Category Archives: Leaders Question of the Day

Courage in crises​

How do you work on your resilience? Train it – Gain from it! Here are a few thoughts on where to start.

In times of extreme stress, people often ask me for insights on how to stay the course and continue to show leadership. For me, leadership is all about courage, and courage is the spark that gets us all moving. It is at the heart of what we do as leaders.

But in times of transformation we are constantly faced with the pressure of new challenges, new situations. Our workload can be unforgiving. This is why an essential part of being a leader is finding a way to pick oneself up and get going again when the pressure cranks up and results turn against you.

Because resilience can in fact be developed and trained. It’s not some inherent, immutable character trait. To a large extent, it is conditioned through the experiences that life brings. Both positive and negative experiences contribute to our resilience. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” as we often say.

One approach I like to use for talking about resilience is the Robertson Cooper model. According to this model, developed by psychologists Ivan Robertson and Cary Cooper, resilience is determined by four key aspects: confidence, adaptability, social support and purposefulness.

Confidence comes with experience and the knowledge that we have overcome previous challenges. Your adaptability likewise grows with an awareness that you have faced change in the past and have coped and managed its impact. You can train and enhance both your confidence and adaptability by recalling previous challenges you have faced.

Social support and purposefulness relate to specific aspects of courage. Social support starts with having the courage to admit weakness, to articulate when the going gets tough and ask for support. Purposefulness is having a clear set of values which give you an overriding sense of direction even in the most challenging times. Purposefulness is about knowing WHY and understanding the benefits at the end.

Be proud of what you’ve done already and gather the courage to take the necessary step to keep going.

“Who am I”? Where resilience starts

Some leaders are like bouncy balls: Even under enormous pressure, they don’t get distorted, but retain their original shape. Some rise to even greater performance, as soon as the stress is on. Their secret weapon: resilience, inner strength. How can leaders increase it? How can they strengthen their backbone, especially in times of transformation? The first step: by getting to know themselves better.

To become a more stress-resistent leader, you have to be aware of where you start from. What are your strengths? How do you deal with stress? What are your strategies? I encourage you to be brutally honest with yourself, when answering these questions. Getting to the bottom of your personality might be uncomfortable. But it will pay off, when you face the next high-tide of stress.

Question No. 1: What are your strengths?

In “stressful” times, we might feel overwhelmed and mentally overloaded. How can we counteract that? By concentrating on our strengths! Think back to a past situation, in which you felt severely stressed: back then the challenge seemed to be formidable. Today, it seems less so – because you know, you have mastered it before. What was your strategy to do so? What character traits helped you out and how could you benefit from them in the future? With every challenge we face, we grow. Be proud of every small achievement and you can look into the future with optimism.

Question No. 2: What are your stress factors?

“Stress” is subjective. Find out, which situations are particularly stressful for you? Answering this question, you should separate external and internal factors. Is it the pace, high workload, tight deadlines, tensions from conflictual demands? Or are there simpler reasons, like you have not had enough sleep, you haven’t had enough sustenance or exercise? Try to identify and memorize the personal alarm signals telling you that you are “stressed” and “stretched”. Next time you feel them, you can immediately put your brain into the “stress fight mode”, which leads me to question 3.

Question No. 3: How do you react to stress?

Analysing your reaction to stress will bring about a varied picture. What are the “no-gos” you’d better avoid next time? What do you typically do well? And here you complete the circle, looking back to your strengths and how you can benefit from them. Set yourself some guidelines, when you are not stressed: your crisis manual for times of pressure.

Getting to know yourself better is an exciting, yet demanding, undertaking. Some frameworks, like MBTI, might help you to discover yourself even better, to understand what stretches you and triggers stress reactions and to consciously deal with stress situations. Yet these frameworks only put words on what you know anyway best, yourself! And knowing yourself well is the base to strengthen your leadership, especially when stakes are high in times of transformation.

Interested in finding out more? Want to share your own tips? Then please send in your comments!

Difference between recognition and appreciation

Thank you, Mike Robbins, for bringing to attention the difference between recognition and appreciation. I particularly enjoyed the quote from Teddy Roosevelt: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” There is one little word I’d like to add to your call: Do recognition and appreciation TRULY. That is what will make the whole difference, and your people will notice.

Did you express this week appreciation and recognition, precisely, timely and truly?

Bits & thoughts from bits19: What can corporations learn from startups?

I am impressed by the deep and clear sense of purpose I heard startup founders at bits19 expressing.

Founders start with the question: “What impact do I want to make, for whom/what do I want to make a difference?” and then try to find solutions. The organization they build is a “means for the purpose”. Their vision guides their work.

People like Elsa Bernadotte perfectly incorporate that spirit. She started by asking herself the question: “How can we stop food wastage?”. Her answer: by founding the startup Karma. to deliver on her mission.

It’s this clarity of purpose that gives founders their incredible energy, determination and courage to work day and night – with #passion and their ultimate goal in mind.

In many bigger corporations leaders have lost this focus. We stopped asking ourselves about the collective purpose of our work and may loose sight of the collective impact we are aiming at having.

Start to think like a founder. Ask yourself: What impact do I want to make?

How can you regain control of this week?

Some weeks feel a little bit “straighter” and more focused. Projects are advancing, decisions made and implemented, meetings fruitful and constructive. And there are these others (many) weeks feeling disorganised, chaotic, with too many meetings back-to-back, not enough time to stop & think, decisions beeing postponed, interruptions beeing particularly frequent. In those weeks, you feel less in control and lacking impact.
It’s mid-week today, how does this week feel sofar? What can you do to ensure key priorities are adressed? To what do you need to say NO, to what do you need to express a stronger YES, so that Friday will feel like you’ve made a difference?