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So what do I mean by resilience?

It is that central quality to absorb pressure without being defeated by the pressure. Drawing on my personal experience of over 25 years on Boards including 10 years being Chairman of a UK National Health Primary Care Trust; I have found that resilience had been a significant key factor in enabling me to get through difficult and challenging situations.

Resilience is your ability to make positive adaptations to negative events in your life and resilience have some similarity to optimism. According to the Random House Dictionary [1]resilience means to spring back or rebound. Resilience in psychology refers to the idea of an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity[2].

In other words, resilience is the ability to persist in the face of challenges and to bounce back from adversity. There are a number of evidence-based factors that contribute to resilience: optimism, effective problem solving, faith, sense of meaning, self-efficacy, flexibility, impulse control, empathy, close relationships, and spirituality, among others (Masten & Reed, 2002).

These behaviours are however, not simply an inborn trait found in a portion of the people. Psychologists have been studying resilience since the 1970s, and research has demonstrated that there are many aspects of resilience that are teachable (Reivich & Shatte, 2002; Seligman, 1990). Resilience can be developed, Martin Seligman very successful programme of study that taught resilience skills to non-commissioned officers in the US military has been well reported covered in a Harvard Business Review article in the April 2011.

By nature as human beings you tend to be very resilient but you may need to be coached in understanding that you have this capability and that growth can also result from adversity and difficulty.

Give some thought to the following questions:

  • Have you ever wondered why is it some people appear to remain calm under pressure and often triumph in the face of disaster and adversity?
  • Conversely, have you met other people who given the similar circumstances seem to fall apart?

There is a type of resilience that is about reacting to stressful situation, a typical form of this type of resilience is the strength that is needed to cope with being made redundant, working through self-development following poor performance review, finding that your shares have been wiped out by the stock market, coping with bereavement or going through a divorce.

In such circumstances it is the toughness and humility that you need to gather in order to respond constructively to these difficult situations. The mental toughness that is needed is the ability to see beyond the prevailing current difficulties and to know that the future has endless possibilities.

The will be times in your leadership when you are required to lead the delivery of a change that will be uncomfortable to some people and there will be leadership challenges. In leading the change, how do you deal with stressful leadership challenges?

This is where appropriate coaching and strategic support is invaluable. The fundamental role of the coach in this situation is to enable you to be even more self-aware. Knowing your values, understanding the environment in which you are in, the push and pull factors and specific challenges, your patterns of behaviour and what you think and feel about specific situations, the alignment of your values with your decisions, knowing the impact of your actions and treatment of others, knowing your signature strengths and the areas on which you need to build, knowing your boundaries – where do you have full influence? Partial influence and no influence at all? Taking care of yourself, knowing when to rest, relax and celebrate your progress is vitally important.

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is wisdom, mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.

Tao Te Ching

When you are being coached within a Thinking Environment® you will find the strength to access your own internal wisdom and knowing that you will find the strength to journey through your challenges. You will find the power to respond and evaluate each step of the way without fear of failure.

Your confidence in the face of hardship is underpinned by your ability to let go of negativity that may hold you back. Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania has researched this phenomenon extensively and he argues that success in life is driven by a crucial distinction: whether you believe that your failures are produced by personal deficits beyond your control or are they mistakes you can fix with effort.

The greatest glory of living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall.

Nelson Madela

When you are able to remain calm you develop what psychologists call resilience, or an ability to cope with problems and setbacks. When you develop resilient qualities you are able to utilize your skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges, which may include the loss of a job, financial problems, illness, natural disasters, medical emergencies, structural reorganisation at work and discontinuity within your team.

When you have low resilience you may become overwhelmed by such experiences. You may find that you have a tendency to dwell on problems and use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with such challenges. Generally, with low resilience you are slower to recover from setbacks and may experience more psychological distress as a result.

When you have moderate to high levels of resilience you will use coping skills and you will demonstrate abilities to problem-solve and deal with the issues in varying degrees depending on your levels of resilience. You will demonstrate mental toughness and challenge the situations and issues to bring about resolutions and acceptable outcomes.

You will be comfortable in knowing that while resilience neither eliminates stress nor erases life’s difficulties; resilience gives you the strength to tackle problems head on, overcome adversity and move on with your life.

 Resilience and self-reliance are strategic coping skills. They are major components of emotional intelligence and they can be learnt.

Dr Neslyn Watson-Druée, CBE FCGI FRCN support and coach clients to develop emotional intelligence inclusive of self-reliance and resilience; when you work with Neslyn you will be guided with practical ways to apply resilience at work.

To book a coaching strategy strategy with Dr Neslyn Watson-Druée email:

[1] Random House Dictionary

[2] Masten, A. S. (2009). “Ordinary Magic: Lessons from research on resilience in human development” (PDF). Education Canada 49 (3): 28–32.

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