What’s Your Story? Resilience and the Importance of Recovery

By: John P. DelMonaco

Is your organization going through some kind of transformation? Chances are, the answer to that question is yes. And if not a transformation, there is likely to be significant disruption happening in your industry requiring you and your company to respond. These circumstances put a lot of demands on executives and their teams.

What is the story you tell yourself about managing through transformation and change? Our story, or our internal narrative, shapes how we see ourselves and our environment, and therefore shapes our behavior. I work with executives every day, and the narrative I often hear goes something like this: “Yes, I’m working crazy hours, nights, and weekends. But once we get through Project Firestorm, I’m going to take some time for myself and my family.” This is a trap we can all fall into, so what is the alternative? Change your narrative.

The importance of resilience is being talked about and written about more than ever. But what is resilience, really? And can we build it? Resilience is commonly associated with perseverance through adversity and the ability to withstand very demanding situations to emerge intact on the other side. But grittiness is only a part of resilience. Some company cultures equate work ethic with long hours. While “going above and beyond” is necessary at times, wearing your ability to endure long hours like a productivity badge of honor, or even a competitive advantage, is not a sustainable approach. Recovery, the aspect of resilience that you hear less about, is just as important as endurance. If you put all your energy into withstanding difficult conditions, how are you supposed to be at your best? Not only does the “endure” narrative work against wellbeing (mood, concentration, health, fitness), but it goes against the science of performance.

I discussed this topic with Jennifer Lea from Johnson & Johnson’s Human Performance Institute. She had this to say about resilience and performance: “Performance and energy management improve when you think in terms of sprints, with recovery in between, rather than a marathon.” 

The most effective executives give focus to three dimensions of leadership—Leading the Business, Leading People, and Leading Self. Leading Self is often the one that is given short shrift. Imagine this: what if you changed your narrative from “Once I get through x, I’ll be able to focus on y,” to “I’m going to give myself ways to recover my energy every day, throughout the day, so I can continually be at my best.” We don’t often think in terms of energy management. We think in terms of prioritization, or project planning, or delegation, or schedule management. While it is simply a fact that life as an executive is demanding—long hours and long days, often travel, sometimes working through the weekend, pushing the limits of physical and mental stamina—that does not mean we need to totally relinquish the care of the one resource that most affects how we show up both in our professional and our personal worlds—our energy.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Yeah great, who has the time for that,” consider the trade-offs you are making on performance and wellbeing, as well as the example you are setting for your team. Building in strategies and practices for yourself that help you recover energy can make the difference between depletion and effectiveness. Develop practices that work for you. There is no magic in these practices and they range across sleep, nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness. Says Jenn Lea, “At HPI, we think of energy in four dimensions: Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual (purpose/values).” You need to determine what gives you energy (and what zaps it), which is different for everyone. It could be a physical workout, stretching, listening to a podcast or a song, five minutes of quiet, nurturing important relationships, viewing a favorite “Ted Talk “or YouTube channel, walking with a colleague (or alone), etc. 

Your strategies are up to you, but the most important thing is to be intentional and to be consistent with how you recover your energy and how you spend your energy. So, how can you change your narrative? What story do you need to create to support Leading Self” as a priority for your performance and wellbeing?

Jennifer Lea is a Performance Coach and Director, Global Portfolio Management & Innovation at Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute (HPI). RHR International has formed a partnership with HPI to deliver Energy for Performance programs, designed to help leaders perform at their best in their professional and personal lives. For more information, please contact Joanna Starek at jstarek@rhrinternational.com.​



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