Joe listened to his morning voicemails on the way to the office. His vice president of marketing gave him the depressing news that sales continued to slide. The vice president of human resources was distressed to inform him that two employee lawsuits would require a deposition, causing an upheaval in his schedule. The board chair, who recently let Joe know that he was unhappy about a number of recent decisions, called to talk about an article in a major publication, which had implications on the business, and he wanted to hear from Joe ASAP. The vice president of production left the news that three of the company's suppliers of raw materials would miss delivery dates, resulting in massive production and customer-fulfillment issues.

Joe thought, "A typical morning. Can't wait to knock these off the list."

Joe passed by Ann's office building while heading to his facility. Ann also had dialed in to get morning messages. Ann's morning messages were equally challenging. Human Resources reported a sexual harassment claim against one of the longest serving supervisors in the business. The marketing director reported that a newly approved regulation by the state legislature would dramatically impact the insurance company's rates, reducing sales by 12%. Her father, chairman of the family insurance business she led, left a message wanting to know if she would take his place as a speaker at lunch for a local meeting of business leaders. The president of a large claim reinsurance company left a message informing her that they needed to talk about a rate adjustment. But the worst news was that her director of finance announced he was leaving.

Ann's thought, "I can't take it anymore. I've got to sell the business and get out."

Individuals deal with the stresses and challenges of an executive's role in different ways. The key to staying successful in the role, despite the challenges, is finding ways to bounce back. Resilient executives need to be able to problem solve with a calm, confident sense of being able to overcome adversity. They need to approach challenges with learning agility: the ability to learn from each experience, positive or negative.

To develop resiliency, you and other executives and managers in your organization should:

  • Build and maintain supportive and positive relationships.
  • Develop the capacity to make and implement realistic plans.
  • Evaluate and affirm strengths and abilities.
  • Enrich skills in communication and problem solving.
  • Learn greater self-control to manage strong feelings and impulses.

Some actions you can take to build resiliency:

  • Become part of a civic group. You might meet people with common perspectives and experiences.
  • Assist others in time of need. You will gain the benefit of learning what others need and what you may need during difficult times.
  • Do a perspective audit. Take a look at the positive elements in a situation and beyond the current challenge.
  • Focus on what you can learn. You can't change what is happening to you, but you can change how you respond.
  • Measure and manage your goals. Identify the one thing you can do next to further your goals in a situation.
  • Identify what is holding you back. Remove the barriers that create unnecessary stress.
  • Engage in a supportive, pleasing, nurturing activity. Though it sounds antithetical, you need to relax during stressful situations. Not doing so will make the demands of the situation even greater.
  • Meditate and journal. You need to clarify your feelings, reasons for those feelings, and "work it out" to find the best solution. Reflect on what you did in previous situations that are parallel to the current challenge and use the lessons you learned to overcome the challenge at hand.
  • Ask others what they did in similar situations. Learn from their trials and challenges.

Finally, become more flexible. Flexibility is essential to developing and enriching your resilience. It means keeping your emotions from hijacking your good reason, being able to detach yourself in order to step back and gain perspective, and understanding that your past and your personal qualities are resources to inform your next choice. In short, the greater the resilience, the greater the chances you'll overcome them -- and even be rewarded by them.

Roger Pearman is internationally known for excellence of his research and his remarkable ability to transform research into riveting presentations. You may have been fortunate enough to hear him or perhaps you have read his books which include senior author of I'm Not Crazy, I'm Just Not You: The Real Meaning of the Sixteen Personality Types (1997), author of Hard Wired Leadership: Unleashing Personality for the new Millennium Leader (1998), a contributor to the MBTI Manual (1999), author of Enhancing Leadership Effectiveness (2000), and Leadership Advantage (in press). He is the winner of the Myers Research (1997) and McCaulley Contribution (1999) Awards, a member of the Research Review Board for Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc., and past president of the Association for Psychological Type.

Published on: Jan 1, 2005