I believe that resilience is THE key competency in an ever-changing business world: Only resilient individuals can continue to perform well over the long term. Each one of us can have a significant influence over whether we become or remain resilient. And that is not all – managers have a much greater impact on the resilience of their employees than many think.
I have previously been asked whether I could give presentations or hold workshops about the topic ‘Resilience as a management responsibility’ – without covering the subject of personal resilience. In these cases, I graciously declined the request. I did so because I am absolutely convinced that a manager must first consider his or her own resilience. In other words: it is vital to lead by example (in terms of resilience but also in other areas). This means that a manager should, for example, take time off in order to recuperate and not be contactable at all times. If managers fail to do so, their employees will feel unable to take time off themselves – ultimately leading to a stressful culture of presenteeism, in which performance declines.
Managers should also make it clear to their employees that it is good for them to have other interests outside work. For example, the former CEO Switzerland of an international corporation regularly took time out to exercise during the day, and this was noted by his employees. He certainly didn’t do any less work as a result. However, this type of top manager is aware that he can only continue to perform well by regularly recuperating and becoming stronger both physically and psychologically.
Appreciation is key
Do you know what the key criterion is that determines why employees stay in the same job rather than looking for a new position? Compensation, the job profile, the team – all of this has a major role to play. But the ultimate factor is: the appreciation of their manager. It sounds almost banal – but it is far from it. In reality, each individual needs to feel valued – and if this is lacking, we become unhappy. A leadership style based on esteem is what makes all the difference. Praise is the most obvious expression of this. It benefits everyone and costs nothing. However, appreciation and esteem can take other forms, such as allowing one of your direct reports to give an important presentation – thus demonstrating that he or she has your support. Equally, you could give an employee a handwritten card to thank them for working especially hard or personally congratulate them on a service anniversary.
Make time for your employees. Time is such a rare commodity in today’s hectic world – meaning that your employees will value it all the more if you set aside time for discussions and engage in a regular and open dialogue with them. This may be reactive, where you simply listen to them, or it may be proactive, where you actively approach employees, inform them about key developments, request their feedback or ask how they are, etc. By taking these steps, you can build a relationship of trust with your employees. This is of vital importance when it (inevitably) comes to one day having to direct some criticisms at that person.
Give people freedom to be creative
You can also strengthen the resilience of your employees by empowering and supporting them. Don’t just encourage your people to complete professional development courses – suggest that they also focus on their personal development. Delegate decision-making powers to them by setting objectives but allowing employees to decide how they want to achieve them. After all, most employees want to have an impact and they need a certain amount of freedom to be creative. Otherwise, they will become stressed and frustrated. In this context, it is also important to note that we are all individuals and that employees may perhaps complete a task in a different way to how you would do it. Place your trust in them, as this will make them stronger.
You can also support employees by ensuring that efficient work structures are in place. Optimize processes in your area according to the KISS principle: keep it short and simple. Establish clear procedures and ensure that work is shared equally between team members. You should also make sure that your people are given clear roles and that duties are assigned fairly and in accordance with their strengths. In other words: do all you can to prevent frustration within the team and the loss of productivity.
Don’t pass on pressure
Many managers underestimate the effect it has when they directly convey their own feelings of pressure to employees. Expressing emotions shows that you are also human – not a super hero – and this is positive for your people. However, being a manager also means that you must learn to cope with your own stress and not show all of the pressure you are under, no matter how great it is. You should also be aware that sending e-mails late at night or at the weekend actually makes your people feel under pressure. If you can’t avoid this, then it is helpful for the recipient if you clearly state that you don’t require a response until the following day or on Monday, for example. You could make this point clear either in the subject line of your e-mail or in a general comment in team meetings.
Training employees in how to cope with pressure and stress is also helpful. Furthermore, You can support them by reaching out to them if they start to display the symptoms of chronic stress or of a pre-burnout. It is vital for line managers to know the signs and how to recognize them. I will therefore devote my next blog to the topic of how you can identify the different and very distinctive stages of a (pre-)burnout.
© Claudia Kraaz