7 Steps to Build Leadership Resilience (& survive a wicked Bahstun wintah)

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The snow is melting, but it’s been a rough winter here in Boston. The average temperature for February was 22℉ and more than 100 inches of snow have fallen (2nd snowiest in city history). As a result, streets have been reduced to single lanes, the public transportation system has been dysfunctional, and roofs are caving under the weight of the snow. Tempers are short.

While the weather has presented many challenges opportunities to shift a complaint, there is a sliver lining beyond the massive snowbanks. We have been given the chance to build a key leadership quality: resilience. Examples include:

  • to deal with overfilled trains, commuters are taking trains in the opposite direction to catch an empty train in the direction they want to go
  • workers using cranes and industrial sized tarps (normally used for construction site waste) to remove snow from rooftops
  • employees finding alternate ways to work – some walking for miles against -20℉ wind chills
  • homeowners filling pantyhose with magnesium chloride and placing on roofs to melt ice dams
  • South Boston temporarily reconfiguring streets to be one-way

Businesses have needed to be resilient too. The head of human resources at a client company told me these conditions forced their organization to think differently about many components of their business. It allowed them to:

  • place more trust in staff to find ways to get their work done, including from home
  • reconsider their policies regarding what expenses they are willing to reimburse for employee transportation
  • examine how they communicate as a company and revealed their over-reliance on in-person meetings
  • give employees more autonomy, empowering them to take initiative and find their own solutions
  • build camaraderie around shared challenges and weather related stories

As a result, she described the company as more united and flexible as a team and was impressed that billable hours dropped only 2% during this period – the organization had clearly “stepped up.”

Like you, the clients we work with continuously face challenging circumstances at work. Here are seven steps that we observe to help build resiliency:

  1. Be flexible. If routine operating procedures are no longer working, what alternatives are possible? Be open to new ways of doing business.
  2. Be unstoppable. Ask, “What’s it going to take to make this happen?” (time, money, energy, a new approach?). Take action.
  3. Get support. What help do you need, and from whom? Don’t go it alone if you don’t have to.
  4. Identify needed leadership qualities. What kind of person/leader do you need to be to persevere – courageous, accommodating, patient, calm, innovative?
  5. Tap into your experience. Have you been in a similar situation before and were you successful? Take confidence from past wins and use it to drive ahead.
  6. Take care of yourself. What can you do to boost your emotional and physical well-being during this challenging period? Do what you need to maintain your energy and balance.
  7. Look ahead. Are these circumstances permanent or temporary, and what’s on the other side? Find the light at the end of the tunnel and stay positive (e.g. Red Sox pitchers and catchers have reported to training – spring is near!).

Any great leader is deemed so because he or she faced challenging circumstances and persevered. In your current role and organization, where have you demonstrated resiliency? In what area/situation could you be more resilient?

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On March 8, 2015
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