As a senior leader in the U.S. Department of State, I saw first-hand the value of leading in a way that fosters the resilience of an office or embassy. After I recovered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to my service in Iraq, I initially focused on my resilience. As I moved into more senior leadership positions, I realized that being a resilient leader was not enough and paying attention only to my resilience risked neglecting my team.
I learned that I also needed to model resilience-building behaviors, mentor employees who had low resilience and foster the resilience of my team. When I became a Resilience Leader instead of just a resilient leader, my team’s performance improved dramatically.
Here’s how you can be a Resilience Leader:
Model Resilience Behaviors
Actions matter: As a leader, employees are watching everything you do. If they see you exercising over lunch, leaving work on time to attend your daughter’s soccer match, openly grieving the loss of a loved one, or taking a vacation without checking emails, they are more likely to do the same. Spend the next month examining your behavior. What messages are you sending or not sending through your actions?
Actions speak louder than words: Talking about resilience without behaving in ways that improve resilience can cause harm since employees may perceive you as hypocritical, which can erode trust. While it may be helpful to talk about your behavior as a form of modeling, let your actions speak and minimize your words.
Mentor Employees With Low Resilience
Build trust: Your employees will be more open with you if they trust you. Build credibility early on by getting to know your employees and demonstrating your commitment to their well-being.
Ask questions: If you see an employee who is struggling, point out what you are seeing and then ask open-ended questions that indicate a genuine interest in hearing what is going on. Continue to pose follow up questions that give your employee control over how much they tell you, yet encourages them to talk.
Listen: Many people just want someone who will listen. If you reach an awkward silence, resist the temptation to fill the silence by talking. While you may want to share some experiences you’ve had that are relevant, the focus of the conversation should be on your employee, not on you.
Don’t problem-solve: Many of us want to solve problems because it gives us control, especially when we are uncomfortable with an emotional issue. However, jumping immediately into problem-solving can appear to be dismissive or condescending. Instead, encourage your employee to talk. At the end of the conversation, if appropriate, guide them to explore potential ways forward.
Foster Team Resilience
Foster the 7Cs of Team Resilience: If you are the head of your office or organization, you will have the most significant impact on your team’s resilience. Make the 7Cs of Team Resilience one of your leadership priorities.
Encourage others to build team resilience: Recognize that every member can contribute to their team’s resilience and effectiveness. Involve everyone on your team in strengthening the 7Cs.
Are you a Resilience Leader? Have you worked for a Resilience Leader? What do you/they do to model, mentor and foster resilience?