Läufer: Source: Flickr User Nadine HeidrichDid you know that 1% of the world population is psychopaths? This percentage increases amongst senior leaders up to 14.5%. Well, this article is not at all suggesting for you to develop psychopathic traits* and lose sight of your empathy in order to manage extremely stressful situations. It is rather about mental health and strengthening your “resilience muscle”. The question is how you and your organization can increase the ability to bounce back after adversity in a socially acceptable and sustainable way.

Resilience is that indescribable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life (e.g. the death of a loved one, job loss, health or relationship problems, workplace or financial stressors) and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their willpower, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Even after a misfortune, resilient people choose their attitude, review if they need to change their course and soldier on.

Who comes to your mind? There are many famous role-models with high resilience, for example:

  • Bill Gates – broke up college
  • Steve Jobs – was fired from his own company
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger – was beaten by his father
  • Bill Clinton – his step father was an alcoholic and gambler
  • Nelson Mandela – spent almost three decades in prison.

Resilient people and organizations have encountered stressful events, learned from them, and can draw on the strength of their past experience to inform their future behavior. When you plan to hire new staff, find out which challenging circumstances or failure candidates have faced, how they have coped with the stressors, what their problem-solving strategies are and what they typically do to thrive in a changing environment.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Nelson Mandela

To persevere in the face of future challenges these seven main protective factors of resilience help you and your organization adapt:

  1. Optimism- Believe that crises are temporary and can be overcome
  2. Acceptance – Embrace challenging situations and find ways to get over them
  3. Solution orientation – Identify solutions to alter the current situation, and actively manage it
  4. Leaving victimhood – Focus on your strengths, feel that you can influence the course of your life, and see failure as a form of helpful feedback
  5. Responsibility – Be in charge of your own actions and decisions and regulate emotions (internal locus of control)
  6. Networking – Build a firm social network that can provide support in case of need
  7. Future plan – Prepare for potential difficulties and realistically estimate situations.

You can help your followers develop their resilience by creating a supportive work environment. Only by facing adversity, it is possible to develop strategies for handling it. Expose your team to challenges, support strong connections among them, be clear in terms of your expectations and boundaries, and promote a climate that welcomes learning and experimenting. Resilient people and organizations do not see a setback as the end of the world – they rather view it as a learning opportunity, something to learn and grow from, and a chance to do it better next time.

Outer pressure often leads to an inner response of worry, anxiety, and stress, thus, overwhelming your ability to cope, make good decisions or have fulfilling relationships. Resilience can be developed through coaching. Contact me if you want to further enhance your response to stress, more effectively balance your emotions, or manage your inner critic.

Wishing you many opportunities to experience and test your “resilience muscle”, Annette.

*According to Prof. Robert D. Hare, the following descriptors point into the direction of psychopathic traits: Glib, superficial charm, grandiose self perception, need for stimulation, pathological lying, intense methods to manipulate, absence of any guilt, shallow emotional reactions to trauma or events that would typically cause a deeper response, lack of empathy, parasitic lifestyle, poor behavior control, promiscuity, unrealistic long-term goals, impulsive and irresponsible, criminal versatility, (mis-)treatment towards others.