• Kevin Nourse, PhD

Building Leadership Resilience: Calibrating your inner thermostat

Leaders who are skilled at responding effectively to change and adversity do so because they have calibrated their inner self-asessment and regulation resilience thermostat.

Stu, a finance director in a healthcare organization, entered our session a few weeks back ten pounds lighter than the last time we met five weeks prior. When we first began coaching two months ago, he was stressed and reactive in both his work and personal life. He initially articulated his desire to become more resilient as a leader as a coaching goal.

Excited for his huge success, I asked him what shifted that enabled such an amazing change. As is often the case, he seemed to downplay the shift, chalking it up to cutting the junk out of his diet. Mind you, I’m not a physical trainer – and yet as a coach, part of my work involves deepening a client’s learning when they have a success outcome as a means for reinforcing the change. I probed the underlying shift in thinking that created this outcome, with specific practices he was using, and the vision he was working toward around resilience and its impact on his personal or professional goals. Using this approach, the client internalizes the coaching voice and becomes more self-sustaining instead of relying on me.

One of the challenges in coaching leaders to help build their sense of resilience in coping with adversity and change is the lack of visible outcomes. To some extent, resilience is an inner state or quality that may not always be evident. However, with Stu it became apparent that he was beginning to do the important work of resilience – what I call calibrating ones’ internal resilience thermostat.

The resilience thermostat plays an important role in self-regulation:

  • Creating a powerful sense of self-awareness which is ever so critical for adaptation and change

  • Maintaining a consistent equilibrium for a leader, thus enabling them to function at their very best

  • Triggering outward action to regain stasis if the leader gets too manic or too sluggish

Stu is clearly on his path toward significant change, spiraling up toward higher levels of functioning. This path takes on a number of significant milestones in a transformational path:

  • A leader begins to take better care of their bodies including eating healthier, exercising, and getting adequate sleep, which leads to…

  • Feeling more in control and confident in dealing with challenges, as well as shifting their perception from inner to outer focus, which leads to…

  • Picking up clues sooner of impending challenges in their environments and in relationships, which leads to…

  • Anticipating threats and taking substantive action to approach and address these challenges proactively, which leads to…

  • More successful outcomes in their work and personal lives, which leads to…

  • Reinforcement of their new resilience-building behaviors, personal mastery, higher self-efficacy, and even more confidence, which leads to…

  • Sustaining their investment in themselves and their self-care practices to maintain their inner thermostat at a consistent setting and thus ensure their continued success and growth.

I reflected on my session with Stu and the marvel of self-regulating human system in allowing people thrive in their lives with the right support. This is exactly the kind of impact I wanted to have when I started shifting my career over 25 years ago toward enabling human potential.

(c) 2014 Kevin Nourse, PhD



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