Leading for Resilience during Covid

By Jenny Campbell|April 16, 2020|Leading the Resilient Organisation|

leadership covid, coronavirus leadership, covid-19, covid UK, UK leaders, leadership UK

You are probably reading all sorts of things that you should be doing right now. Your staff are being furloughed or redeployed. If keyworkers they are exhausted, and they fear bringing home the virus to their families. Some people  feel isolated, others feel energised. You may feel all of these things also, and multiple times in the same day.

You are being told in the media and in the business press to be caring and compassionate, to lead with heart. To manage to connect well in order to absorb anxiety. And yet inside your business, the message is also is to keep going, get focussed, manage the risks, handle the downturn in revenue, reduce costs, do, do, do everything now, it’s all priority.

How can you manage to keep both perspectives?

Resilience. Resilient Leadership is the way through this. Resilience is your capacity for change.  It’s not just about coping or bouncing back. Its is far more strategic than that. IT’s about being able to be proactive. In times of difficulty, its about holding to very clear intentions that are truly the priority, and letting go of everything else. Its about expecting to have to let go, to reconfigure, to re-evaluate, to fail and get back up. IT’s about investing in learning so that you adapt quickly.

Those with the highest resilience are not being hijacked right now, they are investing deliberately, daily, in enabling resilience in themselves and their people.

The Resilience Engine has been over ten years of research into resilience. We can see the need for resilience everywhere of course. We also can soundly dispel the myths that resilience is complicated. Of course some of the deeper stuff is about beliefs and values, but most of what makes for resilience is entirely practical. The Resilient Leadership Principles include the following

  1. Help people take responsibility for their own resilience

Do not rescue where you do not need to.

Those with sufficient resilience – coping or upwards – do not need to be rescued. They need to be energised, to feel connected to their purpose in work, they need clarity on what they need to enact on and what to let go, they need to be listened to and supported, and they need autonomy.

  1. Set out your top intentions clearly. And give control to those in the hot seats.

Do not say that it’s all priority. It is not. Do the work of leadership and strip it back to the real fundamentals. Set out your intentions clearly, be sure of why these are the top ones, and let go of everything else.

  1. Set out to listen and learn

Psychological safety comes fundamentally from a culture of listening. Not listening in order to speak. or counter the argument or show you know a lot. It’s about just listening.

This goes hand in hand with learning. Looking out for the evidence of what is working and not working, not making assumptions but looking truthfully, and learning the implications and planning/executing against these insights, that is a mark of higher resilience. At times of challenge if you do not have capacity for learning you are going to get stuck.

  1. Notice if you get stuck on extremes

The drive for control is evident right now. However the ‘Mediocrity Loop’ is often triggered as a result. People get asked to report on everything, autonomy goes out of the window, every decision is made by a small number in the organisation, and things slow down massively. It’s the opposite of agile, and triggers a drop in performance.

The second extreme is the get-tough response which is to satisfy people’s drive to be busy, busy, busy. It’s a false economy. Whilst there is a sense of coping, there is in fact a slow degradation of energy, connection, meaning and engagement.  Resilience in the near term is protected, but is in danger of leaking out of the organisation.

How do you spot if you’re getting stuck in one of these? Listen out for it.

  1. In supporting, do not patronise

Do not expect one silver bullet approaches will work; everyone will have a different reaction. Account for their start points. Offer different pathways of support. Group chats for some, space for reflection for others.

The two top enablers of resilience is Being Present and Energy.

How can any individual, any team help themselves be present in what they are doing? Each will have their own pathway, but always it will form some form of slowing down, pausing for a moment.

Energy is equally individual. One person may need to ride their bike, another may need to laugh with friends, another may need to complete a task to get satisfaction. Do not assume, but do encourage your team leaders to consider what will energise their teams right now.

  1. Put support mechanisms in place for those overwhelmed and not coping

The other side of enabling responsibility, is indeed spotting those that are in danger.

Fragmentation, one of the resilience states from the Resilience Engine’s model, shows that people who are not coping often cannot see this in themselves. Others see anger, frustration, poor decision making, procrastination, short-termism, unpredictable behaviour. These are all signs of Fragmentation. If someone is in this state, they need to get help in becoming more present – ‘Being Present’ to use a Resilience Engine term – which will help their wellbeing, and also their perspective. Then it’s about regaining their energy – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.

Leaders cannot do this all by themselves, but they certainly can set up processes and structures to help people do this.

The bottom line? As a leader, if you’re not sure where to start with all of this, start with looking at yourself and your senior team. If you can embrace these six factors for yourselves, your organisational resilience will start to flow more easily. Change always starts with you.

Jenny Campbell, CEO The Resilience Engine


From The Resilience Engine® research model

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