This week’s chat with Gemma Leigh Roberts feels perfectly timed. You may remember that a couple of weeks ago I shared on LinkedIn that I’ve had a hard time working from home, managing the house, juggling friends & family—all of it! Imagine my surprise when I received countless messages saying you’re feeling the same way. I decided to do something about it. Enter Gemma Leigh Roberts.
She’s an organizational psychologist, executive coach and performance psychologist, but to me she’s a one-woman inspirational powerhouse, with over 110,000 subscribers to her Mindset Matters newsletter and a top 20 Instructor on LinkedIn Learning, focusing on resilience. Something we all could use a bit more of right now! In today’s conversation she shares more on what the ‘resilience mindset’ is and how we all have the power to cultivate it.
There seems to be a common definition of resilience which is how well you’re able to deal with life’s challenges and how you navigate through hard times that might knock you off course.
However, you might be surprised to learn, there’s actually no standard definition of what resilience looks like—it’s completely unique to each individual.
I love Gemma’s perspective that we aren’t all born with a set amount of resilience, that we can learn techniques to improve how resilient we are. It’s about learning from life’s challenges and using those learnings to help build a foundational strength that helps you handle big issues in the future.
You can be the Arnold Schwarzenegger of resilience. No really! You see, we’re all born with muscles and we can choose to build them up to Arnold Schwarzenegger scale or we can opt to keep things a little bit softer. We are born with some resilience and we can either choose to exercise our resilience making us ready to handle everything or we can choose to not pay much attention to it.
Gemma says, sure, some people are born with certain traits, such as hardiness. However, you can’t build true resilience without practice. The catch? Practice often means facing uncomfortable situations and that’s something that people naturally try to avoid. I know I sure do! Which makes sense. Wouldn’t we all rather things go smoothly rather than one big chaotic mess? But it’s in that chaotic mess that the magic happens. The real work where we learn we can handle hard situations.
This year in particular, it feels as though we’re all needing to conjure more resilience in our work-lives than ever before—so we’re having to build that coping muscle more and more while we are actually going through it. To navigate these times, Gemma says that it can help to think of yourself as an athlete in training—consistently working on your resilience before you even need it. This means finding practical strategies and techniques to help you cope when the tough times inevitably arrive, as well as set times to focus on resting and recharging during stressful periods.
When I see people going through a hard time I naturally want to help. I want to help them. The question is, how do I help? Which is something I was eager for Gemma to dive into.
Gemma outlined 2 ways do to this:
Provide people with a range of options and ideas. Such as, ‘This technique has worked for me or here’s a course I found value in’. The fundamental truth (that no one wants to hear!) is that it takes work (hard work!) to become stronger. If people aren’t in an open frame of mind to do the work and dig into the hard stuff you most likely won’t be able to change it.
Lead by example. Whether it’s a friend, brother, sister, mother, or even your own kids, leading by example can be a great way to take people on a learning journey with you.
As a parent it can be especially difficult because we never want our children to feel pain but Gemma says it’s about being there as a support to help them navigate those moments that matters. Sometimes you have to let them learn and build resilience which means letting them face hard times!
Teamwork and team cohesion plays a pivotal role in our work-lives these days. Being able to collaborate with multiple team members and departments at the same time is essential when business is disrupted (especially now with COVID!).
Gemma is a bonafide expert in building ‘team resilience’ and says that the best way to build a strong dynamic team often means a leader letting them make mistakes. Controversial? Maybe. Effective? Definitely. We’re not talking massive catastrophic mistakes here. It’s more about leaders letting their team members wing it to a certain extent, testing to see what works and what doesn’t and demonstrating their learnings from those mistakes.
Companies traditionally never like to operate from a position of vulnerability. The catch? Vulnerability is actually the core ingredient to building a resilient team. Go figure! In 2020, with everyone shifting to working from home, companies very quickly had to embrace a certain level of vulnerability and trust in their team members in order to continue to operate.
Gemma believes that ‘trust is the heartbeat’ of resilience. In the corporate world or even in your personal life, it’s about trusting your team to adjust and be honest when things aren’t going the “right” way. It’s not about disclosing everything but about being empowered enough to say, ‘I’m struggling with this’ and letting people know where you’re at.
Here’s a great way to shift your mindset when you come up against challenges; ask yourself, ‘Is there anything positive I can do in this situation?’ What Gemma explained is that every problem is a puzzle that you need to figure out. When you’re figuring out how to add positivity into a situation she uses ‘realistic optimism’. This mindset is a great way to put yourself into a place of empowerment when faced with an issue.
As an example, there are thousands of companies that are thriving despite the global pandemic we’re all facing today because they were able to look at the opportunities available to them and pivot. Not to say that we’re all going to come out of 2020 smiling, however Gemma believes that we can train ourselves to emotionally pivot when things get tough by taking a step back, breathing, and asking ‘what can I do with this situation?’
I’m a big believer in continuing to learn. Why Netflix & chill when you can learn & hang?! Ha ok ok I might need some branding work there. Lucky for us I’m not alone and there are literally hundreds of places to obtain expert-led courses on professional development thanks to the internet. For Gemma, LinkedIn is one of the best places to start because the course leaders are people who work as experts in their fields. Often it’s not the most high-profile teachers that impart the greatest knowledge—sometimes the most authentic real-world lessons come from the people who aren’t super academic but rather want to impart knowledge from operating in day-to-day situations.
Keep me posted about different resources you learn from!
What’s the best thing you’ve started doing lately? Practicing gratitude. Every day listing three things that are good in my world.
What’s the best gift you’ve done for yourself or given yourself lately? Saying no to work so that I can spend more time with my family.
What’s one thing you need more of in your life right now? Self kindness. I can be a bit self critical so I think I have to get better at saying ‘I’m trying my best’ and that being good enough.
If there was one lesson you could help young people understand, what would it be? Not to be afraid of challenges. You will come across things that challenge you, that you think are going to break you but running away from them is not the answer. You’ll figure it out and there are always people around you to help.
Homework: What should we all challenge ourselves to do this week? Do something for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it. Whether that’s going to the gym, for a run, taking a nap, reading a book, or watching some rubbish TV.
Jess Ekstrom is sitting down with us to discuss how she founded Headbands for Hope, how we can create optimism in our lives and what it’s like to launch a book, podcast and new business all in one year!
She founded Headbands of Hope when she was a senior in college in 2012 which has since given tens of thousands of dollars to childhood cancer research and donated over half a million headbands reaching every children’s hospital in the United States and in fifteen countries.
Optimism is a focus for me (and hopefully for you) as we start to wind down 2020 and look to a brighter 2021. If you’re interested in tips and tricks about entrepreneurship, business and staying on the bright side tune in next Wednesday—and bring a friend! The more the merrier – RSVP