What is the connection between poor communication and resilient leadership?

It might not be the association you’re expecting.

Let me explain with the help of the American Psychological Association (APA) Dictionary of Psychology’s definition of resilience:

“Resilience is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioural flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.”

There’s a lot to unpack here.

Let’s assume for simplicity’s sake, however, that what life throws at us to deal with is outside our control (not strictly true – we all know people who have a knack for placing themselves in troublesome situations).

Consider then, how well we’re able to deal with the adversity that inevitably comes our way.

I’ve long prided myself on my ability to stick at things. Completing over 180 triathlons over a spectacularly unsuccessful 30-plus-year career is a testament to this. I’ve learnt the hard way how to cope with obstacles and keep showing up.

You may be aware that the Greek derivation of my first name Peter is “rock”.

Years ago, a close and valued colleague took the time to point out to me that “rock” does not mean “block of wood”.

Tuning out troubles when they arise, can at times be an effective strategy. Pretending to be invulnerable though, is not what resilience is about.

How we view the world, and equally importantly how we engage with the world, is a major factor in how well we adapt to adversity.

Research demonstrates that we can cultivate skills associated with greater resilience. Engaging with the world provides us with a plethora of opportunities to build resilience. And one effective means by which we actively engage with the world is by using our words in conversation.

I’ll let you in on one of the secrets to the Situation Analysis I carry out as an initial engagement with a new client.

I look for and specifically ask about communication issues. And guess what? 100% of the time issues show up. The typical comment I hear is “no-one tells me what’s going on around here….”

What I don’t do is automatically raise this issue with the owners and senior leaders of the business.

I look deeper, evaluating the extent to which I observe behaviour associated with “self-responsibility”.

If you’re looking to your leader for better communication, there’s a message for you. It’s just as much on you to put your hand up and ask!

And that’s also the key to resilience: the realisation that it is on all of us as individuals.

I carry a US dollar in my wallet.

It’s a helpful reminder that the buck stops here.

Peter Wilkinson – Director, Sam Wilko Advisory

Author of “The Steel Ceiling: Achieving Sustainable Growth in Engineering and Construction” Wiley, 2023