In normal times, we think of resilience as a personal challenge — when one faces a crisis, such as job loss or illness. These events are hard and can bring out a new resilient self once the person has navigated them. I recently discussed with a coaching client how their past resilience experiences have made them stronger, and thus they are able to face the next challenge with more confidence. As a metaphor, anyone can sail a ship in calm waters but steering through a storm requires resilience, and while we do not hope for future storms, they are easier to face knowing you have done it in the past.
What’s different during COVID-19 is that we are all facing a resilience challenge at the same time — as a family, as an organization, as a country, as a world. The need for leadership is heightened, and leaders often cannot find respite from a challenging workday. If you are working out of a bedroom closet, or hear your toddler romp on the other side of the wall, all barriers between work and family have come down.
Gallup is doing a great job of providing data on the workplace during COVID-19.
What does resilience look like?
One of my mentors compared it to flying a plane — once you take off you have to land again, there is no choice. If you encounter turbulence or engine trouble, you cannot roll up in a ball on the cabin floor and hope for a miracle. Let’s apply this metaphor to your workday: do you catch yourself feeling lost and wishing for all of this to be over, let’s just close our eyes and wake up post-COVID? Our world has been changed forever, and when we look at climate change, there will be no going back to the fast-paced lives pre 2020.
Watch this five-minute video by Simon Sinek, reminding us that pandemics and new normals have happened before.
In talking to clients, they have come up with some amazing strategies to build up their resilience, and while coaching is always confidential, I can share some general ideas:
- Increase your downtime to come back fully charged — eat lunch with the kids, work out, walk in the woods, meditate, or just look at the world through your pet’s eyes for ten minutes.
- Self-care is not selfish, self-care is essential to be your best for the people you care about — your family, your team, the mission of your company.
- Acknowledge what has changed for the better during COVID-19 — no commute, no airplane middle seat, seeing your kids throughout the day. Many people have moved to places they could not live before because of an in-office policy. These are important learnings to hold on to.
- Flattening of corporate hierarchies — in order to get stuff done remotely, it’s all hands on deck and much more focus on outcomes over organizational charts.
- Increased hiring of talent regardless of where they live. The tech giants, for example, have made a complete turnaround on work from home after seeing how smoothly remote work is going.
What seems to be the biggest missing item is the water cooler moment — that informal chat in the hallway or a quick coffee together. These events cannot be replaced by scheduling yet another online meeting — however, people have come up with great ideas for how to continue to make those informal connections — drop a text or a slack message, asking the person how their day is going and whether you can be of help; organize your outreach — make time on your calendar, this is part of your job.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. One of my favorite readings is the FDR biography by Doris Kearns Goodwin “No Ordinary Times”. When the world faced the prospect of WWII, FDR goes on an extended weekend stay to his country home. He understands there is no quick fix to the situation, and he needs all his resilience to lead the US and ultimately the world to peace. Incidentally, he had plenty of time to build his own resilience by overcoming polio and struggling to accept his new normal.