In difficult times, we remember the people who were kind to us. It strengthens our resilience when people treat us well, and it strengthens our resilience when we treat others with care and compassion.  Just as this applies to our interactions with others, it also applies to our interactions with ourselves.  Now is the time to be kind to people, to give them space, not to pressure or micromanage.

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People are tired, stressed, and scared. It is time to show compassion, to focus on strengthening resilience, and to practice self-care so you remain resilient.  I have had many conversations with leaders over the past few weeks. They have shared their experiences, their reflections on the current situation, their sadness over difficult messages they have had to deliver. Leaders have shared that they are working long hours to get their businesses and people stabilized.   The common theme is they are flying the plane as they are trying to construct it, and everything feels very fast and uncertain.  Two leaders shared their experiences with having to deliver difficult news this week. I was really impressed by their approach and how they were able to remain empathetic in their delivery, without sacrificing the clarity or meaning of their messages.

An HR VP shared with me that he had to do a series of all hands meetings to let people know they were going on furlough, their hours would be cut by 50%, effective immediately.  He was very clear about the situation impacting their business and industry, and he remained relatable and empathetic by weaving into his message how he is feeling about having to make decisions so rapidly, and how everything is changing so fast. He shared with his people how he hasn’t experienced anything like this before, and how he can’t really say with certainty what will happen in the future. He is not a person who typically shows emotion, so this resonated with his audience. He shared with me that he received several thank you emails after, thanking him for being real, for sharing his own struggles. Even though the news was bad, he was in it with them.

Another Executive shared with me this week that her CEO got on a call with the entire organization to tell them they were going to remain completely closed through May.  This was difficult news to hear and people were very frightened. He then announced that everyone will paid through May and they would re-evaluate after, said “Thank you” and dropped off the call. She went on to describe what happened after, and said it was the fuel she needed in her tank after two entire weeks of 16-hour days.  Hundreds of employees remained online and one by one they expressed their gratitude to the executives. People waited patiently for their turn, one voice at a time, and my Executive friend said she was really moved to tears by this moment and it really restored her resilience.

Building resilience in others, starts with restoring resilience in ourselves.

3 Types of Resilience

According to Genie Joseph, M.A., there are 3 types of resilience.

  1. Natural Resilience – Resilience we were born with; what comes naturally to us
  2. Adaptive Resilience– Resilience that develops out of challenging circumstances
  3. Restored Resilience– Learned resilience; methods or techniques that build resilience

Since we are all born, there is nothing we can really do about the first one, Natural Resilience.

The next one, Adaptive Resilience, is already active and working to our advantage to make us stronger during this time. If you are like me, you might be saying, “No thank you, I am strong enough, I don’t want any additional adaptive resilience, make this challenge go away!”

The third resilience is the one that we can do something about, by focusing on activities and interactions that build resilience and avoiding those that drain our energy or deplete our tank.  Self-compassion is a resilience builder, self-criticism is not.  Now is not the time to be critical of your stress eating, weight gain, piles of laundry, not working out enough, and not understanding your child’s math homework, not doing anything as well as you have in the past. Now is the time to show up, do your best, take care of yourself, and breathe.

A way to manage self-criticism is to manage our thoughts. What are we saying when we talk to ourselves? Are our thoughts expressing kindness and empathy? Or are we being self-critical and creating additional pressure and stress?

The same applies to others, are we being critical and creating pressure, or are we being supportive and understanding? Are we adding to or reducing stress with others?  For example, now is not the time to deliver a performance evaluation or to communicate critically with people. It is not the time to tell your husband all of the things you want him to do better.  Now is the time to show sincerely show our support and ask how we can help.

The most important soft-skill we can practice in the coming weeks is Empathy.  Humans were made for connection, and through connection, we will make it through this crisis.  One leader shared with me this week that he reminded his leaders throughout his organization to pick up the phone to contact each client to see how they are doing and to provide support. This is a great example of practicing empathy.

As we look at the coming weeks, what are things we should prioritize, and what are things we should postpone or de-prioritize?

Here are my top 3 for restoring my resilience:  

Self-care– Allowing time to process emotions, to self-reflect, to take a walk outside to get fresh air, to take a break, to breathe.

Connecting – reaching out to people to see how they are doing, checking on friends and family, checking on clients, checking on staff; give people a quick 5-10 minute call to check-in with no agenda; connecting people who want to help with people in need.

Self-compassion– not putting unnecessary pressure on myself; giving myself a break from continuous sense of urgency, rushing; taking time to self-reflect, to pray, to meditate; picking an end time for work each day.

What are your top 3? Please share with us in comments

Hi, I’m Amy McKenna.

I founded HumanPoint in 2007 with the mission of empowering leaders and teams to reach their potential. Although my team and our offerings have expanded, my passion for coaching is as central to my work as it was 12 years ago. Here on our blog you’ll find the advice, expertise, and insight my team and I have gained from decades of work in the executive coaching and consulting field.

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