Building resilience through conversation


I had an extraordinary coaching supervision* session yesterday. We started the conversation by talking about COVID-19. What else is there to talk about after all? We concluded, just an hour later, talking about beauty, about inspiring people and about the possibility of transformation.

Building resilience through conversation

The shift from fear to possibility was startling. And I think demonstrates both what resilience is  and what is needed so as to be resilient. Let me tell you more.

I would define resilience as the ability to pick oneself up again after failure. The ability to weather the storm. Life is inherently full of ups and downs, and resilient people can emerge from the downs stronger and with more wisdom and knowledge. What is also interesting is that those that know they can pick themselves up again, are those that are able to be braver with their lives. They fear failure less because they know they can survive failure. Thus they can be braver.

These are unprecedented times. The only conversation I could hear, whether at the school gates, when out for dinner or even when walking the kids to school this morning, was COVID-19.

The first thing that happened in my supervision is that we really listened. We allowed space for the bluster, the sharing, the things that we needed to get off our chest. And then we carried on listening and asking ‘Now what is here?’. What slowly started to emerge were our true feelings. We are scared. We are anxious. We feel turbulent. I noticed a feeling of deja vu with another stressful period in my life a couple of years ago. And still we held the space… What was happening now? We started to see themes within the system. The part of the population that are anxious – and as a result want to control as much as they can and minimise risk. Maybe they are not travelling or panic buying tinned goods. Then another part of the population who are anxious – and therefore want to retain some sense of normality. They want to keep calm and carry on. We felt compassion for all those people as we saw the fear that sat below their behaviours.

We then saw other things wanting to emerge. The workplace needs us to change how we work and how we communicate. We saw that these changes in the system had been bubbling for a while. We have understood the need to cut our carbon emissions but it hasn’t particularly happened yet. We know that ,whilst technology has allowed us to work remotely, our ‘operating models’ were often preventing us from doing just that. We noticed that some of the disruption might be moving in a positive direction for society at large.

And once we’d shared, and processed, we started to ask, ‘What is possible here?’. ‘What can we do to support others?’ ‘How can we be leaders in this disrupted system?’ ‘What do people need which we can offer?’ We know about resilience, so we could share that with people. We know about remote working – we could share that with people. We are trained coaches – we could offer our services to help people process the disruption and chaos.

And so back to resilience. Why am I sharing this story with you? I think our conversation demonstrated the arc of resilience beautifully. I am sharing this so you can support yourselves through this process. And you can support others through this process.

  1. Acknowledge how you really feel. It would be impossible to be living through these times and not have an emotional reaction to it. Most of the conversation around us is not about our emotional reaction. How can you create the space to acknowledge how you truly feel? Emotions by their very nature are transient. Acknowledging them allows us to feel them and move through them. How can you create the space for your friends and colleagues to own how they truly feel? All that is required of you is to ask and then truly listen.
  2. Dig in to the feelings a bit more. What sits behind the anxiety? What do you notice other people feeling? What themes do you see? What do you see wanting to emerge right now? For me, I realised I had felt like this before. And I had survived. I realised that I was going to be able to get through this. I remembered that I was resilient and had evidence to back that up.
  3. Hit rock bottom. In any adaptation to change, you will hit a point when you truly realise that the way you are currently living, reacting and working just won’t work for you anymore. In my supervision, I realised that I needed to create a safe space for me, away from the noise and distraction, to truly think about what I wanted to do next. Maybe being connected to the news 24/7 isn’t working for you right now. Maybe you also need to step away for a moment and process.
  4. Begin to rise. We rise as we learn new strategies and coping mechanisms to live through the times ahead. My deja vu moment, reminded me of my own coping mechanisms. I swim and enjoy walking my dog to calm my anxiety. I listen to podcasts and read so as to motivate myself. I made a commitment to practicing this. I also remembered that the people I was feeling irritated with (the ‘keep calm and carry on’ ones) were also anxious and worthy of compassion.
  5. How can I help others? Once we have dealt with our emotions (and to be clear this isn’t a one time only job. These pesky things have a habit of reappearing!) we can then be in service to others. The world needs leaders right now that aren’t leading from a reactionary space. Fear and anxiety will breed fear and anxiety. Once I am in my creative mindset, I can have compassion and also see possibility. The phrase that came up in my supervision was this – “I can make gold from the lead”. I feel ready to serve my clients, my community and my family.

Take care of yourselves out there. It’s ok to feel uncertain. Taking care of our mental health is just as critical right now as taking care of our physical health. Maybe this recognition of their equal importance is another one of the shifts that will emerge as a result of this disruption. Maybe that’s the gold we can make from the lead.

*Supervision is a regular process that helping professionals such as coaches and therapists go through so as to process what is going on in their own lives whilst they support other people.

Roxanne  Hobbs is an Executive Coach with the Executive Coaching Consultancy and can be reached at  Her recent book ‘DIVERTED’ about our journey of resilience to the newest frontier of inclusion is available now here. #diverseminds

On a mission to transform the workplace via inclusivity. Join Roxanne’s Embracing Resilience Webinar here

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Inclusivity, Dealing in Uncertainty, Staying Connected: Coaching Comment March 2020 

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