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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 11, 2015 2 years ago

The value of being a resilient leader

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It's likely you've heard it said that the best way to judge the performance of a company's customer service is how it handles problems. The same thing can be said for leaders; their success is often reflected in their resiliency, the ability to persevere, remain focused and move forward with their responsibilities and goals in spite of obstacles and challenges.
by: Denise Federer Bottom-line Behavior

It's likely you've heard it said that the best way to judge the performance of a company's customer service is how it handles problems. The same thing can be said for leaders; their success is often reflected in their resiliency, the ability to persevere, remain focused and move forward with their responsibilities and goals in spite of obstacles and challenges.

The value of being a resilient leader was recently demonstrated in my consultation work with a Fortune 500 company that was experiencing a transformational change in the organizational structure of several divisions. While responsibilities essentially remained the same, these changes had a major impact on the reporting structure for senior leadership.
Many of these leaders were “layered up” and no longer reported directly to the president of their division.

While most of these leaders were initially disturbed by their apparent change in status, some were more focused on the “optics” than others. They became distracted by the politics of the situation, rather than doing the work necessary to achieve their goals. In contrast, those individuals who were able to work through their reactions quickly and create a plan to refocus on achieving their objectives were much more successful in managing this change. Clearly in this case, a leader's ability to cope effectively had a significant influence on the productivity of his team.

Leaders are certainly not expected to be robotic and without feelings, but it's critical that their leadership development enables them to learn to control their emotions so as not to panic or confuse those who serve under them. Presenting a sense of calm is an important trait for all leaders to have, regardless of what external or internal stressors they face.

You've heard me note before that strong leaders must have three traits to allow their employees to know how they will respond in any situation:

Predictability;

Consistency; and

Accountability.

Leaders who can't appropriately manage their emotions are simply wild cards, and their lack of control will be reflected in the behavior of their teams. When leaders panic, employees follow suit, and operating in a mode of fear is never a good thing for a business.

This is not to say that leaders shouldn't be emotional about things that cause them angst, but they need to give themselves time to be upset and quickly gain control before making decisions. From a leadership development standpoint, moving from an emotional state to a problem-solving mode needs to occur in a timely fashion.

Additionally, research has demonstrated that it is economically beneficial for an organization to create a work environment that fosters individual resiliency. Here are some of the findings that support this notion:

The qualities that allow an individual to “bounce back” from personal challenges are the same qualities that contribute to focus and accomplishment of business goals.

Employees with low resiliency are more likely to have higher absenteeism and turnover, along with reduced productivity.

Those employees who are highly resilient adapt easier to change, are more productive and have a positive influence on their coworkers.

The cumulative effect of individual resiliency levels in the organization impacts the business culture and resiliency of an organization during periods of change and stress.

Is being resilient an innate trait? It can be, but the good news is that it can also be learned. Several core features of resiliency are necessary to incorporate into an effective resiliency training program:

Developing personal/professional vision and goals;

Aligning individual values, principles and beliefs with the organization;

Creating a work environment that fosters support;

Assessing individual motivation for change;

Encouraging self-initiation of coaching process; and

Teaching effective coping skills, effective problem-solving skills and strategies to increase self-efficacy.

As a performance coach, I've seen how beneficial it is for everyone to learn coping mechanisms that allow them to manage their emotions and move forward, judging their success on the decreasing frequency of meltdowns and their durations. For leaders, the need to recover quickly is magnified because their teams take behavioral cues from them, and when they mirror a leader who's highly resilient, they will adapt easier to change, be more productive, and have a positive effect on coworkers and the business as a whole.

Denise P. Federer, Ph.D. is founder and principal of Federer Performance Management Group. She has 27 years of experience working with key executives, business leaders and Fortune 500 companies as a behavioral psychologist, consultant, coach and trainer. Contact her at: [email protected]o

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