Resilience… what it is, and what it isn’t…

The Early Bird…..

Sophie’s Story

It’s Monday, and the day begins like every other day. At the sound of the alarm at 5.45 am, Sophie bounces out of bed to start her 15-minute pre-run routine. Promptly at 6am she departs. Once back from a 30-minute high intensity run, she sets the table, prepares breakfast and takes her morning shower. It’s 730, and the kids are buzzing, but her husband takes over as Sophie heads out the door. On her way to the office, she listens to a 20-minute podcast, then sets her mental frame for the primary task on her to-do list.

The benefits of routines.

Sophie is an executive with a large team in a business with an aggressive drive for results. So far, Sophie’s routines are helping her maintain a level of balance in the following ways:

  • The ability to not spend her decision making energy on regular routines in her day, saving her from anxiety and frustrations.
  • A morning activity that jump-starts her body and gets her physically into gear for dealing with the day ahead.
  • A pre-start mindfulness journey that she achieves as her ritual allows her to let things go and usher in fresh perspectives only at the moment she is quite ready.

What is resilience?

Psychology today defines resilience as “the ability to rise from the ashes, embracing optimism and seeing failure as a form of helpful feedback” Read about that here. 

My personal favourite article on this topic is “Resilience is about how you recharge, and not how you endure.” This was the title of an HBR article which explains how performance can be enhanced by periods of exertion and periods of recovery, find it here.

If you want to be resilient, focus on improving your routines such that you have genuine downtime, specially crafted for what restores your strength.

When resilience becomes burnout.

Burnouts are characterised by a workload that consistently overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. It is gradual and pernicious. A slow build-up from taking on more than one can handle, but handling it anyway, without a robust system of two-way feedback between manager and team member.

In the worst cases, the person finds themselves in a burnout loop that degenerates into abusive workplace relationship, where no one wins. The office has lost a good employee, the manager has lost respect, and the organisation has lost output. Too often, managers become so focussed on short term results that they forget that the longer-term health of the team member counts even more for the company’s success. Read this resource for more on burnout.

Staying Resilient

How do we prevent resilience from tipping into a burnout?

  1. Be clear on your values. Understanding what is truly important to you makes other decisions easier to rank and prioritise.
  2. Establish a daily recovery cycle, that operates at minimum 80% of the time.
  3. Make tactical adjustments to crucial areas such as diet, exercise and your circadian rhythms to help optimise your performance.
  4. Learn to say no – Treat your time like a balance sheet – something comes in and something goes out. If needed, take some time to evaluate your options. Do not commit right away. Even better would be to anticipate where you will be asked to support an idea or principle, and think about the trade offs you can make so you can present them there and then.  
  5. Widen the conversation – encourage your manager and HR resources to conduct workload assessments, to manage the tendency for work to be delegated based on the individual employee’s personal capacity to do it; to level the playing field.

In my coaching work, I encounter both managers and team members struggling to cope with accomplishing this balance. Isn’t it time we re-framed the conversation?

Useful Additional Reading