Cultivating Your Personal Resilience

Cultivating Your Personal Resilience Photo

Written by: Mary Stacey, Context Consulting

In today’s ‘always on’ environment, leaders experience pressure, information overload and constant distraction. Over time this sabotages many things, from their wellness to their ability to be personally resilient: present and productive during turbulence. Perhaps its because of this that we’re hearing a lot about resilience these days.

Resilient people are more healthy, hopeful, optimistic, and positive, able to learn and adapt more quickly, turn adversity into a growth experience, and flourish in times of change. Its easy to see why they can be effective leaders.

The Impact of Resilient Leaders
Resilient leaders stand out. They boost their team’s performance. They exude spaciousness that allows others to open up and take risks, making it possible to accommodate diverse perspectives and needs. Their emotional self-regulation helps the team work through conflict creatively rather than become polarized. They contribute their resilience to pivotal team conversations where collaboration and collective intelligence are essential, creating a climate that is less reactive and more responsive. Their teams spend less time fire-fighting and more time being proactive.

Google has found that resilient leaders create the most important dimension of team success: a climate of psychological safety. In contrast, non-resilient leaders who are reactive and emotionally off-balance create a climate of threat, triggering the brain’s shut-down fight-flight-freeze response. Threat undermines a team’s ability to form trust relationships, stay goal-focused during uncertainty, and bring their diversity to solve complex problems—all essential elements of collaboration.

Teams of Resilient Leaders
Teams of resilient leaders achieve exponential benefits. Their psychologically safe environment has coherence, things make sense and flow more easily. The team experiences high energy and continuously renews its sense of purpose. Conversations are open and vulnerable, helping the team access greater capacity to lead complex change. At peak performance, the team is collaboratively resilient, able to quickly improvise and adapt in ongoing turbulence.

Building Collaborative Resilience
Here are some ideas for developing your personal resilience and turning it into a leadership act that supports collaboration.

1. Cultivate your personal resilience
A recent Harvard Business Review study demonstrated that even ten minutes of daily mindfulness practice produces improvement in resilience, the capacity for collaboration, and the ability to lead in complex conditions.

Developing a personal practice (journal writing, breathing for relaxation, embodiment exercises) will help you to remain present, emotionally self-regulated, and capable of performing at your best. Over time you’ll spend less time in threat response and be better able to thrive in uncertainty.

2. Turn your resilience into a leadership act
You can translate your personal resilience into a leadership act by modeling presence: the ability to focus on the current moment, be open to diverse perspectives, listen and reflect. When others see that your presence combines with the performance level you are able to maintain, you will be demonstrating how they, too, might contribute to collaborative resilience in turbulent times.

3. Facilitate collaborative resilience in your team
Begin your meetings with a check in. Combine the HBR study’s ‘mindful minute’ with a round-table response to a question as simple as ‘How are you?” This allows team members to settle in, re-connect with themselves, choose their quality of attention, and build trust with others before turning to the issue at hand.

Be aware that your team members’ brains are constantly evaluating what you say and do in relation to threat. Design your meetings and pivotal conversations to maximize creative conflict and minimize threat. You’ll know when you’re in the zone: your team will experience a surge of energy and a renewed sense of purpose. They’ll anticipate disruption with confidence and navigate it with greater ease.

I introduce these strategies, along with many others, during Leading with Personal Resilience, part of the Collaborative Leadership Essentials at the Kingbridge Conference Centre.

One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work with Mindfulness (Hougaard, Carter, and Coutts, 2015)

How to Bring Mindfulness to Your Company’s Leadership (Harvard Business Review, 2016)

What Google Learned from its Quest to Build the Perfect Team (New York Times, 2016)

Kingbridge founder John Abele speaks on collaboration

Debate to Collaborate!

This week at The Kingbridge Centre we have the pleasure of housing the 2013 International Independent Schools’ Public Speaking Championship (IISPC) hosted by The Country Day School here in King City, Ontario.

Students from across the globe ranging in age from 14 to 18 have gathered to compete in this intellectual competition with their peers for the opportunity to move on to the World Championship competition in Lithuania next year.

These teens present up to 12 minute memorized speeches (wow!) and debate some very sophisticated topics including long term care shortages and government policy.  One of the most amazing things was observing the skill with which these students considered and responded to opposition, questions were addressed and rebuked with both respect and tact.  Skills that are absolutely necessary for successful collaboration in business and beyond but that are often lacking.

In our global economy, the ability to effectively collaborate is quickly moving from a specialized skill for facilitators and moderators to a necessity for all.  It is programs like IISPC and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science & Technology) that teach youth the ‘soft’ skills beyond the core curriculum of reading, writing and mathematics that will prepare students to be effective collaborators in the future.  Gracious professionalism, active listening and the art of articulation and presenting a cogent argument are the keystone to successful cross discipline and cross culture communications that have come to define organizational success.

Today’s Kingbridge insight is both a question and a challenge, “How do we effectively integrate programs that provide the ‘soft’ skills required to thrive in a dynamic economy into the public school curriculum?”  This challenge is obviously fraught with bureaucratic hurdles and funding issues but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress”
~ Frederick Douglass, Leader for the Abolitionist Movement

IISPSC Banners

The Collaboration Paradox: Understanding the Magic of Getting Things Done – Webinar!

One of the mainstays of successful collaboration is engineering interactivity and purposeful communication between the members.  Advances in technology have provided the tools to make this easier and accessible but it is still up to the organizer(s) to create the right conditions for collaboration to work.

Take advantage of the opportunity to learn about what makes a successful collaboration (and not so successful) via one of the very technology tools that make it possible by joining the Pegasus Communications Webinar “The Collaboration Paradox: Understanding the Magic of Getting Things Done” with me, John Abele on January 11, 2011.


The Collaboration Paradox:
Understanding the Magic of Getting Things Done

with John Abele

A 90-minute live webinar andjohnabele interactive discussion
Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 2-3:30 pm ET
Register for this live webinar

The need for more truly powerful collaborations, where the collective intelligence of a diverse set of minds is harnessed toward a common goal, is greater than ever. And yet we find collaboration vexingly difficult to do. In this webinar,John Abele, renowned co-founder of Boston Scientific, will examine the many different types of collaboration along with the barriers to making them effective. He’ll describe new tactics and approaches that may seem counterintuitive, but that will help unleash the wisdom of a crowd far better than more obvious approaches. John will share learnings from his extensive experiences in business, medicine, education, science, and philanthropy.

In this webinar, you will::

  • Learn from extraordinary successes and spectacular failures
  • Take away tips for overcoming the challenges that stand in the way of effective collaboration
  • Discuss how to foster rational discussion by understanding root causes, analyzing issues and options, and weighing trade offs—together
  • Understand how best to collaborate around implementing solutions
  • Receive a copy of the “Kingbridge Meeting Design Guidelines,” from the Kingbridge Centre and Institute

This 90-minute interactive session is $129.00 per site (a single phone line). You can use a speakerphone so that a group of people can participate. You will also have unlimited access to the recorded version following the event.

Date and Time
The live webinar is being held on Tuesday, January 11, 2011, from 2 to 3:30 pm ET. When you register, you will receive detailed information about how to call in and participate.

John Abele is the retired founding chairman of Boston Scientific Corporation ( and one of the pioneers of less invasive medicine. He holds numerous patents, and has published and lectured extensively on the technical, social, economic, and political trends and issues affecting healthcare and on strategies for improving collaboration between individuals, businesses, and organizations. John’s major interests are science literacy for children, education, and disruptive technological innovation. He is currently vice chair (former chair) of the FIRST Foundation, which works with high school kids to make science literacy cool and fun, and owner of The Kingbridge Centre and Institute, a conference center that is devoted to perfecting the “Art of Conferencing” and hosting exceptional meetings.

Register for this live webinar!

Collaboration in Education?

It occured to me today to do some research into what the public education system is doing to better educate children to be more collaborative.  Surprisingly – then again perhaps not – I found next to nothing!  There are a plethora of initiatives and papers written on fostering collaboration amongst departments and teachers but distrubingly little on educating students in this area.

The education system is highly individualistic.  You are rewarded for standing out, for being an exceptional individual and for personal achievment.  I’m not for a moment claiming that these are negative traits or that students shouldn’t be rewarded for their personal abilities, I only argue that there should also be some incentive to collaborate with fellow students as well.

I think we will all agree that group projects were a dreaded proposition in school.  You were assigned a group, assigned a topic and told to go to it and the entire group regardless of who did what was given the same grade.  The individualized point based system does not offer any incentive to collaborate in this situation- especially for the overachiever in the group who inevitably does everything.  As we have discussed in past posts, for collaboration to be effective (at any age) there are conditions that need to be met to make it work, you can’t just throw an assignment at a group and say collaborate – poof!   It just doesn’t happen that way.

Perhaps we could avoid our current situation of needing to ‘teach’ our organizational leaders how to collaborate in an increasingly ‘flat’ world if the education system was designed to reward collaborative behaviour in addition to individual achievment.

I would welcome any comments or insights you have on this topic.