Nurture Resilience in a Crisis

Resilience allows you to bounce back from adversity…something that is critical in the time of a crisis like the coronavirus (COVID-19), an economic downturn, or any setback, be it personal or professional.

As a leader, it's not enough to be resilient, you need to nurture resilience in those you surround yourself with: your team, your clients, and your network.

Dr. Robert Brooks is a clinical psychologist who has researched, presented, and published several books on resilience. He’s also my dad.

We've been in regular contact during the quarantine, talking about resilience, leadership, and social responsibility during a crisis. I recently asked if I could interview him to talk about how leaders could nurture resilience in themselves, their teams, their customers, and their family during the pandemic.

Below you’ll find the video of our interview, as well as a recap of some of my biggest takeaways.

What is resilience?

The ability to bounce back from adversity. Resilient people see problems as things to overcome and mastered rather than to be overwhelmed by.

What is the role of a “charismatic adult” in resilience?

When they interview people who had overcome great adversity, trying to find a common thread, the first answer was always the same: they had a charismatic adult. Someone who stood by them, believed in them.

Leaders need to be that charismatic adult for their team.

How can a leader be a charismatic adult, especially when everyone is working remotely?

Regardless of remote working or not, you need to focus on what you have control over. Put your time and effort into what you can have an impact or control over.

With the coronavirus, most of us feel we don’t have as much control over things as we’d like. But we are the authors of our own lives.

We don’t have control over the coronavirus, but we do have control over how we respond to it.

How can you regain control?

Start with things you can control by engaging in TLC, or Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes.

Start by taking care of yourself. You have to take care of yourself before you can help your team.

Create a routine, such as waking up, showering, and getting dressed for work. Exercise. Meditate.

Have a “problem solving” attitude. This means don’t dwell on the problems, but rather brainstorm solutions. Come up with a plan B, C, and D, too.

Limit the amount of news you watch. This is very difficult, but during a crisis the news is repetition, repetition, repetition. Get the headlines, get a few minutes of local news, and then get back to your day.

What are the steps to nurturing resilience in our team during a crisis?

Don’t wait for them to reach out to you; set aside time to speak with them one on one. Let them know you recognize this is a challenging time, and ask this important question: is there any way I can help you?

Because when you offer that, what you’re really saying to them is, I care about you.

There’s wonderful research that shows one of the most important things in any relationship is to create positive emotions, and one of the most positive emotions is a connection with others.

How do I nurture resilience in my team without coming across as authoritarian?

Ask yourself, am I saying or doing this in a way where the other person is going to be able to hear me and not get defensive?

You can bring up ideas, but you can’t force people to follow. You can ask if they have found anything that they have found to be effective for them. This can be an effective way of showing them what they have control over.

How do I know if I’m doing the right things to nurture resilience in a time of crisis?

You should ask yourself, what words will my team use to describe my behavior during the crisis? What words would I use myself? These are important questions because they are an opportunity to reflect upon what we’re doing and saying, and what we’d like to do differently.

Another way of looking at this is “starting with the end in mind.”

How transparent should we be with our team or clients in sharing our own challenges?

Effective leaders are not afraid to show their vulnerability. Now, vulnerability doesn’t mean weakness, but you can let them know that you’re feeling the same things and challenges they do, but you’re focusing on the things you can control.

What are some other ways to nurture resilience in a crisis?

One of the things that helps people to be resilient is when they’re making a positive difference in the life of someone else. It takes the focus off oneself, which can be helpful, but the feelings around knowing you're helping someone else can release endorphins in your own brain.

A sense of humor is one of the most critical aspects of being resilient. But it shouldn’t be sarcastic humor, because you’re trying to create positive emotions. Know your audience; read the room.

What do customers want to hear from businesses during a crisis?

They want to hear that you care about them, that you’re thinking about them. They don’t want to be sold to, but they do want to hear from you.