Resilience is the New Leadership Currency
Two weeks ago, we had to say goodbye to our son Evan, who had been visiting from his therapeutic boarding school in Idaho. While we know this program is the best place for him, it still hurts every time he has to leave.
We arrived at the gate an hour before his flight. It was my first time at the Austin airport since COVID began, and as someone who is used to traveling quite a bit, it was a bizarre experience. It looked like a ghost town with the exception of 20 or 30 people at our gate. When it came time to board, Evan waved goodbye (I was instructed I could not hug him in public) and walked down the jet bridge.
We left while the plane was taxiing, as we usually do, and headed home. Unfortunately, the plane had mechanical issues and didn’t take off. Concerned he might not make his connection, we talked to Evan and asked to speak to the Delta representative. He waited in line and handed his phone to Myriam.
Myriam was kind and patient, answered our questions, and addressed our concerns. Delta is my preferred airline because of their customer service (shhhh…don’t tell my mom who is a flight attendant with a different airline who also has amazing customer service). This was just another one of many great service experiences. Then, another delay, and another, so Evan waited in line to talk with Myriam, who was once again patient and kind. She let us know that the plane would take off shortly and Evan would make his connection.
But then, something even more incredible happened. Thirty-minutes after the flight took off, my phone rang, and it was Myriam. She found my number in Evan’s flight record and called to let me know that his flight left safely, and that he was kind and respectful. She explained that she is a mom too, and she wanted to make sure I knew he was safe.
Myriam did naturally what most organizations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to train their employees to do. She made an emotional connection, she empathized, and she took it upon herself to go the extra mile.
It doesn’t matter whether you are an individual contributor, mid-level manager, or senior executive, a resilient leader is someone who understands that to influence positively, the heart has to come before the spreadsheet. Resilient leaders know that while deadlines have to get met and budgets must be kept, the real magic happens in the little moments that aren’t scripted or prescribed.
“A resilient leader is someone who understands that to influence positively, the heart has to come before the spreadsheet.”
Resilience is the new leadership currency and starts with these 3 steps:
1. Practice Mind Over Moment
When navigating challenging times, it is easy to fall into the trap of reactivity, and that depletes resilience. Resilient leaders understand that in order to create a culture that drives success, you must be proactive and present when dealing with people and situations. Even though Myriam had a line of people frustrated that they might miss their flight, she was totally present and focused. Leaders that promote and practice mindfulness break out of reactivity to lead strategically. This includes being present with employees and customers, building true connection, and staying focused on what is most important, not what is screaming the loudest for your attention.
2. Define the service experience
How do you want people to feel after they have interacted with you and your organization? This includes employees and customers. Whether you are selling a product, offering a service, or both, focus on how you want people to feel. Myriam could have explained Delta’s policies and procedures, but instead, she focused on making sure Evan felt safe, and we felt reassured. While it sounds cheesy, people really do remember how you made them feel. An organizational culture of resilience starts with the empowerment of employees. When you stop writing policies, and start creating desired experiences, you create a culture that can weather the storms.
3. Focus on connection
Resilient leaders understand that trust and connection drive performance and profitability, not the other way around. These are often called “soft skills”, but in my twenty years of experiencing working with organizations, they are the hardest skills of all. Social distancing and Zoom meetings aren’t going anywhere in the near term. While we may have to maintain physical distance, we can still create emotional connection with each other and our customers. Social connection is a core psychological need, and people who feel more connected are happier and healthier than those who aren’t. Leaders that foster emotional intelligence, empathy, and social connection have teams that are more engaged, positive, and productive.
Resilient leaders don’t escape challenging times, but they are prepared for them. So thank you Delta for promoting a resilient culture. And thank you Myriam for being a shining example of resilient leadership and helping this worried mama worry a little less. You made a really tough day a little bit easier.
Stay brave and resilient,
Want more tools and strategies to help you build resilience and successfully navigate turbulent times? Check out my LinkedIn Live interview with Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo and my most recent feature in SUCCESS magazine!
Anne Grady is a Speaker, Author, and #TruthBomb Dropper.
Anne shares practical strategies that can be applied both personally and professionally to improve relationships, navigate change, and triumph over adversity. And she’ll make you laugh while she does it. Anne is a two time TEDx speaker, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. magazines, CNN, ESPN, and FOX Business. She is the best selling author of 52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work and Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience and Triumph.