Blog — COVID-19 — Leadership Development

Five Tips to Improve Resilience in Business

Ed Chacksfield
Ed Chacksfield
Senior Consultant
Five Tips to Improve Resilience in Business



Five Tips for Improving Resilience in Your Business Life

Personal Resilience has two aspects. The first is the ability to respond positively and constructively to life’s challenges, bouncing back but also bouncing forward: seeing these challenges as an opportunity to become even stronger than before.

The other aspect to resilience involves the ability to deliver consistently and to a high standard over long periods of time in the face of considerable pressure and stress. We work in a very tough, hyper-connected business environment where change is fast. Technology enables us to work very long hours, while many of us are “always-on” without being cognisant of just how much work we are doing.

Recently, when designing a development programme with a client that included a resilience element, the client referred to working hours as the “new alcohol units”. What they meant was that we frequently under-estimate how much we actually do. The doctor may say to someone, “So, how many hours a week do you work?” which may be answered with “Oh, forty-five, fifty”. In fact, when all the time spent looking at and answering emails in the evening is aggregated, the number typically climbs to 65 or even 70 hours.

It is important to recognise that resilience isn’t a trait that a person either has or hasn’t. It is a set of skills and behaviours that can be developed, honed, and called upon when required. In some cases it is about making small adjustments; in others, it can be a complete reframing of perspective and expectations.

Developing resilience usually involves focusing on mental health, physical health, and lifestyle. Here we have highlighted five key areas. Some may seem obvious, others less so, and there are of course many more. However, we believe these are an excellent place to start, and they are relevant to most people.


1. Say “No” more often

One of the things that ambitious, driven, professional people find most difficult is the ability to assert themselves and say “no”. The temptation is that in order to be fully in control, we have be involved in everything (or at least as much as we possibly can) for as much of the time as possible. This is, of course, a sure way of over-loading with stress.

The resilient person is able to recognise that true control comes from the ability to put certain things away and saying “actually, I’m not sure I can deal with that at the moment”. The ability to delegate judiciously Is critical.


2. Get better – not just more – sleep

As obvious as it may seem, the latest research shows that advice on getting better quality sleep is overwhelmingly ignored. The NHS in the UK believes that one in three people suffer from poor sleep as a result of stress or overwork. Recent research has found that being sleep deprived is the equivalent of drinking two large glasses of wine before going to work. Think about the outcomes to critical decisions you make based on two large glasses of wine.

It may be surprising to discover that a Harvard research paper on the subject found that “the more senior a person’s role is, the more sleep they get”, potentially due to a good understanding that effective performance is built upon good sleep hygiene. But it is not just the amount of sleep, it is the quality of sleep too. In order to get a good, uninterrupted night’s sleep, the advice includes no digital devices in the bedroom, no caffeine up to seven hours before you go to bed, and physical exercise during the day. Which leads us on to our next point.


3. Get away and get physical

Doing some form of exercise during the working day helps with sleep because it tires the body out, particularly relevant in our desk-bound working lives. But it also helps in other ways: the obvious body benefits of keeping fit through physical exercise, and the hugely positive mental effects of getting away from our desks, computers and mobile phones.

Taking a break and getting your body moving can be a huge help with resilience, recovery and performance. Even a relatively short walk will get the blood pumping, the endorphins flowing and can provide a fresh perspective.

4. Stay connected to those you love

This free time doesn’t necessarily have to be just for exercise: maintaining a healthy social life is also key. Having a good support network around you, people you can talk with, who make you laugh, who you can meet up with and who can help put those thoughts about work on hold.

Like getting more sleep, this sounds entirely obvious but also counter-intuitive: surely resilience is about dealing with problems, not forgetting about them? But the fact is that when we get really, really busy, everything else is forgotten. This behaviour in itself can cause additional stress when it comes to family life, but it also can be counter-productive by becoming too bogged down in the minutiae of a challenge. Time away to relax with loved ones can give the space for reflection that allows for recentering, reframing and renewed energy.


5. Develop Flexible Thinking

Finally, a skill that can be developed and that is frequently exhibited in resilient people is an ability to adopt an accurate thinking approach to a situation. They do this by in a number of ways. Firstly, they are aware of and can break free from habitual and unhelpful ways of thinking, modes that have been picked up over a lifetime. Examples would be black and white thinking, generalising and catastrophising. These styles are mental shortcuts we reflexively take in order to quickly process things that happen to us.

However, these thinking habits often don’t give an accurate assessment of the situation and tend to lead to inflexible thinking patterns, causing poor responses to situations. They also recognise that behind these thinking styles are often limiting beliefs which drive how they think, feel, and consequently how they behave. This is commonly known as the ABC model. They are able to challenge their beliefs and thoughts about why things happen. They understand that their core beliefs about the world may be preventing them from taking opportunities and therefore gather evidence to dispute unproductive beliefs – generating other alternatives. They can also put stresses and adversities into perspective through calming and focusing practices. These skills help them to regulate emotions and dispute erroneously held beliefs about adversity and opportunity.

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