How to increase your resilience

Soul Trained
5 min readAug 13, 2021

Resilience, or bounce-back-ability as we like to call it at Soul Trained, is a necessary component of the sur-thrival kit of any leader, not only because all-that-we-knew-to-be-normal-at-work has been turned upside down and on it’s head but also because it works hand in hand with the value of tenacity, which we wrote about here.

We often hear leaders talking about the way in which they “survived the day”, “made it through”, or “scraped by’’ in challenging times, but we want to aim higher. We believe that it is possible to not only survive the bumps, knocks, and inevitable missteps of leadership-life, but that it is possible to sail through them, to rise because of them, or to become more resilient as a result of them.

And it takes, in the words of Dr Chris Shambrook when I chatted with him for an episode of Shift Happens, self awareness, self acceptance and self improvement [in that order] and in this article we share some thoughts and tips on how.

First, let’s get a handle on what an absence of bounce-back-ability might look like. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Can I easily return to a state of calm and center in times of stress?
  • Am I able to metabolize my upsets and channel them towards constructive outcomes?
  • Do I adapt well to rapidly changing contexts and conditions?
  • Do I handle setbacks and mistakes with grace and in the spirit of growth?
  • Do I believe that there is no such thing as failure; that there is just information and feedback?
  • Can I leave the past in the past, or do I ruminate?
  • Do I invest in regular practices that build my physical, emotional, and mental health?
  • Do I access support backup when I hit emotional overload?

If you answered, “No” or if you were unsure of how to answer any of the questions above then read on.

Take a look at this list of behaviors and habits. In our work with leaders who are working on their bounce-back-ability, we often find these cropping-up:

  • You have a difficult time saying “No” to requests and demands on your time when your plate is already full
  • It is hard for you to see the wood for the trees and you often struggle to prioritize between what’s important to you and what is important to others
  • After a difficult conversation you dwell on it and keep turning it over in your mind
  • You work in a competitive culture and sacrifice periodic reflection for constant action
  • You experience little control or choice over your work or what assignments you take on
  • You often sacrifice empathy for toughness
  • Your self-reliance keeps you from trusting others
  • You over-rely only on existing strengths and stay away from situations which require you to flex new muscles or develop new skills

Do any of them seem familiar to you? If so, it’s likely time to start developing and nurturing your BBA. Here are Soul Trained’s tips for doing so:

Self Awareness

At Soul Trained we concur with the various authors [most notably Simon Sinek, who wrote Start With Why and Laura van Dernoot Lipsky who wrote Trauma Stewardship]. Both of these authors encourage us to develop an awareness of and connection with the reasons why we do what we do and connect our work to the achievements of a bigger goal in life.

As Lipsky says, “This will help us to alleviate the sensation of being tossed around in the waves of uncontrollable and overwhelming events.”

Syndee Brooker, a participant in a leadership workshop I was running last week casually dropped the following line into the Zoom chat window: “Work will always fill the container you give it.” and we couldn’t agree more. How aware are you of the shape, size, and capacity of your ‘work container’?

Many people talk about regaining work-life balance as a form of building resilience, but we have a different take on the topic, preferring instead to encourage our clients to think about work-life blend instead. Our Founder, DDS, wrote about this some time ago. You can read about it here.

Self Acceptance

First up, allow yourself to notice that you are a human being, not a human doing; you are always doing the best you can with the resources, tools, and time you have available to you. Even though the environments we work in try to hoodwink us into believing otherwise, your self worth is not tied to your productivity.

One of Soul Trained’s coaching principles — leadership is a behavior not a title — is a useful reminder that how you show-up in your job can often be more important that what you deliver in your job.

Whenever you take a plane, during the safety announcements before taking off they will tell you about the oxygen masks that will fall from the ceiling in the event of the air pressure in the cabin changing. They always tell you to put your own mask on before helping others. Have you ever thought about why they say that?

If we were to apply the same logic to the workplace, then we might make some new and different decisions about the extent to which we take care of ourselves before taking care of others [NB: in our recent polls, ‘showing genuine care for others’ was the top ranked leadership behavior that people are motivated by]. Whether you are restored by a hike in the woods, a sweaty workout in the gym, reading a good book, or brunch with close friends, it is crucial that you develop a wellness ritual…and stick to it. Your resilience will thank you for it. We promise.

Self Development

It is a fallacy that the leader has [or has to have] all the answers. Similarly, the concept of ‘making it’ is false. You will never ‘arrive’ because you are a work in progress, and you always will be. The thing about works in progress is that they only really progress when they work on their progress. In other words, your development won’t happen by accident.

With this in mind, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of cultivating a support team. Finding a mentor, an advocate, and/or a coach is part of that. But so is, as Buckingham & Coffman remind us, having a best friend at work — not the kind of bestie who colludes with you and tells you what you want to hear, but the kind of bestie that will tell you a few home truths when you need them. This underscores the important role leaders play in facilitating social relationships across their teams — a great topic for a future blog, perhaps.

Beyond the learning that comes from a support team, off-the-job learning through workshops, programs, and certifications will build your capability and in doing so grow your capacity for complexity and therefore feed your bounce-back-ability.

Ask yourself about the steps you have taken recently to develop a new skill, acquire new knowledge, and expand your capability. Is it time? And, if you don’t know what skill or knowledge to build, tap into your ‘why?’ [to bring this full circle] to understand what type of development might be most beneficial to your personal and professional direction of travel.

Could your bounce-back-ability use some attention?

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Soul Trained

Your go-to experts in executive coaching and leadership growth