(first published Aug 12, 2015)

I recently heard a popular leader referred to as ‘tough as nails’.  She is famous for being in difficult situations and finding a way out – gracefully and unscathed.

As leaders, we often discover that something has gone terribly wrong and our reaction: short, medium and long term, will often define us for years to come.  As a leader, or manager, you need to make a decision fast – tackle this adversity head on.  As leaders, we need to be able to react to adverse situations quickly and decisively.

We need to stop, analyse the situation very carefully, both internally and externally, and make some very tough decisions.

Tough as nails?   Or resilient?  I think resilient.

Wikipedia defines resilience as “an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity quickly and decisively”.

Rebecca Shambaugh, in one of her books says “…we need the ability to keep moving ahead, no matter what obstacles we meet, overcoming and thriving on adversity. Leaders must be looking ahead, seeing the possibilities, and then connecting with the hearts and minds of followers to engage them in a new vision.” 

Being ‘tough as nails’ is a characteristic or a trait. We use the words to describe an element of personality that is relatively stable and typical of that person.

Being ‘resilient’ is less an ingrained characteristic and more a quality that can be taught, mentored, or coached.  Very different.

So how do we become more resilient?

Step 1 – Understand that this is a science – this is something that can be taught, coached or mentored.

Step 2 – Call this the ‘As-Is’ state.  Understand your core values – what you stand for in the business world or your personal life.  What makes you tick and what makes you ticked-off. This baseline is essential to your journey.

Step 3 – From the baseline above, list the typical stresses, problems and difficult situations that you commonly face.

Step 4 – Review different responses to each situation. Create an action plan for each. Rehearse the responses and start implementation.

The key to becoming more resilient is to treat the journey as a science and not an art.  The key is to realize that you cannot wing-it when it comes to responding to adversity.

Develop an internal process for dealing with stress and obstacles and fine-tune the responses over time.

 

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