Podcast Episode 34: Using Your Strengths to Build Resilience

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We are still processing and working through all that has impacted us over the 18 months. Leaders everywhere are trying to all figure out the new normal and what’s next. Building resilience is key to staying motivated and creating success. In this episode learn: 

  • How to manage the brain in uncertainty 
  • Why the aftermath of a crisis can be just as stressful as the crisis 
  • How stress whacks your ability to think clearly
  • Questions to ask yourself to create a new self-awareness around your own resilience
  • The surprising role goals play in creating resilience
  • How to use your strengths to increase your leadership capacity while staying focused on results. 

Resilience isn’t a character or personality trait. You’re not born with it. You build it. 

Building resilience is essential to maintaining our health and wellbeing, our brain health, and our performance. 

Read the Transcript
Hi Friends, 

Welcome back to The Career Refresh podcast, I’m your host Jill Griffin. 

This week I want to talk about using your strengths to build resilience

Harvard Business Review published an article recently about how Our Brains Were Not Built for This Much Uncertainty.

We are still processing and working through all that has impacted us over the 18 or so months. 

As the workplace has been undergoing rapid change over recent years  – even prior to Covid 19, Leaders everywhere are trying to all figure out the new normal and what’s next.  I mean if HBR is talking about our brains the impact of uncertainty we’ve clearly reached a refreshing level of awareness that will hopefully lead to greater employee wellbeing. 

When we are in crisis. We become short-sighted and push aside all that is not urgent. Once we have fixed what is urgent, we feel we deserve a good rest. 

There’s a lot of “When Covid-19 is over, we will address the problem.” 

Rest is vital. But then you need to get into action because at a certain point inactivity will backfire.  In military units, for example, boredom and waiting time are perceived as more stressful than actual combat. The aftermath or the rebound of a crisis can be just as stressful if we are coming off of complete rest or ignoring it. 

Building resilience is key to your rebound and success. 

To build resilience and to stay motivated as we continue to encounter unprecedented levels of uncertainty in every aspect of our lives, the HBR states that the human brain simply was not built for this. Knowing what your brain does well — and what it does surprisingly poorly — can give you a much clearer sense of the strategies you need to build resilience, not just endure, but to thrive.

Resilience isn’t a character or personality trait. You’re not born with it. You build it. 

Building resilience is essential to maintaining our health and wellbeing, our brain health, and our performance. 

First let’s talk about the brain. Then let’s talk about how to build resilience and leverage our strengths. 

Our brains are still running on evolutionary biology. For most of history we’ve been hunter-gatherers, living in clans where individuals had established roles and lives. Life could be dangerous but it was also mostly predictable. 

Our brain excelled at efficiency, and turning very complex sets of behaviors into something we can do on autopilot. It brings us calm and the illusion of certainty, but not resilience. 

When life is unpredictable we find ourselves experiencing stress, panic, or “fight, freeze, or flight” responses in the brain. 

This can lead to lack of focus, agility, self control, and decreased motivation. This stress response impacts your overall wellbeing. It messes with your hormones  – primarily Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, and the natural alarm system. 

The body’s stress response system is usually self-limiting. When stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. The constant increased cortisol leads to adrenal exhaustion, anxiety, weight gain, digestive issues, headaches – many of these conditions both me and my current clients –all of us worked in high pressure, uncertain and prolonged stressful environments–have all experience.

As my doctor has said, Jill, adrenals are for running out of burning buildings not for building brand strategies.
Emotional/mental issues are as much of a risk as smoking. A global survey conducted by Mercer found that the majority of the 270 insurance companies surveyed now rate mental health as being as much of a risk as smoking.

Building resilience enables us to manage the fight flight response. Stress is still going to happen. We just need to build strategies to create resilience. I have found that pausing, reflecting, and leveraging my strengths is the fastest way to create resilience. 

Psychology Today describes resilience this way:

“It’s ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.”
Resilience comes down to processing discomfort. To build resilience we have to process the discomfort and reflect and evaluate the experience. This, according to investor and entrepreneur, Ray Dalio, is what delivers progress. 

Discomfort without reflection is just pain. Reflection is a huge part of resilience. We evaluate and reflect, providing us an opportunity to leverage our strengths on the upswing, for the next time.  

From my perspective there are a few ways to process the uncertainty and discomfort, reflect on the experience, and build resilience. This builds our capacity to quickly recover from difficulties.

Creating resilience requires you to process the experience. I’m going to suggest that you do this in a fresh way. The first is to gain self awareness. Ask yourself

– What do you value more over this period of time? If we are reflecting on the last 18 months, what was most valuable? 

– What do you value less?

– What was useless?

– How did you use your strengths like, connectedness, where you’ll bring unity, calm, and see the connections between departments and teams; or harmony to seek alignment on how to move forward and eliminate inefficiencies, or empathy to anticipate needs? 

– What would you do differently with this level of self awareness?

The next area to reflect on is your Leadership. When we are in difficult situations we need to remember your compelling reason for pushing through while leading and motivating others. When you know your strengths, and you can lean on them naturally, you’re going to be in the flow. Strengths like adaptability and your ability to pivot, command to provide confidence and direction to a team, visionary where you see the path forward, using your contagious enthusiasm and positivity to elevate others mood, Maximizer where you see the talents in others and you up-level the teams excellence these are just some of the talents, or tools you can use to motivate your team while you personally process and reflect on the situation. What do you need to grow in yourself in order to up-level your leadership skills? What is your team looking for right now? How can you grow now? How were you resourceful in leveraging your strengths as an influencer, being a visionionary, tapping into your innovative side, or being a connector to work through this challenge?

You are going to reduce stress because you are going to lean on your own excellence which makes it easier to stay the course and build resilience. 

Building resilience also comes from setting goals for what you want to do next is another way of helping you process where you’ve been. It will also provide you a focus to manage your mind and work on thoughts that will help you through the uncertainty. 

Building resilience is subtle. It’s not always because we are overcoming a HUGE event, it can be the daily awareness of your negative thoughts that keep you from participating in daily activities. It’s rooted in the pursuit of personal development and growth.

Thriving through change and uncertainty isn’t always easy but self-awareness, strengthening your leadership skills, and focusing on your goals will help you prevail. 

As you build resilience, how do you want to remember how you showed up? Positive? Clear Mindset? Calm under stress? Collaborative? 

Let me  know how you are thinking about building your resilience during this time. I’ll put the details in the show notes. 

Ok, everyone have a fab week and I will see you next time.