you (not just work-you) a priority. 

The last comment I’ll reference was from Ellie on the important-urgent matrix mentioned in the post on priorities. She noted that sometimes everything is sitting in the “important and urgent” corner and mapping this out makes things feel more overwhelming. 

This is worth a post in itself. There are several things to do here. But for now I’ll offer one thought. 

You can only ever do one complicated thing at a time. So faced with a long list of “important and urgent” things, go through again and try to pick out the three MOST important and urgent things. Then go through THAT list and pick ONE to work on. Set yourself a short achievable goal, and work it. Then do the same with number two. Then again with number three. 

You’ll have identified a set of priorities and made progress. 

If you have trouble determining the most important, because they’re all important, just pick. You have to work on something. So choose and move it forward. 

You may not be able to change the tide of events that buffet you as you try to lead. But…

Set your mindset towards positive next-steps. 

Proactively manage your mental wellbeing. 

Make sure you’re working your priorities. 

And help your team do these things too. 

Work in this way and you’ll be building a firm foundation of resilience that will help you take things in stride and keep moving forwards. 

Thanks for reading this series and for the brilliant comments that have really made me think. 

Building resilience 5: Look after your team

In this series of posts on resilience I’ve put forward a three part prescription for your own resilience. 

First: Turn away from a victim mindset where your response to challenge is to throw up your hands, throw in the towel and ask “Why is this happening to me?” Instead get into the habit of meeting difficult moments with a pause to catch your breath and ask yourself “OK. Here we are. What am I going to do next?”

Second: Start thinking about your mental wellbeing on a sickness-wellness-fitness continuum. Practice recognising where you are on that spectrum and adjusting your self-expectations accordingly. And take steps to proactively move yourself towards the fitness end of the spectrum. 

Third: Stay on top of your priorities. Make sure you’re making time for work that is important but less urgent, and for the things that keep you grounded and sane. 

The final piece of the puzzle for this series of posts, is that as a leader, wherever you are in the hierarchy, keep an eye on your team in terms of all of the above. This is a key part of fulfilling John Adair’s idea that as a leader you have to pay attention to task, individuals and team

All the time, and especially when things are particularly busy, check in with the individuals you work with. Are they on top of things? How are they doing with the three-part prescription of mindset, mental wellbeing and priorities? If their balance is off, how can you help?

If you think someone needs some help, don’t try to be too clever. Just talk with them. Ask how they are. Ask how things are going. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help. You might be surprised. All it might take to really help is to give permission to go home an hour early. Or pick out a key priority from in-amongst a mass of deadlines and pressures. 

But as well as looking out for the individuals you work with, think about the resilience of the team. Is the team coming together to face challenge (not as a victimised minority, but) as a proactive  group? Does the team have time in its schedule to build its cohesiveness and communication? Does the team know what’s most important right now?

Care for the team’s wellbeing as much as you do for the individuals in the group, and you’ll be embedding resilience on every level. 

Click here for the last in this series on resilience in which I’ll pick up on some of great comments I’ve received.

Building resilience 4: Get your priorities straight

When work, emails, responsibilities, requests, deadlines pile in on top of us, the weight of it all can be hard to carry. And we all know what it feels like when that one extra straw comes in and the camel’s back starts creaking. 

Whatever role you’re in, wherever you are in the hierarchy, today’s highly-connected environment means the volume of incoming stuff can be overwhelming. We could all work 27 hours a day and still not get done everything that arrives with our name on it. 

In the face of this, it is absolutely vital that you have a strong sense of your priorities. In two different ways. 

First, you have to be clear on what work is really important and what is just busy-ness with your name on it. Think about things according to the Eisenhower matrix of urgent vs important matters. Make sure you’re spending enough time on the things that are important but less urgent. Make sure you’re working in your power zone, where your passions, market and expertise overlap. 

When you KNOW you’re doing work that matters, the stuff that it’s really important that YOU do, it is easier to worry less about the busy-work. When you have your priorities straight it’s easier to not sweat the small stuff. Because you know it’s the small stuff. 

Second, remember that the things which support your mental and physical health sit squarely in the important but not urgent corner of the Eisenhower matrix. 

When things get stressful it’s often easy to let those things slip, so you can put in the extra hours at the office to keep on getting stuff done. Every so often this is necessary. But if it becomes a pattern, pushing away the stuff that makes you you and keeps you sane, will only lead to you cracking under the pressure. 

However busy you are, however much stuff is going on, it is absolutely OK to commit to an hour of exercise a day. Or that 15 minute meditation period every lunchtime. Or the daily ritual of your kids dinner and bath time. 

Making this sort of self-care commitment does two things. It supports your wellbeing directly. And it forces you to keep on top of your other priorities. You find you’ll be saying to yourself… “I can only do two more things, because I have to read the kids a story… So I’ll do these two, because they’re the most important.”

Keeping on top of your priorities, taking proactive steps to build your mental wellbeing and turning your mindset away from victim-think towards responsibility is my three part prescription for building resilience. 

Click here for Part 5 of this series, where we’ll think about applying these ideas to your team as well as yourself.