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ATD Blog

Managerial Resilience


Tue Oct 15 2013

Managerial Resilience

When I think of managers and stress, I often think of the airplane safety announcement. During the announcement, passengers are told that, in case of the loss of oxygen, they should fit their own oxygen mask before attempting to assist others. The point: If you do not help yourself first, you will be in no position to help anyone else.

Managing stress in the organization is very similar. Any manager who wishes to create a low-stress workplace must first create a low-stress life for themselves. If managers are busy fighting their own personal stress, they will have little of value to offer employees. Managers can reduce their exposure to stress by developing a managerial resilience.


Developing managerial resilience

Managerial resilience improves your ability to handle the pressures of the business world. If you wait for stress to arrive before you take action, you are going to experience unnecessary pain. If you implement some coping strategies in your life, you greatly reduce your exposure to stress. Here are some simple strategies to help you increase your managerial resilience.

See setbacks as an opportunity to learn. A manager can never be the source of all wisdom. You will make bad decisions and there will be things that you do not know. When mistakes are made, rather than beat yourself up about it, review the incident with an honest and open mind. Identify the things you need to change and put a plan in place to change them.

Practice feedback consistently. Interpersonal relationships can cause a lot of stress in the workplace. Stressful situations often arise due to a lack of communication. Employees require guidance and support if they are to thrive.

Praise employees for good performance and offer constructive feedback when their performance falls below expectations. This will take just a few minutes of your day but it lets employees know where they stand and prevents minor incidents from developing into stressful situations.


Guard your time. Employees need to know how and when they can reach you, but they do not need to be able to reach you 24/7. Set barriers around your time. When completing important tasks, make it clear that you are not to be disturbed. This will allow you to complete the task in the most effective manner.

It also encourages employees to try and resolve some of their own issues, without running to you. When you adopt this behavior, some people may initially be upset but they eventually learn to respect both you and your time.

Exercise regularly. A healthy body and mind are essential for coping with the pressures of managerial life. Strength and fitness increase your resilience. Build some exercise into your daily routine and you will soon feel the benefits. A word of caution: start slowly and gradually increase the difficulty. The purpose is to avoid stress rather than create it.

Ensure that you get sufficient rest. You are designed to cope with periods of high pressure. However, when the pressure becomes too much for you to cope with, stress begins to creep in. To prevent this from happening it is essential that periods of high pressure are balanced with periods of rest and recovery. Ensure that your sleep is of sufficient quantity and quality. In addition, you may also

  • take a brief nap (20-30 minutes) in the middle of your day

  • include some breathing exercises e.g. yoga

  • meditate

  • use relaxation imagery.

Include sufficient breaks in your schedule. These steps may seem counterintuitive, but rest allows the body and mind to recover from high pressure activities, and build up strength and resolve for the challenges to come. When you know that you have sufficient rest in your schedule, you can give 100 percent during periods of work, allowing you to perform to a higher standard, more of the time. Rest improves productivity.


Build your support team. Nobody succeeds alone. Success requires a good support team. You need people you can confide in, people who can advise you, people who will challenge you and hold you accountable, and people who will support you through good times and bad. Surrounding yourself with the wrong people will hold you back and cause you stress.

Surrounding yourself with the right people will propel you forward, further than you ever thought possible. Your support team is too important to be left to chance. Be selective about the people you include, treat it as though you are recruiting for a key position because—in reality—you are.

Enjoy some personal time. Emotional balance is vital to maintain good health. The pressures of a busy work life can easily drain your emotions. To restore emotional balance, include some personal time in your schedule. Incorporate activities that bring you joy and pleasure into your schedule. If you have a hobby you enjoy, make time for it. Anything which makes you laugh uncontrollably is also good. Enjoying quality personal time will work wonders for your health and happiness.

Maintain perspective by projecting forward. When you are having a bad day, it can feel like the world is caving in. It can be really hard to see past the difficult situation that you find yourself in. At times like this, remember that tomorrow is another day that brings new opportunities. Look forward into the future and ask yourself if the present situation will be such a big deal in six months, one year, or two years. You will see that this difficult time shall pass.

Managerial life involves a lot of pressure

Knowing how to handle that pressure is crucial if you wish to avoid stress and maintain good health. If you are struggling with stress yourself, you are not in a position to help your employees. When this happens, your stress can start to impact on others within the organization.

Just like with the oxygen mask on a plane, you must care for yourself before you are in a position to care for others. Improving your managerial resilience is the best way to care for yourself. It offers you great protection from stress. If you make a few small changes, you will take giant strides towards a low-stress life, and consequentially, a low-stress workplace.

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