Developing Resilience as a Manager
Just like that, you’re in charge of a team. Then you blinked, and a global pandemic happened. Your business was disrupted, your employees were disrupted, and you are leading and managing in a whole different way. And now, you blinked again and we’re coming out of the curve with a whole new world ahead of us. So, what do you focus on now?
Steering ourselves through the current conditions of uncertainty, change, and disruption to a new tomorrow is a perfect demonstration of the art of resilience. After all, resilience is all about bouncing back, seeing through adversity, maintaining optimism, and regulating emotions toward a positive attitude instead of a defeated attitude.
However, resilient behaviors or attitudes don’t come quickly or easily to everyone. As a manager, you may be working with a team that is struggling with change. Or you could be overcome by setbacks. Even it if comes naturally, resilience takes deliberate practice.
Resilience practice for your team
Resilience is about behaviors, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn, practice, and develop the components of connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and finding meaning.
Here are some ways managers can help build resilience on their teams, and for themselves:
Build connections and prioritize relationships
If you are working on a newly remote team, creating or maintaining connections can be difficult. Most of your "connected" time is now spent on video calls. Participants will all have different communication styles, and some may want more personal time, while others may want “just the facts”. This is a good time to work on empathy and listening skills—and frankly, video can be a distraction.
If you haven't already, don't assume creating better connections with your team has to be done solely by video—ask if they would rather take a “walking meeting” or share screens and documents instead. And of course, building connections doesn’t have to be through meetings either! Look for ways to build rapport without imposing your style on others. One way I do this with my team is being deliberate about taking their Everything DiSC® style and preferences into consideration when we meet. If I know a team member’s communication preferences, I can adapt that to our meeting structure.
One thing about the times we are in—for many, personal “space” and mental health is taking a back seat to just keeping our heads above water. Set an example for your team by having conversations about the pressures you are individually feeling. Ask them in 1:1s if they need help, want to vent, and if they are getting enough personal time or space to foster their mental well-being. Be prepared to hear negative feelings and resist the urge to be the “fix it friend”.
Understand too, that this type of sharing may feel uncomfortable for employees. You may have to guess at the pressures they are facing, so as a manager, it is doubly important that we don’t give in to negative talk, commiseration, or gossip. Since leaders go first, be prepared to share how you are developing or maintaining healthy mental habits, such as practicing mindfulness, ways you are setting aside space to rest, or how you are distancing from daily pressures.
Promote Healthy Thinking and Purposefulness
It is easy to feel overwhelmed during times of change, especially with so many unknowns. Breaking down problems into smaller steps or pieces can help us all feel more accomplished and proactive. Finding purpose in what you do as an organization, accomplishing small tasks, and making progress toward a goal is sometimes a matter of perspective.
Having a positive attitude won’t come easy to everyone, so as a manager, it is important to take a coaching approach to asking questions vs. “telling” and practicing active listening. My team has taken on incredible new challenges over the last year —I know how hard they work and we’ve talked about how much we have learned, and how exciting it is to serve leaders in different ways even though it has been challenging. By seeing the purpose in our day-to-day actions, I think we’re better able to see the big picture—even though it has sometimes been a struggle.