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The Resilient Leader – 10 Tips for Relieving Stress


We are all affected by life’s ebbs and flows; at work and home. Analysis of recent CIPD annual absence surveys highlights a trend of increasing annual stress absences across both public and private sector organisations. According to the World Health Organization, by 2030 depression will be the single largest cause of human death – including war, cancer, strokes and accidents. This is can also be linked with an apparent sense of helplessness and hopelessness about what the future holds.

Whilst some are able to weather life’s storms, see them through and grow stronger, an increasing number are laid low by them. How you respond to stress is an indicator of your resilience but what is resilience really?

I believe that resilience is about:

• Your:

– Self-knowledge and self-awareness

– Mind-set

– Perspective

• Your Skills:

– Communications

– Problem solving

– Ability to handle ambiguity and complexity

As a leader, these qualities are drawn into even more acute focus and are, frequently, a core part of your daily work.

Here are some steps of how you can improve the resilience of you and your team:

• Create capacity to improve your resilience by firstly dealing with the immediate stress.

1. Take control. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the world and to drift along. I love the serenity prayer:  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”

Stop, take a moment out. Think about where you, and your team, are going and what you are doing. Make a positive decision if what you are doing is right for you. There may well be consequences associated with other choices but at least you have taken control over what you are doing and why.

2.    Manage the workload. Firstly separate the important from the urgent. A lot of people waste time doing urgent work that isn’t really important. Once you have prioritised the work the next step is to balance the load across the whole through effective delegation. There is often a temptation to load up the most capable team members rather than develop the less able. Time spent developing everyone will pay dividends in the long run.

• Next you need to be able to identify and tackle the sources of stress:

3. Break the pattern. Stress is the outcome of a cycle of stimulus and response. Techniques such as the HeartMath system and coaching give you the pattern interrupt that you may need. Take time to look back at what has caused you stress and to identify the pattern that increases it. Understanding the patterns that drive your stress response enables you to spot the warning signs earlier and tackle them before it is too late.

4. Listen to yourself. You are smart. When inner voice is taking all of your attention it means something. Ignore it at your peril! It is usually a sign that your unconscious wants you to focus on a problem. Find out what it wants you to pay attention to and tackle it before it becomes stressful.

• Once you have control, now it is time to build your longer term resilience by:

5. Develop the team. Schedule personal development time into the calendar. Investing time to acquire new skills, or to develop existing skills, will improve capability, increase confidence and, therefore, improve resilience. The same effect can also be achieved through tackling unusual projects or volunteering for other organisations.

6. Establish clear goals. Part of taking control is knowing where you are going. Work out what matters to you and set a realistic goal accordingly. Having a goal will help you to gain perspective on short term setbacks and adjust course to get you to where you want to be. The same applies to your team, set goals together. Once you have identified a clear goal then produce an action plan to give you the first steps (at the very least) to start you on the way to achieving it. When you achieve your goal, develop new ones, otherwise you’ll drift and get back into the stress zone.

7. Build a support team. Ask for help. Friends and family are usually great people to speak to. If you do not wish to ask friends and family for support then this is often where a good coach will be very valuable. Team and individual coaching also provides a major boost to performance and resilience.

8. Create a suitable environment. An organised work place that has a few personal touches often reduces the stress whilst at work. If you are constrained by office layout/rules then creating a pleasant space at home to relax, recharge and de-stress is also worthwhile doing.

9. Look after yourself. Taking exercise, even a lunchtime walk, is often a good way to increase your energy, break stressful patterns and improve your resilience. The same should be encouraged in the rest of the team. Getting away from the desk can often break the cycle of stress and produce some very creative insights. Other aspects such as having a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water all help to provide a physical barrier to stress that complement emotional and psychological activities such as goal setting etc.

10. Start Now! There is no time like the present. Resilience takes time to build and the tactics listed need to be repeated to become a habit. Start now.

As a leader, if you demonstrate these behaviours to others then they will follow and the resilience of your team will improve as a natural flow.

If you want to learn more about improving your resilience, or that of your team, then please contact me at the Secret Skills website to find out how I can support you.

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