Resilience has become a buzzword in recent years.  For individuals generally, for managers and business leaders, and for the organisations they work in.

And right now, in the midst of this global coronavirus pandemic, our emotional and mental health is being tested to the limit, as is our social wellbeing, when we’re socially distancing and isolating (or what I like to call it, cocooning!) It’s so important right now for each of us to understand and model resilience through our own personal practice as well as through organisational leadership.

So what do we mean by resilience?  And how do we develop our own and our staff’s levels of resilience, especially now? How do we move towards a happier, more engaged and less stressed workforce, (provided we can keep them), and a more sustainable organisation going forward?

Let’s start with the concept of resilience.

My dictionary defines resilience as

  • The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness
  • The ability of a substance or object to spring back to shape; elasticity

Personally I love Ann Menston (developmental psychologist’s) definition of it as ‘Ordinary Magic,’ meaning it’s ordinary not extraordinary.  People commonly demonstrate it. (Think of any large group of people who’ve suffered a tragedy or misfortune, and how they’re able to rebuild their lives. And think about the situation we find ourselves in right now.)  

Resilience is rarely the result of something particularly earth shattering happening, it’s ordinary, everyday stuff, like paying more attention to what you’re thinking or feeling, or looking after yourself.  And this can and does lead to lead to increased feelings of wellbeing (the magic) even in times of forced change, like we’re in now.

There are different approaches to individual and organisational resilience, and my focus in this video/article is on you as an individual.

How do I develop my resilience (and be a role model for others)?

It starts with understanding what resilience is and getting clear on why it’s important.  

I believe we are naturally resilient.  When we’re babies we learn to walk and talk through constant trial and error, setbacks and challenges, yet we keep going with support from adults.  We bounce back repeatedly. And at that age we don’t make the setbacks mean anything about us.

However, as we grow, and encounter certain events and people in our lives, we often start to attach negative meanings about ourselves to these encounters.  If you were to reflect on your own thoughts and expectations right now….on what you've been saying about the pandemic and your situation.  What you've been making it mean about you…..I’ve heard things like, “ I’m not good with change at the best of times, but this…..”, “My business isn’t going to survive this”, “I just can’t get motivated”, “It’s ok for those businesses or people…”  and really what we’re believing when we say these is “I’m not going to get through this”, “I’m not good enough/don’t know enough/not lucky enough, not in the right industry, or in some way, don't know how to get through this”, “I’m just scatterbrained, or useless in a crisis” or “I can’t cope!”

These negative meanings lead to habitual thought patterns, beliefs and expectations.  And these in turn dictate our behaviour and actions (whether we’re conscious of this or not.)  Think about what you've been doing, or not doing in the past week or so!!!

The good news is, if we can learn these types of thought patterns and beliefs, then we can also unlearn them.  We can return to a more resilient way of being.  

So feeling (and being) resilient allows you to cope with whatever life throws at you.  It allows you to be buffeted yet stand firm like the oak tree.

Resilience stems from a knowing that you’re really ok no matter what.  It helps you focus on the here and now, as a way of not only dealing with what’s happening in the moment, but also actively creating a better future for yourself.

Question: Where do you think you are right now in terms of your own level of resilience?  

If you’re not certain, or not happy with your answer and you know you want to develop your resilience, I have three recommendations for you:

#1.  Know the Bigger Picture. 

Your purpose, vision or intention for your life and work.  When you have clarity over why you’re doing what you're doing….the work, your family and social commitments.  Over what’s most important to you. Over where and how you fit within the overall scheme of things, and within your organisation and its mission and goals.  Over your contribution and impact, your goals or targets.  

Once you recognise and acknowledge this, and you understand how to measure (or how others will measure it); once you recognise the support that’s available to you; then you’re developing your resilience.


  • Where am I unclear about my work right now? About why I’m doing what I’m doing (in and outside of work)?
  • Who or what will help me gain clarity?
  • Who can support me?

#2.  Explore What Stresses You - your stressors and the points at which you get triggered

There will always be challenges.  Antsy bosses, colleagues, or clients. Too much to do.  Not enough time. In fact now, for many, there may be too much time, and you're not doing what you've always said you would do ‘when you had the time’!  This in itself might be stressing you.

When you understand what triggers and stresses you and you learn coping strategies to deal with them, you develop your resilience.


  • What do I generally get stressed about? At work and at home?
  • What about now?  What’s causing me most stress during this pandemic?
  • How am I coping with this stress?  
  • What’s worked well in the past?  Not so well? What might work better?  For example deep breathing, counting to ten, imagining positive outcomes, walking away, getting fresh air.
  • How can I help myself take action on these when appropriate?  For example working fewer hours, taking more breaks, setting alerts on my phone, or establishing a short and simple routine of deep breathing, imagining a positive interaction with someone you need to talk to who usually causes you stress.

#3.  Pay Attention to What You Think.  Feel. Say. Do. When you’re stressed, overwhelmed or simply frustrated.  

Be a curious observer rather than a judgemental critic.  Notice that inner voice and whether it’s positive or negative.  Helpful or unhelpful most of the time.


  • How do I generally talk, think and feel about stress and overwhelm?  What words do I use? How do they make me feel?
  • How do I usually respond to misfortune?  To problems, challenges or the unexpected? What about now with this new coronavirus playing havoc with our ‘usual routines and way of living and working’?
  • What’s been going on for me as I’ve been reading this? (My thoughts and feelings.) 

I’d love to know your thoughts on this and whether it’s been helpful in thinking about how resilient you are and what you can do to develop your resilience and become a better role model for others - your family, team, colleagues, clients and community.

If you'd like my help to develop your resilience; to explore how to pivot, how to stay relevant, or how to better look after your emotional and mental health at this challenging time, do get in touch as my small group coaching programmes and other programmes are being delivered via Zoom until the it's safe to return to in-person meetings.