There are many facets to the idea of resilience, and last week I spoke about an important starting point…managing your stress. This week I’m taking a look at another important skill that underpins resilience; effective self-management.
We see leaders and professionals applying effective self-management when they face issues in their personal lives, and yet they are able to remain highly effective in their roles at work and other parts of their lives. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t dealing with the problem at hand, it simply means that they are able to ensure that the problem is contained, understood and dealt with in such a way that the impact on other parts of their lives is minimised. To be clear though, this is different to those people who appear to be coping effectively on a social level, when the reality is that they are not managing, or dismissing the severity of, the problems they may be experiencing in other parts of their lives.
This article will focus on my experiences with those who self-manage in a healthy way. We will take a Self-Management 101 approach to stimulate your thinking around how you can integrate this skill into your life.
To start with, I’ll give you a tangible example of what’s meant by self-management in this context…
When we design an organisation, or when an engineer designs the building in which the organisation will live, there is an interesting principle applied. That is, to ensure that if one part of the business is impacted negatively, it has minimal effect on the other. For example, ensuring that if there is a fire in the storeroom, it won’t affect the server room nearby containing all of that valuable information. Or in an organisational design, ensuring that there is a contingency in place to ensure a division, function or an entire organisation can still be led despite the unexpected departure of a key leader. In both of these examples there are measures that ensure healthy continuity. The storeroom separate to the server room, and a talent and succession program that is conducted in parallel to the everyday leadership of the organisation.
So how does this apply to resilience? In simple terms, a resilient person is able to manage a crisis in one part of their life whilst limiting its impact on the other parts of themselves. Or, in a more proactive way, knowing how to use the unaffected parts of their life to help them overcome the crisis or at least provide some measure of compensation.
It may sound complicated, but it’s easier than you think. You are a system that is comprised of many interdependent parts, just as in the above examples. So how do you build in your own fail safe contingencies? Let’s look at it using three simple aspects, body, mind and career:
You rely on your body to get you around; if you are always down with the flu, having a sore back or injuring yourself it’s pretty clear what the flow on effect will be. Remember, your body is what people see first… first impressions count; not just in the job interview, but also as a leader your overall demeanour is critical. If you fail to look after yourself this can have a negative flow on to how you feel about yourself, how you see yourself and other internal factors.
Your body may be in great shape, but how about your general sense of self? Your ability to understand who you are, being aware of your knowledge gaps and continually seeking to close them is an important contributor to overall health and well-being. We have all seen the link between depression and lack of exercise or over-eating.
Your career may be doing ok…but for how long? What’s important to be doing today to ensure that your career takes you where you want to be? Importantly, you may be in a job that is uninspiring or miserable. You can self-manage here as well. If you can’t be in the job you want, seek the stimulation elsewhere; such as through increasing your skills and knowledge or improving your physical well-being.
So how can you work with these components to ensure you remain resilient when you need it most? Here are some ideas.
1. Prevent a physical problem from become psychological problem
If you get injured or suffer illness it’s easy to succumb to the downward spiral which can easily impact on how you see yourself and how you think others see you. This in turn can have a direct impact on the perception you have of your ability. However, if you self-manage, you can see the injury or illness for what it is and seek to understand why it happened, and what needs to happen for the illness or injury to be dealt with, without letting it slip into anything greater. You can also use the period of recovery to ‘sharpen the saw’ as Steven Covey would say and learn something new.
2. Prevent a psychological problem from becoming physical
If you failed in your last exam, or have been having a rough time at college with your latest subjects, self-managing can assist again. Most of us have been there, when our bodies seem to lack energy because we are struggling with an issue. This may seem a little more difficult to deal with, however if you sense that you are down or feeling challenged (emotionally or intellectually), using your body to do some exercise can be just the stimulus to help prevent the issue from having a negative flow on effect physically. That doesn’t mean that you dismiss the problem; not at all. Take a rational approach to analysing the what, why and how of the situation. The cause and effect. What do you own as opposed to what the other party owns? Keep your thinking in the here and now. Personally, I find that some physical exercise can be a perfect accompaniment to analysing the situation, and sometimes just the spark to finding the solution. At the worst, it helps ensure that my body and physical health doesn’t suffer at the hands of a problem…a problem that I may not even own!
Another aspect of self-management is to understand when your education or your emotional awareness needs a boost. Often, depending on the subject, developing one can positively impact on the other!
3. Optimise your career by ‘keeping it real’!
The same principles apply to your career. If your career isn’t delivering, then take a look at the other aspects of your life and seek to understand the inter-dependencies; could it be that your physical or emotional well-being is having a negative impact on your career? Again, it’s about the simple step of analysing the cause and effect. If your analysis points to the fact that your job is genuinely miserable then remember to see it as just ‘the job’. Strip the emotion away and see it for what it is. This may be difficult to do if you have invested much of yourself in the role; however it is the best way to take an objective look at what is needed to take that next step. I’ve seen many people get unnecessarily depressed in their role for any number of reasons, and the fact is this impacts on your ability to think creatively about your options. If you aren’t in a position to move on, consider looking to the other parts of your life to get the stimulus needed to keep you healthy; exercise, study towards the job you want, volunteer. There are ways to ensure that an unhappy job doesn’t have a significant impact on the other parts of your life.
Above all, remember that it is ok to be down from time to time. It’s natural. However, it’s also just as natural to bounce back. By being an effective self-manager you help to keep the victim in check, and increase your resilience despite the challenges you face