Executives are a stressed out bunch. This year research from the Positive Psychology Institute found they suffer mental health issues at more than double the rate of the general population. The research, based on a sample of 132 leaders also found 37.9 per cent of executives show symptoms consistent with depression, anxiety, phobia or paranoia.
I’ve had to overcome my own fair share of adversity. At the age of twelve I had a devastating accident which left me in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I now work with senior executives, at large organisations such as Telstra, SACA and CSIRO giving them simple tools to build resilience in tough situations.
The good news is resilience is a skill that can be learned and, just like building muscle in the gym, the more you practice it, the more resilient you will become.
My tips to the C-suite are simple and actionable steps, however, they still must be implemented. Here are my top six:
1. USE DIFFERENT LANGUAGE
One of the easiest ways to get things back on track when something goes wrong is to change the language we use in conversations with others and in our own thoughts. Whenever possible emphasise the positive. Too often people exaggerate the negative. I refer to this as “awfulising” a situation.
Take a moment to consider what you are going to say and aim to say it with a more positive spin. When you start doing this you will become incredibly aware of the language that other people use, and while it isn’t appropriate to correct them, by paraphrasing what they say back to them in a subtle but more positive way it is amazing how quickly you can turn a conversation around
2. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
Taking responsibility does not always mean putting your hand up and saying “yes, I stuffed up” or “yes, it was my fault” regardless of the situation. But quite often things going wrong can be the direct result of something you have done or a decision you have made. In that situation, the best thing to do is to admit it and keep moving.
This is taking responsibility. It is not being at fault. There is a difference.
As a speaker and trainer, the ability to improvise has been a huge asset for me. Interruptions, questions that take the flow of conversation in a different direction or an event running late and being asked to cut my session short are just a few of the challenges I’ve encountered that have required me to “think on my feet” (so to speak).
When things don’t go according to plan and you have to think quickly, often an even better way of doing things is discovered. This is exactly how chocolate chip cookies came to be. In the 1930s, when Ruth Wakefield was mixing a batch of her cookies she discovered she ran out of bakers’ chocolate. She decided to break up a block of sweetened chocolate and add it to the mix thinking it would melt through. Instead the pieces stayed in small chunks and chocolate chip cookies were born.
Just take some action, momentum creates results.
4. MAKE SURE TIME IS ON YOUR SIDE
We do not have an infinite supply of time. It’s important to make every minute count. Ask yourself “is what I am doing right now what I need to be doing to get closer to my vision and to solve the problem at hand?” It is much easier to do everything but address the problem.
Another question to ask yourself if you feel procrastination setting in is “what am I really putting off?” Each and every time you procrastinate you are pushing your dreams and goals further and further away. Christopher Parker said, “Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”
5. ENJOY LIFE
To most this is going to sound obvious. The reality is when getting swept up in the day to day, it is easy to lose sight of what you really enjoy. When you enjoy what you do you are enthusiastic, motivated and look forward to it each and every day. Being in that zone means that you get excited about the alarm going off in the morning rather than groaning and wishing for more sleep.
The best thing about being in a place of inspired enjoyment is that when things do go wrong, and there is no place immune from it, you are in a position to turn what others fear into a joyous experience.
Have a bank of things you enjoy doing that you can do anywhere, anytime. When you feel like things are getting overwhelming, take a 30 minute break to do one of those things to re-energise yourself.
6. LET IT OUT
Journal you thoughts or reach out to a mentor or supportive friend. Capture what is overwhelming you, express gratitude for it, see what you can learn from it, then put a lid on it and move on.