Leadership Development

Four Powerful Ways Leaders Can Demonstrate Resiliency

Did you ever dream about being an astronaut when you grew up? When I worked in the Behavioral Health and Performance sector at NASA—Johnson Space Center, one characteristic we knew was necessary for astronauts was resiliency—the ability to withstand prolonged adversity and bounce back from defeat. Here are four ways that leaders can demonstrate resiliency to their team members, which will help you become one step closer to becoming an astronaut—or at least to becoming more effective in the workplace.

Communicate powerfully by using signals. 

When a driver whips in front of you, slams on the brakes and makes a hard-right turn without signaling, the results range from annoyance to anger to a possible accident. Not communicating with your team brings out the same reactions as a driver who does not signal—most likely frustration, but sometimes a catastrophic collision.

Manage your expectations and those of yourquestions team members by communicating with them. Behaviors related to Social Energy, Self-Consciousness, and Emotional Energy can impact your natural inclination to communicate with others. An effective method for communicating, regardless of your behavioral style, is to engage in what is called rounding. Think of doctors in hospitals going on rounds. It’s the same concept. Go and sit in each of your direct report’s offices, cubicles, or Zoom virtual spaces, and ask questions such as, “How is your work going?”, “Do you have the resources you need?”, “Are there any roadblocks in your way?”  Discuss solutions, and don’t forget to thank them for their contribution and acknowledge any job well done. Make time for this—put it on your calendar and do this regularly. Depending on the size of your team, you might not be able to go and talk with everyone every week, but do not underestimate the power of listening to your team on a regular basis.

Create a psychological safety net.

A bonus of establishing good communication is that it will help establish psychological safety. Picture looking up at a family of flying trapeze artists performing their amazing act. Now look down. Chances are there is a net there. Psychological safety is like that net. It will catch you if your performance is off. If you slip on the most routine of tasks or if you are striving for that impossible goal and just miss it, the net being there gives you the comfort and power to try. The best leaders are those who actively foster psychological safety. To create psychological safety on your team, communicate emphatically and show your team you are engaged, you have their back, and that you’re their champions. Where possible, include your team in decision-making, seek their input, demonstrate your self-awareness, and be open to their feedback. And let them know that it is okay if they make a mistake. If you do all these, you will see a world of difference in how far your team will fly.

Celebrate mistakes with feedback. 

You have likely heard of the term growth mindset or, if you’re a little older (like me), continuous improvement. If not one of those, surely you haven’t been able to avoid hearing about why mentoring, coaching, or developing others is crucial to employee development. When you tear away the nuances of each of these ideas and get to the very core, you are left with the concept of learning. This is key, so I’ll repeat it—learning is the basic building block from which all growth occurs. Hand-in-hand with learning comes mistakes.

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There is a reason why children are taught with pencils and why pencils have erasers on them. You will recall from your own days as a child or from your days as a parent that the eraser always runs out before the pencil does. That’s because children accept what adults are unwilling to accept—that it’s okay to make mistakes and that mistakes are expected. Somewhere between elementary school and adulthood, making mistakes becomes less and less acceptable. As we become more educated and more experienced, we are expected to become more infallible. And yet, we are in a continually changing world. How can we be infallible in a world that is volatile and uncertain? The most resilient among us have already figured out that we cannot. Instead, they are embracing mistakes as opportunities to move one step closer to what will work. Why am I using a teacher analogy? Because good and resilient leaders will take their mistakes and use those as teachable moments to their high-potentials. They will use the mistakes as steppingstones to improve their performance.

Take risks and champion change. 

At the end of 2019, I was thinking to myself, “2020 will be the year of perfect vision,” clarity, understanding, and an opportunity for growth. It definitely, in no way whatsoever, meant a pandemic with many weeks spent at home, homeschooling for months, remembering to brush my hair before videoconferencing, and a toilet paper shortage of all things. Well, I was right about one thing—it definitely has been, and will continue to be, an opportunity for growth. Whether we want to or not, we are being forced to adapt to a changing world. Resilient leaders are those who are rising to the challenge of today’s world and are making lemons from lemonade. But those resilient leaders out there who are taking their lemons and adding sugar are the ones who will have the most resilient team and the most psychologically healthy team members. To the leaders out there, think creatively and, if that’s not your forté, then use your team. Ask the Birkman Blue members of your team, or your thought-leaders, for new, innovative ideas on how you can use your lemons.

There you go! Four ways to channel your inner astronaut to be resilient and lead your team into tomorrow. The Birkman Method is our tool that organizations use to do just that—help leaders lead effectively and become resilient. Birkman provides an unmatched assessment with in-depth reports for leaders to gain actionable insight into what exactly drives you, how you’re perceived in real-life and work-life, and how you can meeting your needs to be an effective leader for your team.

About the Author | Kelley Slack

Kelley J. Slack, Ph.D., joined the Science and Research team at Birkman International after almost twenty years working as part of the Behavioral Health and Performance group at NASA—Johnson Space Center. There, her work centered on the psychological and psychiatric selection of astronauts. At Birkman, Kelley focuses on maintaining the scientific rigor of the assessment and leading research to understand the complex relationships between personality and work. Kelley studied behavioral sciences at the London School of Economics and graduated with honors from Rice University with double majors in Business and Behavioral Science. After gaining international and domestic business experience, Kelley returned to school and earned her Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the University of Houston with a minor in Statistics. She is a licensed psychologist in the State of Texas.