Idea of the Week Archives

Check back often for Weekly Tips and Advice from the Coaches at Resilient Leadership.

Feeling isolated? Communicate more

  • Fact: In stressful situations, people may seek relief from their increased anxiety by moving away from those around them. Their distancing is driven by forces that operate at an unconscious level.
  • Action: Help your “runaway”, don’t forget about them. Resist the temptation to do nothing. Instead, reach out to encourage them to think through the cause of their anxiety. Then, stay close enough to influence them, but keep enough distance to lead them.

Feeling Hesitant to Act Boldly? Gather your courage and do it!

  • Fact: During anxious times, we are less inclined to take risks and more inclined to play it safe. This is because high levels of anxiety tend to erode our confidence and weaken our conviction.
  • Action: Determine what move you must make to chart a new course for yourself and/or your team, and do so based on a thoughtful consideration of the risks involved, the chance of success, and your own vision and values. Then move forward boldly, in spite of your fears.

Triangles Form to Relieve Anxiety

  • Fact: Triangles are nature’s way of lowering anxiety. When a dyad relationship is under stress, one or both members may seek to reduce their anxiety by reaching out to a third person. The triangles that are formed will become either healthy or toxic.
  • Action: Watch for the formation of triangles in your relationships. When you see one coming your way, don’t take sides, but do take a stand on the issue. Remain emotionally neutral while encouraging your colleagues to work through their challenge or problem together.

A Leader’s Empathy Can Backfire

  • Fact: Expressing genuine care and compassion for your employees builds trust and fosters connection. But sometimes what is most needed from you is not comfort or empathy, but challenge. Consistently comforting struggling employees, or allowing them to underperform because they are facing tough times can send the wrong message and promote dependency rather than responsibility.
  • Action: Next time an employee or family member is struggling to meet their responsibilities or to overcome their challenges, resist the urge you might have to prematurely “rescue” them or let them off the hook. Instead, express your confidence in their capabilities and reiterate your expectations of them. Then hold them accountable while providing whatever support or resources are within reason.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Really?

  • Fact: The nugget of folk wisdom contained in this familiar saying may seem quaint to the point of being more myth than fact. But there is an accumulating—and by now conclusive—body of research that has documented the extent to which both “nature and nurture” conspire to shape the person we are. We “inherit” both our strengths and our vulnerabilities from a combination of genetics and epigenetics, from our DNA and from environmental factors such as the emotional patterns passed down to us across multiple generations of our family tree.
  • Action: Awareness is the essential starting point for improving how you show up as a leader. Grow your self-awareness (by personal observation and from conversations with family members) of the automatic, inherited family patterns that drive how you interact as a leader at home and at work.

This is not my problem! Really? Test your assumptions!

  • Fact: All over-functioning and under-functioning behaviors are part of a larger context—a “story” that rationalizes and justifies why it is essential for us to engage in such behaviors. These false narratives masquerade as objective fact when in reality they are a form of anxiety-driven reactivity.
  • Action: When you suspect that you are over-or under-functioning in some area, try to put into words the “justification” for why it is “necessary” for you to do so, and then test out that hidden assumption by asking for feedback from a trusted, neutral observer.

Tired of people coming to you with problems or complaints? Don’t take the bait!

  • Fact: Complaining is a common form of reactivity, and complaints increase as stress levels, uncertainty and change escalate. Sometimes the complaints aren’t even about the subject being raised, but rather are attempts to let off steam and lower anxiety.
  • Action: Next time someone comes to you with a reactive, emotionally-driven complaint, use the opportunity to coach them around the difference between a productive complaint and a reactive one. Productive complaints are thoughtful, well-grounded in facts, take into consideration the bigger picture, and include possible solutions when appropriate.

Feeling out of control? Reduce tension first to regain your footing.

  • Fact:  Anxious feelings are caused by an automatic response to a real or perceived threat. The amygdala (primitive brain) is in the driver’s seat when that happens.
  • Action: Stop and think: “What’s causing me to feel anxious right now? Is my level of concern realistic?”  If yes, decide what action is needed to bring control back. If no, see your over-reaction for what it is, smile to and at yourself, and move ahead.

Constantly doing too much or too little at work or home? Look for the root cause.

  • Fact: If you are over- and/or underfunctioning these days, it is your automatic (reactive) responses to a perceived threat. The deep roots of these behaviors lie in our anxious fears that are generally beneath conscious awareness. But with sustained practice we can improve our ability to recognize (and therefore better understand and manage) our behaviors that signal overly high levels of anxiety.
  • Action: Track the ways you recognize you are over- or under functioning. Here is an idea: Post a list of the fears that are driving the behaviors (e.g. Fear of: Being left out, losing my job, getting behind at work, getting old, etc.). Then consider these questions: 1) How rational is this fear? 2) What reactive response am I connecting to this fear? 3) How is this working for me? 4) What should I do now?

Idea of the Week: Facing Resistance to Your Ideas? Don’t take it personally!

  • Fact: Resistance to change is a natural response of all systems because they are designed by their very nature to preserve the status quo.
  • Action: Rather than seeing pushback or resistance as a personal affront to you, view it through a systems perspective. When you are challenging people with new ideas or new ways of doing things, anticipate resistance and learn to see it as a sign that you are doing something right!

Want to get off the Over/Under Function Seesaw? Just stop!

  • Fact: Both overfunctioning and underfunctioning are reciprocal phenomena. That means you can’t have one without the other. Whenever you are overfunctioning, that pattern is connected to underfunctioning somewhere else in the system. This is one of the “iron laws” of emotional systems, even when the connection is difficult or nearly impossible to spot.
  • Action: Think systems, and trust that if you stop your part in this reciprocal seesaw, the other(s) will eventually course-correct and move towards a more balanced pattern. Anticipate initial push-back as you adjust your behaviors. But if you persist in your commitment to a more balanced way of functioning, in the end the other(s) will adjust their functioning as well

Feeling smothered? Look for the stressor

  • Fact: In stressful situation, people may seek relief from their increased anxiety by moving closer to those around them who represent comfort, safety or protection. Their pursuit is anxiety-driven at an unconscious level.
  • Action: Help your pursuer, and resist the temptation to run away. Set boundaries and encourage them to think through the cause of their anxiety. Then, stay close enough to influence them, but keep enough distance to lead them.