Building Resilience

She kept going, and so she thrived.

This month the Wall Street Journal issued the 2017 edition of the Women in the Workplace report, based on research conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. One of the key findings is that men and women view gender equality initiatives differently—most women view it as a work in progress, while a large proportion of men view it as mission accomplished. This could be a critical factor in the effectiveness of equality initiatives. The report also found that women occupy roughly a fifth of the top roles in companies. Women of color occupy less than 4 percent.

Fortune Magazine also published the 20th edition of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business this month. India-born Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s CEO and the “Queen of Pop,” graced the cover. The issue celebrated the many accomplishments of these women, but also highlighted the challenges women continue to face. Challenges specific to women of color were described as the “black ceiling.”

These reports remind us that there is still much work to do. They inspire me to continue to share lessons and tools to enable high-achieving immigrant women to lead in the workplace, excel as entrepreneurs, and make their passions their life’s work.

Resilience Defined

Resilience is central to leadership. It is often defined as mental toughness, elasticity, and the ability to recover quickly from setbacks—being able to bounce back to normal or emerge stronger after a setback.

I define resilience as the ability to keep going and thriving under all circumstances.

Three Resilience Strategies

Below are three strategies to help you build your resilience toolkit.

  • Stay the Course. Resilience is as important in the small things as it is in big events. Its value is most apparent in instances when things go woefully wrong—a job loss, an unsuccessful job interview, not getting that promotion, or not achieving the desired result on a big project. Resilience is about not being derailed by setbacks, rejection, challenges, or disappointments. Building your resilience toolkit over time and in relation to small challenges enables you to better handle the big ones. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek says, “One of the best paradoxes of leadership is a leader’s need to be both stubborn and open-minded. A leader must insist on sticking to the vision and stay on course to the destination. But he must be open-minded during the process.” Keep going, and trust yourself to know when and how to integrate feedback and change course if need be.
  • Keep Things in Perspective. It is helpful to view challenges from different angles. When things go wrong, we have a tendency to view things from the worst perspective. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and do not dwell on the negative aspects.

One way to do this is to consider how you would advise a friend going through the same situation. Find the optimistic angle, one little shift at a time. If you have a difficult time viewing things from an optimistic perspective, seek out the input of a trusted advisor, mentor, or friend.

  • Unpack the Lessons. The Hogan Leadership Scales explore the dark side of leadership. When faced with high-pressure situations, leaders’ strengths can become success derailers. Leaders go over to the dark side, so to speak. Drive becomes ruthless ambition, and attention to detail becomes micromanaging.

    As it relates to resilience, some of us have the tendency to move on too quickly when there’s a problem. Moving on too quickly is at the opposite of dwelling on and evaluating the worst-case scenario. The risk in moving on too quickly is that we could miss out on the lessons those challenges present. (I love this one because it came up when I took the Hogan test.)

Regardless of where you are on the resilience scale and your overall tendencies, take the time to find those hidden lessons. Some lessons will become apparent over time, but thoughtfully considering the lessons when faced with the setback will help uncover nuggets while the facts are vivid.

How exactly do you keep going and thrive? Maya Angelou said, “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” You keep that light on, and you do not allow anyone or anything to dim the light. That’s resilience.