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Developing Personal & Team Resilience

In this episode:

In today’s unpredictable and disruptive business environment, resilience is an increasingly important skill for leaders at all levels, but what does developing resilience look like in practice? How can an individual leader work to develop their personal resilience while also empowering their teams to do the same? 

For this livestream learning event, moderated by Bryan Benjamin, Executive Director of the Ivey Academy, we’re joined by three Ivey Coaches: Alicia Saint, Nancy Dewar, and Shakeel Bharmal. Together, our panelists will discuss the complex challenges involved in building resilience as individuals and within teams and share advice for how to overcome them, drawing upon their collective experiences working with diverse leaders.


Other ways to listen:

Additional Resources

Developing Agility, Team Resilience and Balanced Leadership to Thrive in a Time of Uncertainty by Shakeel Bharmal (LinkedIn Article)

How to Measure Resilience With These 8 Scales by Positive Psychology (Article)

Real Leaders: Ernest Shackleton Leads a Harrowing Expedition by HBR IdeaCast (Podcast Episode)

Radical Candour in 6 minutes with Kim Scott (Video)

Radical Candour Podcast


During the livestream event, we had many audience members asking questions in the Q&A segment and could not answer them all live. Here, with the help of our panel of coaches, we share insights on some of the questions we didn't get to in the session.

Q: Are there tests/assessments that can measure resilience?

There are many leadership and personality tests that can help a leader get a clearer sense of their resilience and potential weak points. Here are some examples shared by our coaches:


Q: How important is it for leaders to have a daily meditative practice to build personal equanimity and become able to walk-the-talk with internal resilience?

Developing your resilience is a highly personalized process without a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all approach. For some leaders, perhaps daily meditative practice is necessary for their development, but that doesn’t mean it is crucial for others. Further, what practices might help an individual be resilient throughout one challenge might not be as effective in a different context.

Critical reflection and intentional exercises in resilience are important for leadership development, but that will look very different on each individual. What’s most important on this journey is getting to know yourself and understanding what works for you. Assessment tools and working with a coach can be a really helpful ways to understand what your personal approach to resiliency practice should look like.


Q: Any advice for leaders who have members of the team who don't take any accountability for themselves when it comes to resiliency?

Building resilience in teams and how team members show up is highly context-dependent, so our recommendation is to take the time to reflect upon why those individuals might be struggling to take accountability with resilience. Some questions worth considering are:

  1. As a leader, what level of resilience do I expect from my team, and is that level of resilience sustainable? 
  2. As a leader, how am I supporting individuals to develop resilience? Is my approach to facilitating this growth compatible with each team member’s individual needs and personality?
  3. Do I create an environment that invites individual team members to express vulnerability when they experience challenges? Do I approach these discussions with compassion and really try to understand their perspectives?
  4. If an individual seems to really be struggling to understand their own role in their resiliency (or lack thereof), are there ways I can help them develop a sense of accountability? For example, using assessments such as the ones listed above might be a great first step in helping them understand what skills they need to develop further.

Episode transcript:

SHAKEEL BHARMAL: That's how I think about it as leaders is pay attention to the emotions, the feelings that you have yourself in response to the way other people are feeling.

SEAN ACKLIN GRANT: Welcome to Leadership In Practice, your source for new research, insights, and practical advice on critical issues in business. Presented by the Ivey Academy. In today's unpredictable and disruptive business environment, resilience is an increasingly important skill for leaders at all levels. But what does resilience look like in practice? How can an individual leader work to develop their personal resilience while also empowering their teams to do the same?

In this episode, we're joined by three certified leadership coaches from the Ivey coaching community, Alicia Saint, Nancy Dewar, and Shakeel Bharmal. Together, our panelists explore the complex challenge of building resilience, drawing on their collective experiences, working with diverse leaders to give practical advice.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: My name is Bryan Benjamin, and I'm the Director here at the Ivey Academy. Today's session is all about building resilience, examining what that looks like in practice, both as an individual leader and when fostering resilience within teams and organizations more broadly.

For this discussion, we're joined by three members of our own Ivey coaching community. I'm going to go through a couple of introductions here before we get going. So first up is Alicia Saint. Alicia is an executive coach with 25 years of corporate experience across the consumer packaged goods and health and beauty industries.

Alicia's expertise spans sales, marketing, supply chain, and mergers and acquisitions where she leverages this expertise to guide c-suite and senior leaders, as well as teams through complex challenges in fast paced environments. She excels at helping her clients adapt, innovate, and lead with purpose, supporting clients to build resilience and develop sustainable solutions that benefit both their teams and their organizations.

Next up is Nancy Dewar, also an executive coach as well as a keynote speaker renowned for her global experience and engaging style. With over 30 years of senior level experience in sales, marketing, and operations, Nancy has a deep understanding of the challenges that leaders face today. An accomplished author, Nancy has contributed significantly to the field of coaching with her books, Coaching 101, a Simplified Guide to Coaching in Business and One Wild, Precious Life.

Thirdly, we're joined by Shakeel Bharmal. Shakeel is an executive coach who specializes in strategy development, revenue growth, and leading change initiatives across diverse sectors. The extensive leadership experience includes roles in start ups, organizational transformations, product launches, and turnarounds.

From his early career as a sales manager, director of marketing and sales effectiveness, and general manager in the energy, retail, and transportation logistics industries, to his more recent roles as a chief operating officer and director of development with the global NGO, Shakeel has demonstrated his adeptness in fostering growth and innovation.

Three amazing panelists. I cannot wait to dig in. Let's actually maybe dig into what do we mean by resilience. It's a word and a term that we're hearing a whole lot of these days. But I always worry when you hear about something a lot is, is everyone actually talking about the same thing? So, Alicia, I'm going to bring you first into the conversation. And it'd be great to hear a little bit more about resilience means from your perspective.

ALICIA SAINT: Yeah, Thank you, Bryan. Thank you. I agree. I think it's a big word. And I think it can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I always go to a dictionary first, like, what does it actually mean in the dictionary? When I looked it up it was to withstand or recover quickly. I really liked the definition just to spring back into shape like an elastic. So I think that's a really great way to think about resilience.

I love using the metaphor or the proverb, the Japanese proverb fall down seven times, get up eight. At the end of the day, I think it's-- the question is, how well am I coping? How can I cope? How resilient am I amidst all this change?

And I think the other thing is, when I work with my clients it's about I'll-- and you'll hear lots of questions, right, that's what coaches do, we ask lots of questions-- is, what does it look like when you see resilience? When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I think that comes to mind for a lot of folks on that's what resilience looks like, the ability to lean in and keep moving forward.

And often you'll see a steadiness and almost a calm that comes over. I think about the military, I think about paramedics when you think about resilient leaders and resilient teams. I think also when I think about resilience, you can feel it. You can feel it when you have it and you can feel it when you don't.

And so resilience when you have it, you feel like, OK, I can keep doing, I can keep moving forward, I can lean in. I'm inspired even. I feel some energy, I feel some fuel. What I like to say about resilience, it's a whole body experience. You know it in your mind, you know It in your body. And so knowing all of that, it really requires a lot of attention and focus.

And I think that's where coaching really, really can help with resilience because we're all facing a lot of change and the brain doesn't like change, right. The brain is like they want-- it wants to be on autopilot. So in order to face change and pull on that resilience, it requires a lot of energy.

And it requires really being able to regulate because your brain sort of goes off-kilter, right. If there's an unknown, there's a fear, your emotions start kicking in, your body starts kicking in, and so that's why I think you really know when you have it and when you don't.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Thank you for getting us started and for, I think, for some different perspectives. I agree with you, we're not hardwired for change. Some are better, some are not. But also that concept of resilience isn't a build it and have it forever. Nancy, let's get your voice into the conversation here. What do you have to add around resilience?

NANCY DEWAR: Ironically, we've been all through a very difficult time through the pandemic. And whether or not we think that we've built resilience, we probably have because we had to. And I think as leaders, what we're seeing is a tremendous amount of burnout, people trying to deal with the speed of change, and really having to really go deep into finding how am I going to move forward differently?

What are the things that I have in my toolkit that can really help me from my experience, from my support systems, to really help me as I'm trying to understand and navigate this new world? I think the pandemic really forced all of us to think about how we move forward in our lives personally, and then, of course, now in leadership, we're seeing it more and more.

And I think as we work with our coaches and help them through some of these situations that they're dealing with, trying to understand how do I adapt to change as quickly as it's coming at me. How do I not only understand the change for myself, but also when I'm leading others, how do I help others through the change?

And so resilience is something that, of course, comes from us personally. We have to have our own personal way that we deal with our own resilience as leaders that can then really help us as we navigate for our teams. And so as coaches, we really start there. Of course, we look at that whole person, what's happening with them, what are they doing personally to help themselves with resiliency, and then that can really help them in their role as a leader and moving forward differently.

So it's a very difficult topic. As Alicia said, many different people have different understandings of what it is, but at the end of the day, all of us have to feel good about we moved through the pandemic. So we have a level of resiliency that maybe we don't think we have and sometimes we have to lean back on that and remember that we made it through a difficult time, we can do hard things and we can move forward differently.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Thank you, Nancy. And thank you for also referencing-- we've got lots of leaders who join us for our live stream series-- is that dual role. So it's me as an individual often going through something or building strength to tackle something new, but also supporting others and recognizing that it's not easy on your own, let alone being able to be there, support others as needed. Shakeel, let's hear some comments from you on this.

SHAKEEL BHARMAL: I really love that we're having this conversation because one of the things I've observed, and I think we've all observed over time, is that we have these words that come into Vogue and we sometimes overuse them. Reengineering back in the day, and candor is something that comes up a lot. And resilience has become one of those words.

So I think taking the time and opportunity to really break it down and talk about it makes it real again, and as Nancy said, makes us realize that it's something we can work with and grow and develop. For me, I think that resilience, we use it as an adjective. It's an adjective to describe a team, an adjective to describe a person.

It is, of course, an adjective, but it's also a set of practices, a set of competencies, a set of mindsets, a way of looking at the world. And like all competencies and mindsets and practices, they can be worked on. They can be deliberately grown, developed, and practiced.

One of the things that I've seen is sometimes the word resilience is kind of a binary state. You either have it or you don't. And I think one of the things we've learned from the work around growth mindset is everything you have can be developed. You might have to work hard at it, but everything can be developed. And I think resilience is one of those things.

In my view, the way to work on it, I think it's in stages. For a quick example, before a crisis or a difficult circumstance, we've learned that the degree of outcomes are uncertain. So we know something's going to happen that we didn't expect. And so before something happens, before we start a new initiative, before we enter a new initiative or an event, we can prepare, we can talk about what might go wrong. We can ask ourselves, what do we need to do to be ready during an event.

I think we've learned more than ever during the pandemic how, as a team, can we conduct ourselves to get through difficult circumstances. How can we treat each other, how can we create safe space, how can we do that during. And then there's the after period, again, time for recovery, making sure we unplug a little bit, making sure we reflect, making sure we take the time to say, what did we learn? What went well and why? What did we do about that? What didn't go so well and why?

And so for me, it's a set of practices. There are some things you can do before, during, and after. And I think that way we can continue to strengthen our resilience over time.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: I like the non-binary, you don't have it or you do have it. It's this broader continuum. And I'm seeing scenarios where someone's like, I thought I had resilience and then, you know what, something else just happened. And then I made it through that and then another thing.

It's like almost like, I don't know if I can take another surprise. Whether it's in personal life, whether it's at work, whether it's sort of a combination, but this idea of it's a continuous sort of state of development and awareness.

I love the idea of let's just not keep it surface level. Like, let's really dig in terms of what does it mean for each and every person. As leaders, we want to be cognizant of resilience. We're paying attention to our teams and we're supporting our teams. It's not always obvious what somebody is going through, especially if it's a non-work related challenge.

And it might be really draining on the resilience reserves, even if they had that to begin with. How do leaders sort of know where their team is as it relates to resilience, especially when it's not just work? We carry our whole selves into work all the time.

NANCY DEWAR: Honestly, working with teams, I think it's one of the things that you first have to evaluate. And I think it comes out pretty quickly when you see their level of motivation, their confidence, and they're asking questions around, I don't know if I can do that or I don't have the skill sets. It's really about evaluating, right out of the gate, where are we at and what levels do we need to go to to really help this team, and where do we start from?

And I think it's interesting, really interesting to see teams that come together and really utilize each other's strengths. And so maybe I don't feel it right now, but I know that somebody else on my team, I can really lean into them and they can help and support me. And that's, really, that great thing about doing some team coaching too is that you can really elevate those conversations quickly and help build confidence, help build that team dynamic, and really help people leverage each other in a different way.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: That's saying around the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, I love that. Leaning on each other and being able to strike the right balance is maybe I need you this week and you're going to need me next week, who knows. Alicia, Shakeel, your thoughts on this.

SHAKEEL BHARMAL: Yeah, I was-- one of the things that I think we all know just by being human is that we don't just perceive the words that are said in a room. We perceive emotions, we perceive feelings. We have that ability to just feel. That's empathy.

And so just reminding ourselves that when we notice there's tension or a feeling, not just to notice it and then let it go, notice it and think about doing something with it. Now, that doesn't always mean, oh, you know, I noticed you're looking a little stressed today. How are you?

That can be a bit intrusive sometimes and may not even be appropriate. But it might be, oh, I've just noticed this person on my team is having a tough time. As I'm asking them to do things, I might take an extra moment to get their reaction to what I'm asking them to do. As I'm watching them with other people, I might just watch how are those engagements going so that you are adding information to your perceptions.

And then, yes, at the appropriate time if you've gathered enough, go with the human instinct and check in on people and make sure they're doing OK. So that's how I think about it as leaders is pay attention to the emotions, the feelings that you have yourself in response to the way other people are feeling.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: And we've got some pretty amazing hardwiring as humans, and that empathy piece to be able to draw on that. I really like that comment is it's not always the right thing to do is, like, how are you? Because you sometimes get the I'm fine, and then we go off on our own ways and maybe we miss an opportunity. So observe, pay attention, be cognizant and lean in, as you mentioned, when it makes sense. Alicia, any thoughts on that?

ALICIA SAINT: Yeah, I would just add a couple of things and maybe just emphasize a couple of things. One is watch for it. As a leader, slow yourself down, because a lot of the leaders I work with, they're so busy in the doing, and the doing and the doing that they're actually missing the cues.

So the first thing I would emphasize and what's been said here is slow yourself down and get intentional. Like, what is the resilience reserve of my team? How's the team doing as a system? How are individuals doing? I also get a lot of questions. I just had this yesterday where a client was like, huh, it just it doesn't feel right. It's awkward. It's something's off.

And so with the exploration it's like, well, how can you ask? And the leader is like, oh, right, what if I just asked? Sometimes it's just being vulnerable enough to ask. I think also in my experience, heading up the board for ICF, what I've seen is that I'll get-- one of the other board members will reach out to me and say, hey, I just want to check in on so-and-so. I'm noticing that they're not as vocal or they're not as present or, is everything OK?

And I find that really helpful as a leader too because it's like, oh, you know what, you're right. And what Shakeel is saying, start watching for it. And then just-- because everyone says, I'm fine, I'm fine, everything's fine, don't worry about me, it's like I'm just noticing, I'm just noticing. Is everything OK? Is there something I can help you with?

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Perception is reality. And it's just-- here's how I'm picking it up on it, what's causing this and digging in. And a leader long ago taught me the 22nd pause, which is when you ask the question around how are things going, let it sit for a while because I'm as guilty as the next person. It's fine. Let's move on. But let it sit and be comfortable with that.

Shakeel you started us off a little bit earlier, and then Nancy and Alicia, you gave some really great context. I want to dig in a bit more around building resilience and sort of tactical and practical things that we can do, maybe with an emphasis first on building resilience outside the moment of needing resilience. So I do want to tackle what happens when I need it most and maybe I don't have it or I need to be a little more of it. But what can I be doing on an ongoing basis as an individual leader for myself and for my team in terms of putting credit in the bank, the resilience bank.

SHAKEEL BHARMAL: Yeah, I love that. I love the whole concept of before preparation. I'm going to talk about it from two dimensions. The first is from the perspective of the individual leader that you mentioned there. I think what's really important is that the leader understands that to lead through times of uncertainty, which seems to be every day right now, is getting comfortable with holding what are seemingly opposites in styles of leadership.

The first is recognizing and owning the fact that as a leader, I have responsibility to provide clarity of direction. And that clarity of direction sets a foundation for the leader themselves, but also the team. So you can draw that clarity of direction from vision, mission, kind of values of the organization, the strategy of the organization. You can draw it from a set of practices that you've developed as a leader.

But being very clear on two or three things that I want to make sure I provide my team clear direction on examples could be this particular segment of customers is really important to our strategy, or it could be our employee or public safety in this regard is really, really important. We can't compromise on that. Or it might be the way we treat each other or talk to each other is really, really critical. But whatever it is, providing that clear direction.

And then secondly, the second opposite is this recognition that during times of uncertainty, no leader has the answers. No one person knows how things are going to unfold. So you need to nurture the team's ability to be creative, to be innovative.

And that means that you've got to provide, after that foundation of clarity, an environment and a way of facilitating discussion where people can generate ideas that can, with respect, have candor in challenging each other, are comfortable moving super fast and making mistakes, but learning from those mistakes.

So what is seemingly the opposite, providing clear direction but just enough and on just the right things, but then creating the opportunity for flexibility, creativity, learning, open discussion. So that's one aspect. The second aspect I'm actually going to draw from an experience I've had with Ivey. It's a privilege-- I have the privilege of being a coach on the Ivey executive program.

And one of the things that I just love that we do in the Ivey executive program is we put the executives through experiential learning. So I think we know what this is, the picture outdoor activities sometimes in cold weather, ambiguous tasks, challenging tasks, complex tasks where there might not be any real solution and you never have enough information in the instructions.

So we bring in these activities, and before the team embarks on the activity, one of the things we do as coaches is support them in having a conversation before around what's really going to be important here. What kind of team do we want to be? How do we want to treat each other? How are we going to react when things go wrong? What might go wrong?

And if the team has that conversation beforehand, then they go into the task at least better prepared to face the challenge. Of course, during the challenges, things will unfold as they unfold, maybe they'll remember some lessons they learned from the pre conversations, maybe they'll forget because we're all human, but then you come back afterwards and you say, so how did it go? What did you learn? What can we do differently next time?

Which essentially becomes the preparation, the before for the next cycle. And then they go through the next challenge, and we do this three or four times over the course of a couple of days, and they come out stronger, they build some new muscles.

Now, the beauty of this experience is it can be replicated day to day in the work, right. So the before conversation, the during observation, and the after, you can do with real challenges you face, big challenges, small challenges. You can simulate challenges, but that's a practice that I've observed and I absolutely love. And I think it's a great way of practically developing resilience on a team.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: They have this analogy of the gym where you can go to the gym, build the muscle before you really need it, but this idea of you just don't go for a period of time and then forget about it. So that idea of after the program, the practicing and using in the moment opportunities to continue to strengthen and test what you have learned.

SHAKEEL BHARMAL: In the before conversation, part of building the team trust is for each person on the team saying, hey, here's the support I might need and, hey, here's what I'm working on. I'd really appreciate you if you can watch for these things. And then afterwards you help each other, you give each other some feedback, and that is also a double track of helping each other and building a stronger team.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: You got me thinking that was a really interesting perspective on the-- we've talked a bit about, you know, how do you create space and even ask somebody, how are you doing? How can I support you? And why don't we flip it?

What could I do if I need support in terms of, geez, I'm feeling it right now or I'm not feeling it? No one's asking me or I want to initiate it. Alicia, Nancy, how do I do that? Especially if I'm in a leadership role and I'm feeling like, geez, I'm the one that's supposed to be building resilience and supporting others, like, how do I initiate it?

ALICIA SAINT: I can't tell you how many leaders I've had come to me and they're basically running on fumes. It always, to me, starts with the leader. So if they're wanting it from their team, they've got to make sure that they've got it themselves. I like to think about, like, you're the orchestra-- you have an orchestra and you're the conductor. In order for you to be able to really create this beautiful harmony or symphony, you've got to be showing up at your best.

So how do I build resilience? It starts with you. And so if-- I like to use thinking about a gas gauge, where are you on that? Are you running on a full tank or are you actually running on fumes? And if you're running on fumes, that's where it starts.

It starts with self care and it starts with self aware. Like, what am I doing here? What am I not saying no to? What am I-- how Am I living on coffee? How am I doing emails till 12 o'clock at night? How am I getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning so I can get an extra hour or two hours in before the Workday even starts?

So resilience doesn't fall out of the sky. Resilience is intentional. And there are actual practices, and it starts with checking in with yourself. Where's my gas gauge? Am I running on fumes? Do I have the Warning light on? And if it is, then it's to be able to say, OK, I need to take a pause. I need to block my calendar. What are those things that those tools to refuel you so that you can be the conductor?

NANCY DEWAR: Yeah, I would just build on everything that you both have already said, but I would also say as the leader, you create the culture of the team. And I think you really, being able to create in a coaching way-- always try to work with leaders with a coach approach-- how are you stepping into conversations? How are you creating a safe space? How are you empowering people to come forward when they're not feeling at their best to be able to talk to you about that?

That all comes down to, how do I feel about approachability of my leader? And if you're not creating that dynamic and that culture on your team, then you can't really expect people to be coming forward with their best resiliency because they don't feel safe to do that.

So I really think, just as Alicia said, we really have to start with ourselves as leaders, but it's tough. Like, as leaders, we have so much going on. And it does fall on us. And I would say the concept of shared leadership is something that when I'm working with teams, I'm not the only person here driving the bus. We're all driving the bus together and I need your help, but you have to create that sort of understanding with your team.

And as Shakeel was saying, how do you set those things up at the beginning? When we start as a team, what are those expectations? And how do I flow those through loo because I'm role modeling the right things as a leader? So all of those things, I think, are really important, but I think it's the feel of the team, the culture of the team that can really help with that competency of resiliency that you're looking for.

And the other thing I would say on that is really just pointing out when people do things well so that when or when someone has shown resiliency is to say to them, that was fantastic, how you did that. You thought about something, you moved forward in a different way. It was a tough thing that you went through and you got through to the other side. And that was a great learning for the rest of the team. So I also think that we have to point out those accomplishments to our team, and that builds that competency even further.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Really appreciate that comment around that pause, that acknowledgment when it is there, whether it's something that someone demonstrated in themselves, whether they supported someone else and being able to reinforce it. So we're going to shift gears shortly. but I did want to go back to my committed piece around building resilience pre. And then what if we're in the thick of it?

And, maybe I thought I had strong resilience, maybe I did have strong resilience, but to use your expression, Alicia, the gas gauge all of a sudden went really quickly to E. What do I do in the moment where I actually feel like I don't even have the energy to deal with this current situation, let alone. replenish the resilience?

How are we helping-- I hear this all the time from leaders and teams, they're like, oh, my gosh, it's just there's so much wait. Maybe our organization went through some changes and I'm short staffed, maybe an unexpected surprise happened. Like, so many of these pieces. So what do we do in the moment when either we haven't had enough resilience built ahead of time or it just it got depleted?

ALICIA SAINT: I would say take a breath.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: That's a good start. We all just took a breath right there.

ALICIA SAINT: So many leaders I work with I'm like, it's always available to you. And when you actually stop long enough and you just take a breath and you just ask yourself, OK, where am I at right now? What do I need right now? Because what's happening, you're deregulated, so you've got to get yourself sort of back on line, right.

So the power of the pause, the power of the breath and the question, where am I right now? What do I need right now? And it might be I've got to just step out, and then you go into choice, right. So that was my quick, it's always available to you.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: I love the line, it is always available to you. We do it without even thinking. For me, stepping outside, even for-- like walking to somewhere where I could have gone inside, choosing to go outside it's like it's amazing what a reset like that can do. Warm, cold, sunny, rainy, sunny is nicer but fresh air is good. And it sort of goes aligns with that pause. Nancy, do you feel any sort of tips on this one?

SHAKEEL BHARMAL: Well, I love that concept of just name it. If I'm not like feeling up to it or I'm feeling depleted, just, first of all, name it. First of all, name it to yourself and be kind to yourself in the naming of it. And then if you-- whether you have or you haven't built a good kind of trusting team environment-- hopefully you have-- but a great step to build it if it's not already there is to tell the team, managed and measured.

It's not like you're going to completely break down, crying with your team, but you might say that, OK, guys, I'm feeling a little bit anxious or I'm feeling this a difficult circumstance. Anybody else feeling that way? Let's have a little conversation about it.

And, in fact, when the leader says that I'm having a little bit of a struggle now, it gives license to the team to then be able to express themselves and then as a collective, you get through that hump of the difficulty. And I think that part of it is really important.

I think the second thing I would say that we don't do often enough during times of difficulty is it becomes even more important to celebrate small moments of victory. We don't have to wait till the end and say we made it through, it can be, oh, we all made it to this meeting on time, we all read the email. Just taking those moments to celebrate what we're doing to keep moving forward just builds the confidence in the team to get through those difficult times.

NANCY DEWAR: Having those strategies as a leader, recognizing you have to have a strategy for when you are not feeling at your optimal, it's just like having a strategy in business. I'll say, what's your personal strategy? Having people to draw on when you need support systems, whether it's a coach or whether it's your partner or a friend, but really recognizing it and thinking about what are those strategies that I've leveraged in the past that have helped me.

And as Alicia said, sometimes it's just going for a quick walk or doing some of those things, or other times it's more serious. Like if there is a big restructuring that you're going through or it's a really tough time at work and knowing you need the resilience to get through that, what are you doing?

Even from a sleep habit, from a just keeping your mindset where it needs to be, those are strategies as leaders. And that just doesn't mean in the corporate world, that means in your life. And you can pull on those when you need them. And just think about that as a leader, what am I doing to be prepared for those kinds of things?

BRYAN BENJAMIN: How do we build sort of organizational resilience into the fabric of our culture, especially if it isn't there or even there might be some things detracting from our ability to create more resilient organizations. So I guess it's-- we've talked about self, we've talked about team, let's bring it up to the organizational cultural level.

SHAKEEL BHARMAL: I come across this a lot, particularly when I'm coaching a senior leaders, maybe senior VP level or even VP level or director level, where I hear this from them, the organization talks about it but we don't live it.

And sometimes I'll ask the question saying, what are you thinking or feeling that as a leader, you should be saying out loud? So individual leaders, they climb up the ranks, they get to a leadership position, and there's sometimes some ghost programming in the machine where sometimes they slip into, oh, I'm just a cog in the wheel and they forget that, actually, I'm a leader now.

And so as a leader, I have the ability to observe, but I also have the ability to speak and I have the responsibility to speak. So if you're a leader noticing that the organization's not walking the talk, guess what, It starts with you speaking up.

So I have a series of questions here on my wall that I go to when I'm coaching leaders, and I'll say, so what is being felt that is not being said out loud? What are you thinking that isn't being said? What are you saying that's not being heard? And if you're saying it and it's not being heard, what are you going to do differently to make sure it does get heard?

And so just challenging ourselves as leaders. If we notice we don't-- there's some things about the culture we don't appreciate or value, asking ourselves, OK, rather than saying, what's wrong with this place? What's wrong with this culture? What can I do to start moving us in the right direction? Or at least take the time to notice something's not right here. Can we talk about it?

BRYAN BENJAMIN: I love that idea of felt not said. And we know that, right. He's like, oh, I don't know if I want to go there, but we all sense it. So, Nancy.

NANCY DEWAR: From a cultural perspective, we know this is a big piece. This isn't something that changes overnight. There's a lot of work that needs to be put in place, especially if it's not the culture that's functioning at a level that is going to really allow people to thrive within the organization. And so all the things that Shakeel said is definitely so important.

I would say that as leaders, sometimes we really have to take ourselves out and look at the big picture. And are we really communicating our values, our purpose? Coming back to our mission as an organization, and how often are we talking to the teams about those things that are really connecting individual purpose back to organizational purpose?

And when we do that on a regular basis, I think it helps us to, first of all, remember what is it we were trying to achieve here? What is the culture that we are trying to ingrain and role model? And I think we have to ensure that we are committed to constant re-evaluating, but also re-engaging and communicating over and over again, because I don't think organizations get enough of it.

And as you are recognizing there are some things that maybe we're missing that we don't like, then we have to really come back to it and say, OK, what do we want to change? How do we reengage? And what are those values that brought us here in the first place? And how do we tap into that purpose. And I think that's the way that you shift culture. And, of course, it takes time and it just takes reminding sometimes of where we are and where we want to get to.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: It's often easy to lose sight of the bigger picture in the moment, especially when resilience is depleted and maybe the weight is heavier it's like, I'm just trying to get through to the next hour, let alone, OK, let's re-anchor to what's really going on here. And I'm going to keep coming back to that that, pause and take that-- take the breaths. We all have it. It's an eight. Alicia, what are your thoughts on this?

ALICIA SAINT: I think it's also thinking about what you control. So the organization, the company, the whatever isn't living to their values. OK, as a leader of your team, take it down to like, OK, where we're at. What do we control? What do I is the leader control? What do you individually and as a team do we control? What is uncontrollable? It's a great question.

Like, there are just-- you know what, a business is a business and it's got a function, and sometimes we don't love all of it. OK, what part do we actually control? Because once you can feel that you have control back, then you can move into action, choice and action.

And so I would just really encourage it's easy to get the system, the organize is so big, oh, I'm a victim in it. And I love what Shakeel said is like, no, like, what do I own? What do I control? And knowing that then you can go to your values and say, what does it look like?

If we feel we aren't demonstrating resilience, what's underneath that? What would it look like if we did? And where could we start? What's one action? What's one next step? Because all those next steps, next thing you know you've gone a mile.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: As leaders, how do we get these kind of conversations going? Yeah, you mentioned some earlier, sometimes just simply asking a short question and leaving space, but how else-- what other tools can we give leaders for their tool kit in terms of questions they can ask to really uncover effective resilience conversations? And not even just in a situation where the weight is felt or somebody is struggling, just in everyday roles as leaders within organizations.

SHAKEEL BHARMAL: Best questions are the simplest questions, to be honest with you. The best questions are the shortest questions, and sometimes I think we feel like we have to put pressure on ourselves to have the perfect best question. I think a regular practice where you're either asking yourself or you're doing it with a coach and just saying, if I just came out of a meeting that was difficult, why was that so difficult? What happened that made that painful?

OK, so what could I have changed? Back to the question, Alicia, what could I have done differently? What couldn't I have done? Simple, simple questions, right? How am I feeling about this right now? What will matter about this tomorrow or a week from now or a year from now? Simple questions just to get us anchored on just thinking about the problem or the experience from a different perspective.


ALICIA SAINT: One of the questions just to build on questions, one of the questions I love to use is, what are you not seeing? What are you not seeing? Because it really-- I think what you're trying to do, again, is to encourage the leaders and the team to be curious, like come from that growth mindset, that learner mindset because so many of us are rewarded for being an expert, and we get really tied into I'm an expert, I know, I'm all-knowing. Your identity gets tied into it.

And so that ability to be able to go into that curious and act as a learner, like, what is it here I don't see? What is it that I'm not listening for? What am I not intentional about? What's not working? What is working? What's not working? So there's a lot of-- yeah, just like it's amazing.

You just start using these simple, short, what, how, who, when. Watch the why, the why can come across as judgmental. And my clients come back and go, wow, that was so powerful. I just asked, what are we seeing here? And all of a sudden everyone's like quick to offer feedback.

NANCY DEWAR: I would just offer a couple of things to add. One is sometimes we work with leaders, I suggest they create their top 10 question list and have it handy. So when you go into one on ones, just bring that question list with you and that can, when you're stumped, you go to your question list and you pull one up and you can utilize it in the moment.

The other thing I'd say on that, my favorite question is, what else? And I think what else is something that causes me to pause because it forces the other person to keep talking. And I will say what else probably four or five times sometimes in a session, and it really does keep people talking.

And the other practical tool, I'd say, is the wait. Why am I still talking-- yeah, why am I still talking? So having that as something that-- I have these post-it notes all over my office, things that remind me I need to stop talking and I need to start listening deeper.

And that deep listening is where I'm getting all of those cues as a leader as to what's really going on. And when I slow myself down, then I can really hear what's being said or not being said at a level two, level three listening where I'm ready to really understand in a different way.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: I like the wait, I mean, I'm going to have a post-it note on that one. I'll stick it on my laptop, am I talking? Giving sort of space. A lot of us haven't been sort of taught how to be effective listener, like true listening, like to really understand and to bring sort of awareness and understanding.

But, again, that idea of, and what else? It's like, actually, maybe there is a little bit more, maybe-- and then the real good stuff comes out or the real important stuff maybe after a couple of times. And I've got to say, I'm feeling it as much as is most of the people I seem to be talking to this day, it just feels like the need for resilience is stronger than ever right now.

We came through a pandemic, the financial challenges, wars around the world, geopolitics, it's like, oh, my gosh. And then there's life outside of work and sort of family. It's just like it's everywhere. And leaders are saying, is this a point in time? Is it always been like that? It feels weightier right now for some reason. Is it going to get worse in the future?

I know none of us here have crystal balls but I'm sure you're hearing this in your coaching conversations around-- just this point in time right now just feels like it's demanding a little more resilience or maybe it's testing our resilience a little bit more.

SHAKEEL BHARMAL: So I do think there's truth and there's a lot coming at us right now. In your list of things there's supply chain disruption, cost of living, AI's impact on all sorts of things. So, absolutely, there's a lot of forces.

But if you really take a big step back and look at all of humanity over time and you think about what was happening in the world 1,000 years ago, what was it like and death and disease and war and all these things that are going on, every time has its challenges. And I'm sure resilience was probably the second word that was invented in, but nobody put a word to it. But this idea of making it through harsh times, there's a saber tooth tiger over there. I've got to survive.

There's no food in the winter, what am I going to do? So these things have happened for generations and generations. I think, though, that the nature of the challenges and the pace of the change and the degree of uncertainty, while at the same time the expectation for performance and solutions, is probably-- the combination is probably different than what it would have been in the past. So I think there's truth.

So let's just all be kind to each other and say, yeah, no, no, it is tough. It is tough. Nobody's got the answer, nobody's got to figure it out. No matter what their Facebook or Instagram or photos say, nobody's got it figured out. So, really, it's about saying, OK, so if nobody's got to figure it out, how do we get through tomorrow? How do we anticipate the various possible scenarios that might happen? And how do we just enjoy the moment for a bit?

BRYAN BENJAMIN: I wrote down a whole bunch on this, that whole idea of the saber tooth tiger. It's like, OK, geez, what's the impact of AI? I don't know if I was worried about it as this big thing over my shoulder but you're right, it's that combination. I wrote down enjoy, and I know it's easier said than done, and in some moments it feels like the furthest thing from reality or possibility but if we're always thinking it's going to get better or easier tomorrow, we've got to find that right balance to be a little bit more in the moment.

SHAKEEL BHARMAL: We have to laugh more, right. We have to laugh.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: I love laughing.

SHAKEEL BHARMAL: I was feeling a little bit down myself, probably a little bit overwhelmed in October last year, so I went to an improv drop in. And I enjoyed it so much I signed up for a course. And what I did for-- they asked me, why are you here? What are you trying to-- are you trying to get better at improv?

I said, no, I just want some scheduled but spontaneous laughter in my week. Now, it turns out it's helping me build resilience and agility and all sorts of things. But put ourselves in circumstances that can create some levity and some fun and some laughter, that can be done intentionally.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: We have a faculty member here at Ivey that leads improv, and we did it with our team a year ago, and people still talk about it. It was amazing what it does just in terms of, I feel a sense of relief. So this is our 30 second sort of rapid fire round. I want to hear from each of you one more time, one take away, one piece of advice, one something as it relates to resilience, building resilience, replenishing resilience, individuals, leaders, what you got.

NANCY DEWAR: You only have one life. And are you living your life the way you want to? And what are you doing to create happiness for yourself? And being a great leader, that's part of your brand and you want to ensure that you're helping people around you. Show that kindness, show the empathy, and really trust yourself, follow your instincts, and really do for yourself what's going to bring you happiness and for your team.


SHAKEEL BHARMAL: Resilience is a set of practices, competencies, mindsets that we can get better at. And maybe the unintended consequence, if we can put that into practice and be more resilient, we actually will also strengthen our agility. And our agility might actually help us prevent certain things from going wrong because we're faster to respond. And so it's a mutually reinforcing thing that actually makes us perform better and maybe even sometimes reduces the need for as much resilience. So that's my takeaway.


ALICIA SAINT: Think about resilience as a gas tank and just constantly asking yourself, where are we? Yourself, your team, your system that you're in. And when you're noticing you're running on fumes, what do we need? What do I need? What do you need? And I would say it starts with getting to know yourself.

Change is a psychological, it's a physiological, it is real. It creates real stress in your body and in your mind and in your heart and everywhere. It does require intention, and it requires intention. And so like Nancy says, get busy so that you're living your best life.

SEAN ACKLIN GRANT: Thank you for tuning in to Leadership in Practice. We'd like to thank our guests Alicia Saint, Nancy Dewar, and Shakeel Bharmal. Leadership in Practice is produced by Joanna Shepherd, Rachel Jackson, and me, Sean Acklin Grant. Editing and audio mix by Carol Eugene Park.

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