Ruth Penfold-Brown


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  • Igniting the Power of Collective Resilience

Resilience, done well, is about understanding and knowing ourselves well enough to recognise what we are feeling, knowing our own limits, and building a toolbox of the resources we need to support ourselves. 

To build our resilience as a collective is at the heart of what it means to build a thriving team that feels safe to innovate.

As a leaders we have two big roles in this:

The first being; to know ourselves well enough to build our own resilience toolkit to be able to navigate the demands of working at pace.

The second being; to know our teams well enough that we can proactively create resilient teams by supporting humans to build their own toolkit, and make sure that the culture of resilience is reinforced building a culture where this is reinforced.

So firstly, how do we build our own resilience? 

We may think we’re great under pressure, but we all have our own stress patterns.

Whether it’s: failing to delegate and taking on too much work until you become a bottleneck or getting carried away when giving someone feedback and being overly harsh. If you can learn to stop and ask the key questions to unlock your own patterns, then in time, you can bring the same approaches into the way you coach others. You can also draw upon your own personal experiences, which is even more powerful. 

So next time you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, pause and invest the time to think through the following questions slowly, writing down the answers if you can.

  1. How am I feeling about this? 
  2. What could be causing this? 
  3. What is a way to reframe this narrative so it serves me rather than owns me? 
  4. How could I approach this differently?
  5. What strengths and resources do I have that I can draw upon?

By learning how the signs of stress show up for us, it helps us to catch it sooner. By knowing what tools best support us, we get better at building a life where we feel better more often. 

It’s also worth stepping back and thinking about how you function in and out of stress more generally. 

Some broader questions to ask yourself are: 

  1. Where do I get my energy from?
  2. What drains my energy?
  3. Where do I struggle to give energy to others? 
  4. What are my stress triggers?
  5. What tools or people help me alleviate stress?
By doing this you start to learn about what works for you. You may notice that after back to back zoom calls, you simply can’t be creative, so you start scheduling calls in the afternoon, giving yourself more time in the mornings.

Ok, so once we have ourselves under control, how do we support our team?

A big part of the way we are able to develop our collective resilience will come in the way we are able to support one another. We can support one another best when we know each other.

The first step to collective resilience is in investing the time to get to know each other.

You can do that by thinking carefully about how you invest in your team with 1:1 check-ins geared towards truly checking in on how the person is getting on. It’s also important to encourage the team to get to know and care for each other also. 

Setup processes and support systems that genuinely prioritise the wellbeing of your team; because ultimately, resilience isn’t about persevering until you burn out, it’s about being able to catch and treat the causes of potential burnout before they manifest, so you can keep going, without it costing anyone their health.

It can start with some simple activities: at bp Launchpad, a few of our initiatives were: 

  • Assigning meeting free times of day – we did every lunchtime and Friday afternoons. Fridays as we were encouraging people to bottom out their work for the week and ideally not let things spill into their weekends.
  • Making meetings walking meetings 
  • Hosting a daily meditation plus multiple talks from experts and thought leaders in this space to give as many different perspectives as possible.
Another powerful way to support collective resilience is by building safety within the team. That starts with getting to know each other, becoming inclusive in the way that you lead to make sure all voices are heard, and then importantly, shaping the shared mindset around failure.

Is there a way to instead reward the learning? How can we make it safe to get something wrong? Perceived mistakes are a huge source of stress for us at work. Innovation means taking risks which means we have to be even more intentional about how we craft cultures that feel safe and inclusive for everyone.

Developing a coaching mindset within your team will also support this. If we are asking great questions instead of thinking we know all the answers, we naturally create a little more safety for others. One of the most important things we can all do for each other, leader or not is to learn not to try to solve people’s problems for them, or worse,  ‘gaslight’ them into thinking their problems don’t exist. When someone tells you something that isn’t working, we either feel we have to try to troubleshoot their challenges for them, or we minimise them and simply reassure the person not to worry. 

If you want to learn more about building a coaching mindset as a leader, I highly recommend The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier, where he teaches us to use seven simple questions:

  1. What’s on your mind?
  2. And what else?
  3. What’s the real challenge here for you?
  4. What do you want.
  5. How can I help?
  6. If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?
  7. What was most useful for you?

Developing a coaching mindset is one of the most powerful things you can do as a human. It will mean that your team become empowered to embrace their capability to solve their own challenges. Instead of you being the single source of truth for things, you can instead simply become their learned thought partner. Everybody wins.  a

What do you think? What have I missed here?

About the Author

I help Founders and People leaders to build and scale purposeful businesses, whilst scaling themselves at the same time.

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