Many people start the year with an inspirational word, a word that will define their intentions and structure their efforts. Well, 2020 threw a curveball at all of us, and this year I found myself in the final days of December pondering the word that best reflects this bizarre time. But then I realized I'd been facing it all year: resilience.

When we began to create the curriculum for the Fort Smith regional Women’s Leadership Summit at the beginning of this month, I was excited to find that one of our speed session speakers wanted to talk about building and leading with resilience. 

Angela Grazier, human resources manager for Kraft Heinz Company Planters Peanuts in Fort Smith, inspired me to recognize the resiliency so many of us have exerted over the past nine months. She shared with the Fort Smith attendees that there are seven key factors that impact your resiliency.

1. Cultivate a belief in your ability to cope. If you believe you can cope, you will. But go a bit further, Grazier says, and study yourself. Know what your very best version of you is. Know your strengths and recognize your weaknesses. As managers, Grazier says to review what your team has already achieved and share it with them during turbulent times. Allow your people to feel the way they feel and then move forward. Don’t park and stay in the negative. Strong leaders will always kick it into drive and move forward.

2. Stay connected with sources of support. In tough times, leaning on and staying connected to people and platforms that provide support is crucial, and something we should do with intention. Maybe we aren’t lunching as often as we used to, and happy hour venting has gone by the wayside, but leveraging your technology can be a great way to reconnect with folks who raise you up in tough times. Text them, video chat, find a social media feed that inspires you.

Organizationally, spend time reviewing if your company is offering support outlets for your employees. Are there mental health resources available, focus groups or flexible work arrangements that can help your team become more resilient in their everyday work?

3. Talk about what you’re going through. We know talking through things is a healthy way to process information, but as female professionals, we often have concerns that doing so in a work environment might put a shade of weakness around us, so we keep it bottled up. As leaders and managers and just good peers, look to those around you and assess the situation. Do you think they have an outlet to share with? If not, can you be that person or find someone who can?

Warning: Sometimes it’s also good to listen. So for the talkers reading this article, be aware of your ability to dominate a conversation and don’t forget to genuinely ask how others are feeling.

4. Be helpful to others. We all know the natural high that comes from helping other people — volunteering, assisting team members with a big win, lending your skills to a project and so on. But during difficult times, resilient leaders are helping others as a way to shift their focus from their situation to the situation you are in. Removing that self-centered thought process is often such a great way to get past a block. But be cautious not to over-exhaust yourself or take on the problems of others. 

5. Activate a positive emotion. For Grazier, who grew up on a cattle farm, being in nature and around animals grounds her and brings up good memories and positive emotions from younger days. Women are pushed to achieve in all areas of life — work, promotions, kids, school, friendship, volunteerism — and often when the going gets tough, we pick at all of the areas we don’t feel we are doing well enough in.

Instead, find ways to encourage positive emotion in yourself. Be mindful, intentional and find time for meditation. If you are a manager, look for the triggers to create positive emotions in your people so you can encourage them to focus on the positive in nay-saying times. 

6. Cultivate an attitude of survivorship. You often see people who have survived a traumatic experience go on to become stronger and more successful in other areas of their life. Many survivors find inner strength that most of us cannot fully understand. However, affirming messages will give you strength, says Grazier. Create your narrative for your team and make them believe that vision. Creating an attitude of survivorship within your team will only help you be more successful.

7. Seek meaning. Research shows that people who seek meaning rather than happiness are more satisfied and more successful in their lives. Helping your team (and yourself) understand the "why" behind actions helps them to come together and create team success. For individual team members, the realization of the role they play in the larger success of projects or the company often pushes them to go beyond barriers they're not expected to pass. 

Click here to watch Grazier’s session, as well as other videos from all WLS 2020 events.

As business women we have an innate level of resilience, but that sense of resilience might wax and wane. (It certainly does for me.) I encourage you to look back at this year and ask a few questions. What challenges did you face? What creative solutions did your team discover to succeed? How many times did you pivot and persevere? Be proud of what you have done in 2020 and find ways to help others become more resilient as we move into the new year. 

2020 can easily be branded as a year of loss, but I don’t believe resilient leaders will see it that way. We will find the positives, the underlying successes of the year, and we will celebrate. Ladies, we're here, surviving as we go into the final weeks of the year. Stay strong, work together, lift one another up. Let’s do this, 2021.


Mandy Richardson is the publisher of Little Rock Soirée and Little Rock Family magazines and is the founder of the Soirée Women's Leadership Symposium. Follow her on Instagram at @mandyjrichardson.


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