Six Easy Ways To Reduce Stress And Boost Your Leadership Resiliency
I'm sure you'll agree with me that we live in a tough world of fast change!
Our disruptive, volatile, uncertain, ambiguous and complex context is causing plenty of challenge, resulting in many leaders feeling stressed and overwhelmed. A world where many leaders are asking, "What the hell happened!"
What used to work previously doesn't seem to work in the same way in today's world. It's like someone has changed the rules for our success!
We can't just rely on our experiences to deliver extraordinary results anymore. Something has happened, the pace of change is so fast we are struggling to keep up!
It's even harder now to achieve the results we are looking for. The problem is that we put more pressure on ourselves and work even harder to try and achieve better results. We get trapped on the 'hamster wheel' doing the same things but faster!
In today's tough world we need to look at new ways of leading. One of those new ways is to develop our resiliency skills.
I was really lucky in my early days to receive the best training in the world for resiliency. I joined the British Army and got paid to learn these vital skills and mindsets!
Learning a few simple mindsets changed everything for me... or was it drummed into me?
Over the past 30 years I have refined these ideas and developed a resiliency framework that I teach to leaders wanting to be the best they can be.
Leaders who want their life back and to thrive in today's world!
Let's explore what I've discovered about resiliency in the context of leadership and delivering extraordinary results...
It's really important to think about leadership being energy. I always believe that as leaders we only have one thing that we are really in control of, and that is the energy that we transmit. We see this through the behaviour and body language of people.
And the good news is that it's always our choice what to transmit!
This transmission is a combination of our behaviours, our emotions, our thinking and the actions we take. All those things combined together to create energy that people receive.
The rest of leadership is really about the other people deciding whether they want to follow us or not.
To achieve the best results it's really important to focus on what we are in control of. No point wasting energy on the non controllables, as they say in sport. We are in control of our mindset... focus on that and results will follow.
When you think about the tough VUCA world we live in, it's very easy for our energy to get depleted and for us to have nothing left at the end of the day - unless we learn a few hacks!
I think as leaders in today’s world it's really important to think about what you are putting in to become resilient in order to have enough energy to thrive. Particularly important if you like to be able to perform at the highest level, day in, day out.
Let's have a look at these mindset hacks and what you can do to become even more resilient.
What I would like to share with you is Six Key Pillars that have been tried, tested and proven to help us to become more resilient.
Resilience isn't just about being mentally tough, it's about how you respond to situations.
I was really fortunate, I left school at 16 and joined the military and spent 9 years developing resilient behaviour and mindsets to help me to operate in some of the toughest environments around the world. From jungle, arctic and desert warfare, and in the toughest of all environments - peacekeeping missions!
The good news is that most of the things I learnt are very simple things to do, we just need to make them habits.
A lot of what I'll share is around mindset, but there is also some fundamentals that we also need to have in place that will make us even more effective.
So, let’s go straight into the thoughts and ideas.
As you read the ideas, have a think about whether you have these elements in place in your life on a day to day basis.
Then you can take your learning further and watch my free resiliency video and download my resiliency worksheet > How to become more resilient
Pillar One: Vision
I can remember when I left the corporate world to start a training business I didn’t really know much about how to do it.
I watched lots of videos and listened to lots of audio tapes. I remember all the cassettes (as it was then) I listened to in the car.
I devoured all these guru's ideas and how fantastic they were and what the great speakers of the time said I should do.
But I made a huge mistake!
The first three years of running my business were very exhausting for me, because what I was trying to do was copy what other people were doing. Trying to be something you're not is exhausting and a waste of energy!
What I realised of course was that I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing. I just knew I wanted to get out there and train and make a difference. But I wasn’t really sure what my purpose was and more importantly I wasn’t really being authentic.
So, the first thing for you to think about is being really clear about your personal vision. For me, that became very clear after a few years in business, I suddenly realised what it was I was here to do?
For me it's awakening possibility in people to deliver extraordinary results.
If I've had a really tough day, exhausted, going to bed at night thinking about whether it has been a great day or not, I can just ask am I on purpose? Did I make a difference today?
If I did then I can feel really happy and I can get more energy. I can get out of bed in the morning and keep making a difference.
Knowing what your personal purpose is really important. If you aren’t clear about that then a really good way to think about it is what difference do you want to make in this world. What is it you're really here for?
Obviously once you’ve got your purpose in place then you need to set your personal goals as well. For me that’s around a number of things.
When I set my business up I learnt that to be successful you need to start with what you want out of life first and then work backwards from that, and create goals that give you the life that you want to lead - making sure your goals are aligned to your purpose and you are living your life authentically.
The more and more authentic you are the easier it is and it’s quite a simple formula, if you are trying to copy someone or be someone you are not – that is taking energy away from you.
I certainly learned it the hard way by running a three hour sales seminar in the UK in the evenings and at the end of it I was exhausted and I didn’t know why. What I realised after a while is you had to present the particular programme in a certain way and I wasn’t actually being me.
I started changing and being me, and at the end of three hours I was really energised and felt more positive and guess what, the feedback I was getting from people was a lot better as well. So, being authentic is really important. So the first domain is be really clear about what your vision is, make sure you know what your purpose is, understand what your goals are and that make sure you are operating in an authentic way.
Pillar 2: Vitality
Vitality has four components, as shown in the image. Movement, Diet, Sleep and Quiet are the keys to your vitality.
Have you ever been driving on a motorway for a long time and feeling really tired? You pull into the service station and as you get out of the car and walk to the food hall isn't it amazing how more energised you feel. Movement is so important.
We're not talking about being an olympic athlete or having to go out and run marathons at four o’clock every morning!
We are talking about being aware of becoming very sluggish and being de-energised, because we're sitting down too much spending time on computers and responding to emails!
It's really important to think about how much movement you actually build into your day.
It can be little things like walking to work, taking the stairs or parking the car further away from the entrance – all those little things that add up to re-energising our bodies.
Find some exercise to do in the evenings or weekends that you and your partner really enjoy and is exciting. It doesn’t have to be a really competitive and energy sapping exercise, it is just about getting the body moving and doing something it really loves and enjoys.
The other aspect of vitality is around the fuel you put into your body.
For me fuel is really what food, water, nutrients is all about. I could spend hours and hours talking about nutrition but for me it is around finding a diet that works for you and making sure you are putting the right stuff in your body. Making sure you are actually putting the right elements into your body to ensure you have the energy to perform is really important to becoming more resilient.
Without the right stuff it just doesn’t work.
The next thing then really is about how much sleep you get. Recovery is an important aspect. It's very easy to get caught up in over working, overtraining and not thinking about recovery.
For me, this is about finding a sleep pattern that works for you. Some people need a short amount, some people need a lot and for me I need between six and seven hours of quality sleep and if I am getting that every night I feel really energised and really positive.
Sleeping for me is about the body rebuilds itself and getting the energy for the next day, so it is really important to get enough sleep.
The final thing on this element is around how much headspace you get. Sometimes during a business day, we can be so busy that we just don’t get any time for the brain to actually slow down a little bit.
When I am coaching people, I spend the first half hour just listening to people offload and their brains are going four hundred miles an hour. We need to be able to slow down a little bit to be able to become more mindful in what we do.
When you combine all these together you could; go out for nice walks, have meetings whilst walking, look at nature and just have time to think and reflect on what’s coming up for you in your mind and get some space just to be, rather than doing all the time.
There are four areas there to increase your vitality. It is around movement, it’s around diet, water, exercise and nutrition; it’s around what you actually put in to your body just as much as what you take out.
Pillar 3: Support
The next thing for you to think about is what is your support network. I think it's really important as it is very easy to to fall into the trap of thinking leadership is about being strong, working on your own and having to be the person to solve everything in your world.
I think it is really important to develop a support network. In a business context, this can be your leadership team, it could be your peer group and it could be the social networks or other networks you have at work. Outside of work that could be family and friends.
I think it is really important to build that good network of people.
One of the approaches we use in our leadership training is Mastermind Groups. Getting like-minded people together for a day once a quarter to share your opportunities, issues and challenges, then work together in a safe and collaborative way to solve them, is really powerful.
So, what network or support mechanisms to you have in place to be successful?
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to do everything yourself.
Pillar 4: Composure
The next pillar is about composure and this is a lot around your emotional intelligence.
One of the things I learnt in the military was around the concept around there being a stimulus - which is what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting, and then there’s the response. The gap between the stimulus and response is what we are in control of and is called your point of choice.
Imagine you are in a situation where you think that someone across the table is making you really angry, just remember this concept and that actually the person across the table is giving you a stimulus and you are choosing to respond in an angry way. It is not the other person that is making you angry, it's yourself. You can't change them but you can change your response. It really is that simple. Not easy, but simple!
So, having that composure and self-control is really important and a key element which we used in the military to develop mental toughness - you are in control of how you feel.
Being ‘tough’ around the choices you make for the situation you are in, is about remembering you are always in control of how you feel.
A lot of this is about composure. The self-awareness you develop will help you understand what your buttons are, your emotional triggers and all those key things that will help you understand what’s happening in a given situation and be able to make the right choices.
The next time you're feeling you want to punch that person on the nose, remember it's not the other person – it is you that is choosing to feel like that, no one else.
That is a key point about being resilient, you are in control of the situation, through choosing your response.
Pillar 5: Persistence
The next thing I want to share with you is around persistence. Again, this is like a mental muscle you can develop and it is all about tenacity; quite often it is called bounce back ability. When things go wrong, what is it you do to make sure that you can achieve even greater success?
In the military we used to call it dislocated expectations - it's about your choice to the situation and I think the combination of all these points mades so far will help you to be more optimistic.
I always believe that if you have a vision, a purpose, a set of goals and you have a plan of action of how you get there, then you can be a lot more optimistic and really believe in what you are trying to achieve is a great thing to do.
This optimism will give you the persistence to keep going.
When the going gets tough just remember your vision and your purpose and all will be better. One of the key aspects of achieving great success when the 'bullets are flying' is the ability to keep going.
Pillar 6: Decision Making
The final pillar of resiliency I want to share with you is about being able to make decisions effectively.
Taking action is a key step in removing worry and negativity.
Building problem solving tools by building your leadership toolkit is key. Filling it full of tools and techniques to help you make a decision and take action is vital to your success.
The more decision making and problem solving tools you have in your toolkit, the more resilient you can be.
One of the most powerful action you can take in a situation where you are worrying about something is to stop and think. I call it speeding up by slowing down. Think and be mindful about what is coming up for you, before you take action. Before you take action you need to solve the problem.
The range of tools and techniques you have to use in different situations is really important.
The final element in this pillar is around anticipation and for me one of the things that can really help you be more resilient is your ability to anticipate and kill risk before it ‘kills’ you! This is about thinking what potential barriers, obstacles and risks could stop you being successful and then kill them.
Make sure you take action to remove the risks you can, monitor the ones you can’t remove and have a contingency in place to ensure that if they do crop up and happen, you can do something about it - have a plan B!
Putting it all together
When you have all six pillars in place you will find that you become more resilient.
There is a requirement for discipline though. If I broke my arm for example, and I was in a cast all the way up to my shoulder. My muscles would just disappear, so it's about keeping working at it, reviewing, reflecting, focussing and making sure we become more effective at what we do. It's something that you have to keep working at.
We need all these 6 pillars in place for your motivation and resiliency to flourish.
If any of the elements are missing then you'll find it harder to thrive.
How would you score yourself out of 10 on the six pillars of resiliency?
What action can you take to improve? What can you stop doing, start doing and continue doing?
I'm sure you'd agree there are many more elements for resiliency, but getting these six in place is a great start to your resilience journey and will definitely increase your results.
Be disciplined, it's the difference that makes the difference.
Liking these ideas? Then you can take your learning further and watch me free resiliency video and download my resiliency worksheet > How to become more resilient
p.s. Let me know your thoughts and how you get on!
If you want to learn more about leadership styles why not attend my next Leadership Athlete Masterclass?