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Building Resilience: From Fear to Enlightenment During Covid Year One

During times like pandemics, you can be building resilience. Here are the four tools and strategies top leaders used most to convert stress and anxiety into positive energy.

Written by: Lionel Frankfort

When I first saw the now-viral chart “Who do I want to be during COVID-19?” (an updated version is below), it resonated with my own journey. During the first two weeks of March 2020, I entered the fear zone: I was worried that my consulting and coaching business would crash.  I felt helpless about postponed or cancelled projects, and I kept compulsively busy, trying to keep the “old normal” alive.

By the end of the second week, although some fear remained, I entered the learning zone, where I regained some serenity, started to make sense of the situation, talked with clients and colleagues, and checked my financial reserves. After a month, I felt more confident and entered the growth zone, e.g. investing in some research on organisational resilience and engaging in a major real estate project.

Yet, there was a final stage missing from the image: the enlightenment zone[1] where I could appreciate quality time with my family. This journey happened in an extremely privileged context with all my basic needs covered.

Figure 1: Who do I want to be during COVID-19 – Unknown author in blue and outer ring inspired by Suzanne Kobasa in grey

As we all prefer to be in growth and enlightenment, the question becomes how to ease and perhaps accelerate getting there. Leaving the fear zone is even more important for leaders because if they are stuck there, it creates even more confusion for the people who rely on them. Therefore, I wanted to better understand what helped them to do so. I conducted 42 formal interviews of CEOs and EVPs, 30 male and 12 female, mainly with P&L responsibilities (only two CHROs) in leading or large companies with an international scope (up to 160,000 employees). The leaders are based in Belgium, France, Austria, the United States, Germany and Romania.

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