Resilience for managers

Objective of the training

By testing your attitude towards life, change will often drive you to reexamine your ‘operating manual’. This change can be sudden, a new job, moving house, loss of a loved one or birth of a child. It may be gradual change, such as increasing work pressure, a series of setbacks, people who disappoint you or that you worry about. All these changes, negative or positive, will put your ‘personal operating manual’ to the test.

As you become aware of the discrepancies between your ‘operating manual’ and the demands of life, it may be wise to take a good, hard look at them. It will provide you with more control and allows you to come to a deeper understanding of your individuality and idiosyncrasies, giving you a more solid and more resilient life stance. Finding a healthy balance between life’s demands and your personal possibilities is essential, and the ability to make the right choices, to plot your own way, to ‘take the wheel’, is a fundamental guiding principle in doing so.

Being a manager in highly demanding surroundings may put your ‘personal operating manual’ severely to the test. The permanent need to react to incentives and demands from outside may provoke your behavior to become entirely controlled by these environmental stimuli. Pressure from clients, targets to be met, your colleagues’ wishes or executive demands will reinforce this behavior, because after all, the more adequately you manage to meet all these demands, the more you will be appreciated and rewarded. In a way this is understandable as enough, but it may well go too far and in the long term result in seriously unbalanced growth.

The risk always looms large that managers will come to consider this kind of behavior as their ‘normal way of life’ – with grave consequences or their private lives. In contrast to rescue work, functioning in day-to-day life needs to be self-regulated in a very different way, demanding different skills, such as how to manage one’s own thinking, feeling and acting. It all revolves around the sense that you yourself are the one who is in control of your life and its direction. Such skills are required to make choices, to be aware of your emotions, to engage and motivate yourself.

It is part of the art of living to attune yourself well to yourself and your environment. People are well capable of self-effacing behavior, and letting themselves be guided by the demands of their environment – such as in cases of loss, serious illness or divorce. However, after such a period of ‘getting over and done with’, the trick is to take back control over your own life

Your self-management and self-confidence will feel reinvigorated, and you will have sufficient skills at your disposal to react adequately to the many demands of everyday life, both at home and at work. The feeling that you have ‘taken the wheel’, that you are in control, makes you feel new vigor and vitality. This will have a positive effect on yourself and your environment.

Resilience through self-management

People have a self-management system that allows them to steer their way through life. This is a system based on ‘think – feel – act’. (figure) These form a triangle: ‘act’ forms the top, its base being ‘think’ and ‘feel’ – the base of the triangle. As we drive a car using a vehicle, an engine and fuel, we drive ourselves by thinking, feeling and acting.

Managers have the ability to guide and direct processes and motivate people to work efficiently. They must be on permanent alert, oversee complex processes and be aware of what goes on around them. Often, these personal qualities have inspired them in their choice of profession, and because of them, they have been selected for it. Whenever a manager finds that the demands of his environment determine his functioning, he will attune his ‘acting’ completely to the ‘thinking-feeling-acting’ of that environment or others.

It is important to be able to stop this mind-set and its consequent behavior after such a demanding situation has been resolved. This will allow you to recover from your experiences, both physically and mentally. This implies paying attention to the base of the triangle of self-management – your own, personal thinking and feeling about your experiences. How do you that? That is what this training is about.

Day 1 – What is my operating manual?

The first day of the course will be devoted to mapping out your ‘personal operating manual’ and how to use it. The aim is to uncover your own style of thinking, feeling, and acting. Self-knowledge is the central topic of this first day.

Topics are:
• What is my ‘operating manual’?
• How can I flush out my mind?
• How do I protect my self from the emotional impact of my work?

Important exercises on this day:
• self-management according to my ‘operating manual’
• self-care
• red light
• reset

Day 2 – Reinforcing personal resilience

After four to six weeks the next part of the training takes place (one morning or afternoon). Previously taught skill will be refreshed and a more intensive training in self-regulation and effective functioning in life-tasks will be given.

• functioning in periods of transition, success or setbacks
• correcting ‘unbalanced growth’ on a personal and team level

Important exercises on this day:
• Using your sources of energy
• Resilience and growth
• Meaning and hope

During this second day we will pay attention to ‘hardy leadership’. A resilient leader confers resilience to the group he leads. This is all about showing vision and courage to your employees. It will allow teams to maintain their energy and prevents insecurity.

Explanation about hardiness
Studies frequently show the importance of training resilience and ‘hardiness’. Hardiness is defined by the following three elements:

  1. ‘commitment’ – people with a high score in commitment believe that all situations in life contain a lesson of meaning. They are not inclined to avoid or withdraw from certain situations, but will confront them, maintaining involvement, even when things get tough.
  2. ‘control’ – people with a high score in control tend to actively tackle problems that confront them. They will fight for a good outcome, even if the situation is difficult. They do not tend to be passive or powerless.
  3. ‘challenge’ – focused on change. People who tend to be focused on change will adapt to the situation as it evolves and try to deal with it. They consider change and setbacks to be a part of life and find it naive to strive after a comfortable life. They perceive change as an opportunity for personal growth.

Groups under ‘hardy leadership’ show less stress and absence from work. Prof. Bartone has done extensive research on this topic, particularly in military psychology.


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