Frankfurt_Eschenheimer Turm and SkylineThe CFA Institute (CFA = Chartered Financial Analyst | http://cfainstitute.org) invited me to join their annual conference that was held in Frankfurt, 26 – 28 April 2015. Around 1,100 attendees had the opportunity to learn about the latest and greatest of research in the industry, to network and to interact with us coaches on any questions relating to their careers and personal development.

Ms Julia VanDeren, Manager of the CFA’s Institute Career Services Center, interviewed me on managing stress and building resilience – themes that arise in many coaching processes. Here is the script of Julia’s and my conversation:

Julia VanDeren, CFA Institute: What makes resilience such a hot topic? Especially these days, I’ve started hearing more about it in the past year or two in particular.

Annette B. Czernik, Inspired Executives: Let’s face it. More people are increasingly under a lot of more stress. In corporations, resources become more scarce, or cost need to be cut. Multiple sources of information and what to pay attention to need to be managed. That eats up a lot of attention and energy. The continuously increasing workload and demands outside of work with family, or friends result in less time available for oneself. This leads to a heightened demand to adjust to ever changing environments.

People do not adequately or appropriately respond to stress; our brains are still wired to fight or flight. People tend to neglect primary physical, emotional or cognitive symptoms. Then they apply either no stress relief (just keep going and hope it will work out) or the wrong one, e.g. excessive drinking of caffeine or alcohol, eating foods with high levels of fat or sugar that inflame their systems – the beginning of a vicious cycle. Consequently, people’s perspective constantly narrows (tunnel vision); then they go to their default thinking rather than being able to look at a bigger picture and see options.

Resilience is that indescribable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their willpower, resilient people 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 move forward without losing steam.

Julia, CFA Institute: In earlier conversations, I noticed you referred to being resilient as being similar to stretching a muscle. Can you share a story or an example that illustrates what it means to “stretch your resilience muscle?”  

Annette, Inspired Executives: Sure. Let me share a personal story with you. A while ago, it had felt like I had worked 24/7 for almost a year, I got severely ill for the first time in my life, my immune system had shut down, I was hospitalized, spent over a week at the ICU, and was not sure whether or not I’d be able to fully recover.

When I was horizontal, I reflected on how I had led my life and how I wanted it to be. Big discrepancy! So, I made a commitment to myself, some tough choices, and I created a vision and a plan.

I hired a coach to help me stay on track, and I learned to pay attention to those important early warning signals. I also learned that a strong resilience muscle empowers us to stand up to uncertainty, because we deeply know with our hearts and minds that clarity will evolve from it.

Julia, CFA Institute: What are the particular resources or unique qualities of resilient leaders? 

Annette, Inspired Executives: Great question. The key ingredient to persevere in the face of adversity or future challenges is positive energy. What is that made up of?

  1. Resilient leaders leave victimhood. They focus on their strengths, feel that they can influence the course of their lives, and see failure as a form of helpful feedback.
  2. Resilient leaders take responsibility. They are in charge of their own thoughts, actions and decisions and regulate their emotions (internal locus of control).
  3. Resilient leaders are ruthlessly solution-orientated. They identify solutions to alter the current situation, and actively manage the options.
  4. Resilient leaders accept what is. They embrace challenging situations and find ways to get through or over them.
  5. Resilient leaders are optimistic. They believe that crises are temporary and can be overcome.
  6. Resilient leaders are great at networking. They build a firm social network that can provide support in case of need.
  7. Resilient leaders have a future plan. They prepare for potential difficulties and realistically estimate situations, options and potential outcomes.

All of these qualities can be learned and trained.

Julia, CFA Institute: How does someone develop these qualities?

Annette, Inspired Executives: It’s all about leadership! And leadership starts with you! Increase the awareness of who you are and how you act. Understand what drives your thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and actions so that you can recognize and change habits and patterns that do not serve you well. Make choices that empower you to respond – not react – to the stressors in your life in the way that you desire 
and to get the results you want. Be clear about your energy sources and use them frequently. Consider hiring a coach who can assist you in getting started and following-through.

Julia, CFA Institute: How are resilience and the way someone thinks about money related or linked?

Annette, Inspired Executives: How you do anything is how you do everything!

Resilience comprises how we manage all our resources: time, attention, thoughts, emotions, knowledge, money etc. How are we going to use the resource money? People give their finances a special, individual meaning. Everybody has a relationship with their money that is personal to them. How I think about money is different than what you think about it.

The conference theme ‘investing with purpose’ says it all. People go through life, and might not attend to money. However, when you are conscious on how you think about money – you can create more power and actions that serve your purpose, vision, or mission. You have the opportunity to plan for sustainability, or on how to consciously use your money for your day2day life, in the future, savings, or retirement.

In the face of any adversity, how you have cared for yourself, will reflect the strength of your resilience muscle. It just is an uncertain world – better have a sense of what you do and how you (want to) show up – and continuously train your resilience muscle!

Thank you very much, Annette!

It’s been a pleasure, Julia, thank you!