Do you want to be on your A-game when it matters? Or your B-game 24/7?
Leaders are valuing resilient teams more and more right now. They can adapt and innovate in the face of new challenges; beat the competition when the unexpected happens; and stay motivated and collaborative when the going gets tough.
Why are stressors stressful?
A stressor threatens our safety. A desire for safety is a primitive drive that’s built into our brains. It’s actually very helpful if you’re dealing with a tiger trying to eat you, freezing to death in a thunder-storm, or being ejected from the tribe to starve alone. These were the kinds of threats we faced as humans through much of our evolutionary history, so it’s no surprise that our brains are built to deal with them.
Today, our stressors are less often physically or existentially dangerous, but our brains are still wired to have stressors occupy our attention over other stimuli. And often we can’t function effectively unless we deal with them.
So, whether you have a short-term very stressful situation that you need to negotiate, such as a fundraising pitch, or you need long-term resilience to stressors related to Covid/Brexit/war, it’s important to recognise and respect your stressors, and to develop methods to manage your response to stressors in today’s world.
What is the human response to stressors?
A catalogue of physical symptoms occur during a stressful situation; racing heart, shallow breathing, shaking limbs, your mouth goes dry. Most significantly, blood is diverted from your frontal lobe (the neocortex, where helpful rational thinking happens) to your amygdala. With the amygdala in charge, the neocortex hasn’t got a chance. We stop making rational, logical and balanced decisions.
Creating and Remaining in the Resilient State
To create and remain in the Resilient State, leaders can choose empowering actions and mindsets before, during and after a stressor event. Here is a pick and mix list of methods our customers have found helpful for them. Don’t try to do them all!
- Have your eyes open: Identify known stressors: What was the situation? The context? What people?
- Make it personal to you and identify the reaction that you experience in response to them.
- Mitigate known stressors: What things could you have changed or removed to reduce the number of stressors in your environment?
There are choices that you can make to improve your performance during stressful scenarios:
Lots of people get stuck on high alert for extended periods. Of course, this is bad for the body and mind. Increased cortisol levels are toxic long term. Irregular sleep patterns, fatigue, loss of problem solving and creative thinking ability, patterns of negativity and apathy. Burnout is a major risk.
It is also very important to reflect and re-centre after a stressor event:
Leaders of Resilience
If you are investing in having yourself be in the Resilient State as much as possible, how do you build on this underpinning, to lead for resilience in others and in your teams?
Well, like the airline safety procedure suggests, you start by fitting your own oxygen mask – by entering the resilient state individually. As a leader you can then deploy three techniques for building resilience in your teams:
Champion: Make the case for resilience
Companies that value and maintain resilience are more adaptable and agile which ultimately makes them more successful. Think about how to talk about resilience in your organisation to make it part of your culture.
Role-model: Normalise building resilience
You have a fantastic opportunity as a leader to impact your team simply by role modelling good self-care and resilience yourself. For example, you can set the expectations and tone through how you handle scenarios that challenge your healthy practises.
Networks: Creating and accessing resilience networks
In business, you need to build resilient networks and not have all your eggs in one basket. If you set up an IT system, you build in redundancy. You don’t have a single server that the whole thing depends on. Perhaps this means building plan B into your strategy?
A-game when it matters
We notice again and again in our work that making the case for resilience about “self care” doesn’t work for people like you. Yes, you believe it matters, and after reading this, right now, you think you will prioritise it. But, when you’re earnest, high achieving, committed and possibly addicted to hard work, when the chips are down, a stressor arises and something needs to get done, you’ll forget this and fail to invest in your resilience.
Luckily, we have found that another argument can work. Do you want to be on your B-game 24/7, or A-game when it matters? Have a think about what is at stake when you are not on your A-game when the business, or the world, needs you? Now are you going to trudge along heroically and survive on your B-game? That’s bad for business. So whilst self care is super important, we just know that it won’t motivate you enough when things are hard. How will you remind yourself of your A-game when it matters?
To learn more about the HorizonMethod and our programmes, get in touch.