[029] How to Build your Resilience as an Entrepreneurial Leader

Our resilience can be impacted and affected in a number of ways by different factors. Building resilience is fundamental for surviving and thriving as an entrepreneurial leader.  My Resilience Playbook, which you can download here will help you to consider how you can build your resilience, and how you can avoid it being affected in the future.

What is Resilience?

Resilience is the ability to:

  • Bounce back from adversity;
  • Keep going when things get hard, or when you are lacking motivation;
  • Pace yourself so that you can cope successfully, and with the ups and downs of life and work.

It is a moveable feast. Our ability to cope fluctuates depending on a whole range of things, including:

  • What else might be going on;
  • Who else is involved;
  • What has actually happened;
  • Whether you, or someone else, are having a good or bad day.

Resilience is important because resilient people:

  • Continue to grow;
  • Focus on what they can control;
  • Take on, and stick at, challenges;
  • Think positively;
  • Have better mental health;
  • Are more able to engage and communicate with other people, including when things get pressured.

Protecting Your Resilience: Are You Taking On Too Much?

Taking on too much, and trying to achieve more than we have the capacity to deliver, can negatively impact resilience, especially if it happens over an extended period of time.

Some people thrive on being overly busy, whereas others feel overwhelmed more easily. We are all different. However, every one person has the limit to how much they can take on, and not being able to do everything is no reflection on your ability to do your job.

Sometimes, of course, we have to deal with projects that are full-on for a specific period only, and we know that there is an end point and light at the end of the tunnel. When the overload is more a usual way of life and down to no specific project or event, though, it’s vital that you address it.

Photo: Taking time to pause, even if it’s just to gaze out of the train window for a while, is shown to help with overall wellbeing

Strategies for Dealing with Overload

In some businesses, working at stretch is normal, and people are expected to deal effectively with their workload so that they achieve the expectations of the business. I have seen companies in which everyone seems to be overloaded. Whilst this may seem like a highly productive environment, from my observations employees tend to be less engaged, customers more frequently dissatisfied and more time is spent correcting errors and quality issues to be truly productive.

If you are a leader of or in a business like this, I strongly recommend that you slow down to go faster. You can achieve this by having a focused business plan and growth strategy which gives you complete clarity of the projects and activities you should be saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to.

Whether you’re a leader or an employee of an overloaded organisation, protect yourself and keep your resilience intact by:

  1.  Knowing which things really make a difference to your performance, and how it is perceived.
  2. Only focus on those things that really make a difference.

We all have tedious, non-value-adding tasks we need to do from time-to-time, and my recommendation is for you to do these as efficiently as you can. If possible, delegate or outsource them. For example, a Head of Marketing, I work with ‘outsources’ her monthly expense form completion to her teenage daughter for a small sum, and both of them win!

Perhaps you feel like it’s not the business you work for, it’s only you who has challenges with workload. Either way, these strategies will make a significant difference to how you feel, as well as to your productivity.

Strategy 1: Work to a time budget

Working to a time budget is similar to working to a financial budget: it means only committing to spend the time you actually have, so that you avoid not having enough time to go round, your time debt creating stress and under-performance.

Time budgeting also means investing your attention and energy in work that will generate the highest return for you, and avoid wasting time when the return is low.

People who overcommit are often overly optimistic about how much time they have, and what they can get done within that time.

Every one of us has a limit of 168 hours per week for sleep, health, family, leisure, work and everything else.

Create a time budget for the next seven days using the planner in the free Resilience Playbook download.

Now go back to the planner and in the work times add in:

  • Key deadlines.
  • Meetings.
  • Specific tasks that you need to get done in the coming week.
  • Training, if applicable.
  • Preparation time (you working alone on something you need to do).

Does the work that you have to do fit into your working hours, without spilling into evenings and weekends to an acceptable level? If so, that is great. Unexpected things will pop up, but overall if you broadly stick to your time budget, you know that things will get done, that your work is under control, and you’re likely to feel somewhat more relaxed just knowing that.

If your workload does not fit into the time available, you need to decide what you will:

  • Ditch completely.
  • Delegate to someone else.
  • Renegotiate deadlines for.
  • Renegotiate/reconsider quality standards for.

Make a new time budget that you can stick to. Write your notes on what you will do about the things that have come out of your new time budget. You can use the specially designed planner in the free Resilience Playbook, which you can download here.

Photo: Time in nature helps us to relax and rebalance
Strategy 2: Learn how to say no

Do you think you take on too much because you want other people to be pleased with you? It can feel hard to say ‘no’ to work assignments sometimes, especially when the person asking is your boss! And you don’t want to appear lazy, or for your colleagues to think that you’re not a team player. A good tip is that you can say ‘no’ without actually saying ‘no’.

Always keep a running list of all your projects, tasks and deadlines along with status updates, that you can produce at any time to show what you’re working on. This will help massively with your own workload planning and dealing with ad hoc requests. It will also help you to communicate what you’re working on to your boss and colleagues.

If your boss asks you to do something in addition, and you’re already at capacity, use this technique, speaking a really positive and helpful (rather than negative and defensive) way:

“I can do [insert bosses’ new request] by the deadline. I also have [itemise your one key commitment] due by [insert deadline], and then [insert more key commitments] due by [insert deadlines]. How do you suggest we prioritise so that they all get done?”

Alternatively, whenever someone asks you to do something by a certain date, make it a rule for yourself (unless it clearly is a ‘JDI’ – just do it! – instruction), that you never agree to it on the spot. Instead, say you will take it away and reflect on what you need to do to get it done, what you can flex/change, and a realistic deadline for completion. This will show that you’re thoughtful about your work, and your commitments, and avoid jumping in to agree to things you may not have the time capacity to achieve.

Protecting Your Resilience – Dealing with Criticism

Receiving criticism is essential if we are to develop and grow. But being on the receiving end of criticism can mean that your resilience takes a knock if you do not know how to deal with it. Think about a time recently when someone criticised you for something for something at work. How well did you respond, based on the do’s and don’ts in your free playbook download?

Other Factors Affecting Resilience

Other common reasons for resilience being negatively affected at work are difficult people or relationships, and dealing with criticism or behaviour that is inappropriate and/or unjustified.

Dealing with change can also have an effect on resilience.

If you’d like to extend your work on resilience, I highly recommend you have a look at taking the free i-resilience questionnaire by Robertson and Cooper.

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