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Resilience: 12 tips for bouncing back

It was a sobering message that I gave to my Vistage advisory board members at our monthly meeting; ‘As CEOs and MDs you cannot avoid taking a hit. It is not if but when. You will lose deals. You will lose key people. You will lose sleep. Therefore, the question is not how can you stop yourself falling over because you will fall over. The question is how do you get up again…and again…and again…as quickly as possible?’

Two of our members had taken that hit in the previous 24 hours. As a result, they were not at the meeting as they were fire-fighting issues back at the ranch. I asked the group to think of the biggest hit they had each taken in the past month and what had worked to help them bounce back. Here are their top tips grouped under four headings:-



  1. Empathise with the persecutor
  2. Take some time out
  3. Have a rant with someone outside the situation
  4. Write it down


  1. Hold strong to your values
  2. Remember the original personal and shared purpose
  3. Trust your instinct


  1. Think win/win
  2. Sometimes you have to push back to stay in integrity
  3. Be flexible and creative to come up with plan B


  1. Sometimes it is worth losing the battle to win the war
  2. If you are going to give up, give up on a good day!

It had also been a hit for me to hear that, at short notice, two members were not attending our meeting. On reflection, here’s how the tips had worked in my own situation.

First, I was disappointed but I had to realise that my issue was nothing like as critical as theirs (tip 1 – empathise with the persecutor). That evening I took some time out in my hotel room, had a good moan about it to my wife and wrote the issue out using a coaching exercise I have used for many years (tips 2, 3 & 4). This helped me stop and regain perspective so then I was ready to remind myself of all the great things about being a Vistage Chair and how much the role honours my values of challenge, growth, care and sharing (tips 5 & 6). Even though I didn’t know how I was going to re-jig the meeting agenda, my instinct was that it would all be fine and that allowed me to get a decent night’s sleep (tip 7).

Getting up early with a clearer head, I was ready to sort my tactics. I ditched the original agenda, created the new resilience exercise and dusted down our group ‘ground-rules’ (tips 8, 9 & 10). By the end of the meeting, I felt I had lost the battle (two members not attending) and yet I was sure we had won the war (delivered new value for everyone from the experience). It turned out to be a fantastic day – though not in this case a day for giving up! (tips 11 & 12)

The group members each chose one resilience tip they would practise in the coming month. That’s because they know the next hit is just around the corner. It’s coming around a corner near you too. So here’s a quick exercise to help with bouncing back:-

  • Pick three of the twelve tips that are your core strengths. Make them your best friends in times of need.
  • Pick one of the twelve tips that is your Achilles heel. Find someone who does that tip fantastically well and ask them how they do it.
  • Add a thirteenth tip that is something that uniquely works for you.

Resilience is a habit. It doesn’t develop from simply taking a lot of hits; that’s called being a punch ball. It develops when you take a disciplined approach to bouncing back. Stop. Re-visit the big picture. Sort your tactics. Let go. Stop. Re-visit the big picture. Sort your tactics. Let go. Time and time again. Keep losing the battles so you can win the war.

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