Building Resilience for You AND Your Team

Relationships: The Key to Building Resilience for You AND Your Team

Ever since Homo sapiens started storytelling, a central theme has been the hero’s journey. We are fascinated by tales of someone encountering obstacle after obstacle and continually picking themself back up no matter how heavy the blow. Somehow, someway, the hero finds the resilience to triumphantly overcome each hardship.

We sit in awe during these stories. They inspire us. And, in many ways, we expect our leaders to be the heroes in them. 


It’s part of people leaders’ job to handle difficult situations, make tough choices, and address setbacks. All the while maintaining a brave face and an optimistic outlook to shield their people. And the higher up the ranks leaders climb, the challenges only get bigger, the risks larger, and the need for resilience greater. 

But what if we are missing a key reason why our hero is so resilient in the face of adversity? Have we been getting resilience all wrong? 

The belief that resilience is solely about the individual and their own intrinsic motivation may, in fact, hinder us from developing it.  

“[R]esilience is not something we need to find deep down inside ourselves: we can actually become more resilient in the process of connecting with others in our most challenging times,”

explained Rob Cross, Karen Dillon, and Danna Greenberg in their Harvard Business Review article.

“These interactions can help us to shift or push back on work demands and alter the magnitude of the challenge we’re facing,” the article said. “They can help crystalize the meaningful purpose in what we are doing or help us see a path forward to overcome a setback – these are the kinds of interactions that motivate us to persist.”

Returning to the hero’s journey, we often downplay the support they received along the way, which starts before they even begin their journey. “Usually, the hero is unsure of following this call—known as the ‘refusal of the call’—but is then helped by a mentor figure, who gives him counsel and convinces him to follow the call,” shared MasterClass as they describe this common storyline. 

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Think Dumbledore, Gandalf, and Yoda. While they are all prominent characters in their respective stories, we tend to give the title of hero to Harry, Frodo, and Luke. And yet, none of these heroes could have accomplished their quests without significant help and guidance from not only their mentor figures but numerous others along the way.   

It should come as no surprise, then, that coaching plays a critical role in building resilience in oneself and others.

“A large body of research shows that the most effective way to increase resilience at work is through customized individual coaching,”

said David Sluss and Edward Powley in their Harvard Business Review article.

Studying Navy recruits, they found “recruits who had these [coaching] conversations saw a highly significant 20% increase in resilience, while the control group saw a change of less than 1%.”

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Dana DeNault, Psy.D, an IOC-certified leadership coach, shares that “the following five themes were identified as advancing a leader’s resilience from the ‘Leader’s Perspective Through Coaching’ (Smith, 2015). These benefits are often a by-product of the coaching exchange where the actual topics discussed did not involve resilience:

  1. Reclaim self-belief: Pressing times can challenge even the most senior leaders so coaching as a paradigm can help with self-confidence.
  1. Learning: Holistic in character, self-first then extended to team and organization.
  1. Extended perspective: High-pressure challenges can narrow perspective; coaching can help extend it.
  1. Supportive relationship: Coaching offers a constructive relief value for the client where emotions can be exercised and examined in a healthy way. 
  1. Thinking space: Leaders need a psychologically safe space to reflect and grow in addition to their organizational problem-solving focus and need to create that same kind of space for their teams. Coaching provides that room.”

DeNault added,

With better self-awareness regarding their existing resilience strengths, leaders start to feel a sense of internal momentum regarding their leadership capacity. In turn, external communication becomes more authentic and resonant resulting in greater presence and comfort to those they lead.”

It’s good news that our heroes and our leaders don’t have to go it alone when it comes to resilience. Because frankly, they can’t. Human beings are social creatures. Just as emotions are contagious, it turns out, so is resilience. By leaning on our teams and our coaches, we are better equipped to persevere in the face of the unrelenting change we have all been experiencing.  

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