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Teaching Corporate Resilience To Tomorrow’s Leaders

We’re pleased to be able to syndicate pieces from Consultants Collective member consultants, advisors and coaches who have shared their expertise with leading business publications. Today, we feature Consultants Collective member consultant Bill Hall, whose article originally appeared in Forbes.

The workplace is supposed to be a gratifying environment where people learn to push their boundaries, overcome challenges and chart purposeful paths in life. Even though work has the potential to enhance personal growth and development, it often falls short of these aspirations. This is because the modern workplace is characterized by a continuous change in technology, strict deadlines, staff cutbacks and perverse organizational change.

Many business leaders in modern organizations are more concerned about whether the prospective leaders they are breeding have the resilience and agility to succeed in the perpetually changing business world. As such, succeeding in today’s workplaces is not all about intelligence or working extra hard. It has more to do with how well individuals adapt and thrive under enormous pressure. In the past, managers would predict threats and plan responses by devising actionable risk management strategies. However, today’s enterprises have to deal with volatile, complex, often ambiguous and uncertain environments.

How To Build Resilience In Tomorrow’s Leaders

1. Lead by example.

If you want aspiring leaders to be resilient, ensure the organization has strong role models. Being able to weather turbulent times and have the grit to face challenges head-on elicits respect, displays confidence and evokes pride from the subordinates. In simple terms, a leader’s action helps model the behavior they want to see in their organization.

People have something dubbed “mirror neurons.” These are neurons that are activated in our brains when we observe others doing a particular thing as if we are the ones performing it. These neurons are essential for learning new skills through imitation. So, if you want to hone and prepare resilient future leaders, be a resilient leader yourself.

Some of the things you can do to display resilience include remaining calm in the face of challenging circumstances, being the first one to accept change, setting ambitious yet attainable goals for your organization, and helping other employees manage stress.

2. Encourage aspiring leaders to compartmentalize their cognitive load.

It is believed that our brain receives about 11 million bits of information every second, yet only 50 bits of this information can be effectively processed by our thinking faculties. Trying to handle all the information received by our brain at once is what causes stress. Managers should encourage tomorrow’s leaders to learn how to compartmentalize cognitive tasks for effective processing.

Deliberately compartmentalizing different kinds of tasks can help you create enough time for every job. The American Psychological Association indicated in recent research that switching haphazardly from one task to the next can make it difficult to avoid distractions and can lead to reduced productivity by more than 40%. Compartmentalizing is a vital skill that should be encouraged by managers.

3. Provide social support.

Another element that plays a pivotal role in workplace resilience is social support. Leaders should help aspiring leaders understand that not all things be can be dealt with alone. They need to develop strong personal and professional networks. They provide guidance and support during stressful periods, as well as offer mentorship and coaching opportunities. Social support is an essential factor in any employee’s capacity to bounce back from a stressful experience.

Although top-level managers may encourage aspiring leaders to build networks that involve individuals who are higher in the company’s hierarchy, they are also advised to have contacts with people who are not from their immediate network. This is because such individuals can provide validation, and can be available when in-house networks are dealing with their own issues. Aspiring leaders should understand that one element of being resilient is being able to nurture work networks that can help them develop as they consistently build trust with others.

4. Help develop mental agility.

When preparing employees to take future leadership roles, organizations should help them develop cognitive agility. This skill entails recognizing that the situation you are thinking about is eliciting negative results and shifting how you feel about it and trying to be positive. Developing mental agility allows you to continue doing your thing regardless of the situation you are in. Changing how you perceive every stressful experience helps you respond to, instead of react to, a challenging situation.

The point here is not to deny that you are feeling stressed but rather to take a step back and observe the situation from a neutral standpoint, so that you can shift perspectives and create options. Having mental agility means that you can solve the problem without involving your emotions.

For example, think of a situation where you have not been invited to an important meeting. You can decide to take offense and imagine it as a sign of disrespect, or take a step back and view it as a mistake that anyone in the organization can make. Reframing your thinking to a more positive one can help you become resilient.

5. Develop a sense of purpose and belonging.

Today’s company managers are in a unique position to help develop a sense of purpose, cohesion and belonging among tomorrow’s leaders. Organizational belonging has a ton of benefits for an enterprise going through change. The most resilient organizations are those that promote cohesion, share a common purpose and develop a deep culture. They also display excellent communication, and they support and advocate for one another. A manager who makes employees feel valued, celebrates their success and provides sincere feedback will not only influence positive attitudes and instill confidence but also create a team of resilient future leaders.

Final Summary

The business world is continuously changing, and it isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. Organizations can help shape future leaders by equipping them with the skills they need to adapt. By leveraging the points mentioned in this article, managers can develop agile and resilient future leaders who can spar organizational productivity and performance. If you tweak these elements into the culture and development opportunities of your company, you’ll be able to create a strong workforce that can withstand any change.

Bill Hall

Bill Hall is a member consultant for Consultants Collective. He began his career at Apple, where he worked as an engineer and product manager. He collaborated directly with Steve Jobs on various projects, and was a five-time Apple MVP and a Golden Apple award winner. Bill brings to strategic development a potent mix of technology, business acumen, and organizational skills. He has worked on corporate turnarounds at companies such as Apple, Nortel, and AOL, as well as at startups such as Skype. He’s the author of Shift: Using Business Simulations and Serious Games, which was an Amazon No. 1 bestselling book in the training and development sphere, and his articles have been featured in Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Business Insider and Chief Learning Officer, Chief Executive.

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