In light of recent challenges faced by the coalition Government, it is more evident than ever that our leaders need resilience to be able to survive the flak that is thrown their way. There will be one clear winner to emerge from the present coalition, and my bet is on the one that has most resilience.
Our business leaders too, in this age of austerity, will need to draw upon their resilience. Those that have low resilience will find themselves under the most stress and unable to cope with the demands put upon them. But is resilience an innate leadership trait, or is it one that can be learned? Can coaching help to build resilience in our leaders and managers and, if so, how?
Music is a great example of an area where there are those who can excel because they are gifted and those who can excel because they have support, dedication and the commitment to be the best musician they can be. The same is true of resilience. There are those whose make-up enables them to be naturally resilient, and there are those who, with support, intention and commitment, can become more resilient.
But what do we mean by resilience? Resilience is about the ability to adapt rapidly to change. At an organisational level, resilience is about the ability to quickly assimilate environmental information and build empathy, trust and commitment in the organisation using effective communication. At a personal level, it is about building on a foundation of emotional competence, which includes self-awareness, confidence to act decisively and self-belief based on a clear sense of identity, values and beliefs.
It could be argued that resilience is just one of many characteristics that we expect from our leaders and managers. However, none of these will matter if the manager is not resilient and, as a result, is unable to fulfil their role. When disaster strikes, it is important that the manager is where they need to be – leading the team.
So how can we develop resilience in our managers and how does coaching help?
Coaching is now coming of age and there is a growing body of evidence to demonstrate its effectiveness. Coaching not only enables goal attainment, but increases resilience and workplace wellbeing, and has been found to reduce depression and stress. Further evidence suggests that coaching increases confidence, gives managers new perspectives and enables them to shift their thinking, as well as providing new tools, strategies and knowledge, all of which lead to new behaviour and more resilience in responding to change.
The Harvard Business Review highlighted the alternative to resilience by describing the problems that arise when a manager is paralysed by fear, anger, confusion or a propensity to assign blame.
All of these emotions are the domain of the skilled and qualified executive coach, who can support managers and leaders to determine the best course of action and move forward. Negative emotion can get in the way of clear thinking, so it is important for these to be addressed rather than suppressed.
Another important aspect of executive coaching is the creation of a “safe space” where leaders and managers can process their concerns and fears. Facing their own vulnerability is often the starting point for a leader in moving forward confidently, having given themselves the opportunity to move beyond limiting beliefs into the arena of confident and resilient leadership.
So, whether you’re a member of the coalition Government or you lead a team in your organisation, find yourself the best executive coach that you can afford and start to work on your resilience with intent, dedication and commitment.
Martha Simpson is a member of the Association for Coaching UK.