Change is ongoing, plans unravel, and expectations aren’t always met.

“Work priorities shift, the players change,” says Lisa Sinclair, senior faculty and global portfolio manager for CCL’s Leadership Development Program (LDP)®. “You could be transferred, reassigned, or — who knows — will there even be a job?”

People who can’t handle a fast pace or uncertainty are less likely to feel motivated at work and more likely to call in sick.

And, of course, personal setbacks and crises don’t go away just because work is already difficult. “Leaders at this level are around the age where their stress is not just at the office,” Sinclair says. Young children and aging parents can squeeze mid-career professionals. And no matter what anyone says about keeping home life and work life separate, pressure from one easily seeps into the other.

That’s why, Sinclair says, resilience — maintaining equilibrium under pressure — is among the most important skills for mid-level leaders to master.

“The question isn’t how can you avoid difficulty and stress — that’s nearly impossible to do,” says Sinclair. “The question is, ‘How do you face it?'”

All of us can benefit from becoming more resilient — “better able to face our struggles, recover, and adapt,” Sinclair continues.

Take Care of Yourself

Our ability to cope with stress, roadblocks, criticism, and change is improved when we take better care of ourselves.

LDP participants suggested the following ideas for building resilience:

  1. Get enough sleep. What can you do to conserve energy? Get between 7.5 and 8.5 hours of sleep each night. Set a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends. Disconnect — and park those devices far from the bed. Create a relaxing environment that’s dark, cool, and quiet.
  2. Prioritize exercise. What can you do to increase your physical energy? During the workday, get up and move every 90 to 120 minutes. Suggest a walking meeting. Climb stairs instead of taking the elevator.
  3. Play brain games. What can you do to overcome mental fatigue and exhaustion? Learn anything new. Solve a challenging puzzle. Find positive distractions such as hobbies or meditation.
  4. Control your emotions. What can you do to become more conscious of  emotional triggers? Figure out who and what pushes your buttons. Step away, slow down, or enlist an ally to help you control your reactions and choose your response. Create a gratitude journal. Cultivate kindness by doing something nice for someone else.
  5. Enhance social connections. What can you do to create more meaningful and productive relationships? Ask a colleague for advice, give positive feedback, or share something you recently learned about yourself.

Draw From Your Experiences

Still unsure of what to do to become more resilient? Sinclair suggests recalling a time in your personal or professional life when you were able to rise above a difficult situation. Then ask yourself:

  • What happened?
  • What was I thinking and feeling at the time?
  • How did I get through it?
  • What did I do that helped me get through that situation?
  • What did I learn from the experience that has made me a more resilient person today?

“You have the resources within you to become more resilient,” Sinclair says. “But it does take some effort to learn or remind yourself what will work best for you and it requires you making time for yourself.”

Find Strength in Adversity

Back in 2006, one future CCL leader endured the unexpected loss of her father, declined an ideal promotion, left a wonderful organization, and moved across the country to help her mother. She found herself jobless while dealing with a crumbling marriage that eventually ended in divorce. Several years later, she became a CCL senior faculty member and a passionate speaker on the value of resilience. Like her, we advocate for these 3 best resiliency practices:

resiliency-practices-infographic-ccl

  1. Personal energy management. Manage your own resistance. “Show up,” give your best, and relinquish attachment to the outcome. Stay in the present. Exercise compassion for yourself and others.
  2. Shifting your lenses. Take charge of how you think about adversity. Understand your beliefs about the situation and choose your response.
  3. Sense of purpose. Develop a “personal why” that gives your life meaning. This helps you better face setbacks and challenges. Also, look for ways that crisis and adversity may connect to your larger life purpose.

6 thoughts on “Leadership Resiliency: Handling Stress, Uncertainty, and Setbacks

  1. Melaku Yirga says:

    Great piece of morning reading. Thanks CCL!

    1. Rishi Kant Kulpati says:

      Its a great piece of advice for everyone especially who work in corporate.

  2. Jillian says:

    Its great for corporate jobs.

  3. Anna Marie Campbell says:

    Great piece! We all experience the highs and lows during our careers and this piece is great advice when the rough patches start. How we respond to the good, the bad and the ugly says a lot about who we are.

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