Team and organizations development

Resilience: The Key to Thriving in Today's Challenging Workplaces

In my work as a leadership coach, resilience has been a significant topic. We frequently learn how important it is as I assist my clients' development and well-being—especially in these constantly shifting times. Today, at the beginning the new year, we start with hopes and ambitions. But we also realize that our path to success is filled with considerable trials and tribulations that affect both our personal and professional lives. My personal pathway to resilience is now reflected by setting up life in another country and learning a new skill outside of my comfort zone. In this article, I want to share tools that have helped me and my clients find strength and balance, even in turbulent times.
The recent book "Tomorrowmind" by Martin Seligman and Gabriella Rosen Kellerman has changed the way we think about resilience. According to them, resilience is not about bouncing back with toughness. It is about bouncing back with a certain set of traits: emotional regulation, optimism, cognitive agility, self-compassion, and self-efficacy. These traits aren’t just about getting through today. They help us thrive in an ever-changing world. Let’s dive into each trait and illustrate them using real-world examples from my coaching experience.

Emotional regulation

Emotional regulation is the ability to manage and control emotions. It is an essential skill and necessary for making the right decisions as well as for overall well-being. A leader I worked with in coaching found that he was often overwhelmed by emotions, especially in high-stakes meetings. He transformed his ability to handle these situations by engaging in specific developmental experiences that improved his skills in recognizing emotional triggers and practicing mindfulness. He learned to pause, assess, and then respond, shifting from impulsive reactions. This change increased his effectiveness as a leader. Along with this, it also positively transformed the dynamic of his team, making it more productive and engaged.

How to tip:

To develop emotional regulation, engage in mindfulness and self-awareness practices. Allocate a few minutes daily to sit quietly and concentrate on your breathing. Observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment to gain awareness of what triggers your emotions and to understand your emotional patterns. When you encounter a strong emotion, take a moment to acknowledge it, then reflect on the reasons behind these feelings. This pause creates a gap between the emotion and your reaction, enabling you to respond thoughtfully instead of impulsively.

Such practices can significantly alter your reactions and enhance your emotional regulation skills.


Optimism is a key element of resilience. It is characterized by a hopeful, confident outlook about the future. Optimistic people are able to see the opportunity in every difficulty. They tend to expect positive outcomes, and they also believe in their ability to influence these outcomes. This optimistic bias fosters resilience, and it also contributes to a longer and healthier life.

How to tip:

Start with adopting a positive, yet realistic, mindset through these behaviors:
  • Recognize and challenge negative thought patterns.
  • When you face a setback or difficulty, rather than “catastrophizing” about what went wrong and what else could go wrong, actively shift your thoughts to what can be learned or gained.
  • Maintain a practice of gratitude - consistently concentrate on parts of your life and work that you value, regardless of their size.
  • Surround yourself with positive influences, people who lift you up and promote an optimistic perspective.
  • Set realistic goals and celebrate these achievements. They serve as reminders of your successes and build confidence in your ability to handle future challenges.

Cognitive Agility

At its core, cognitive agility is having the ability to see things from different perspectives and thinking through multiple scenarios, particularly in moments of crisis, when humans tend to go to the “darkest place” or catastrophize. By coaching around it, people are able to expand the boundaries of their cognitive agility, learning to consider more scenarios and resulting in making informed decisions based on those possibilities.

How to tip:

One effective method is to regularly engage in activities that push you out of your cognitive comfort zone. You can try things like learning a new language, picking up a complex skill, or solving different types of puzzles. This keeps your brain active and promotes neuroplasticity, which is crucial for cognitive agility. Start by cultivating a growth mindset - view every challenge as an opportunity for learning rather than a threat. This mindset shift can also significantly boost your cognitive agility.


Self-compassion is the ability to manage your own personal suffering with the same kindness and understanding as you would show to others. This involves showing a similar amount of understanding towards yourself that you would for a friend, especially if you notice that you are not perfect. Remember this, especially during difficult times.

Self-compassion is about being gentle with yourself, rather than getting angry at yourself for not achieving your impossible ideals. Emotionally speaking, having compassion for yourself is no different than having compassion for others

How to tip:

To build self-compassion, start treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would do to a good friend. Recognize and acknowledge your own challenges. Do not ignore or suppress them. When you encounter difficulties, respond with empathy and gentleness towards yourself. Stop harsh self-criticism. Try using positive and encouraging self-talk. Say things like "It's okay to make mistakes, everyone does" or "I'm doing my best, and that's enough."


Self-efficacy is your belief in your ability to perform specific tasks and to achieve goals. This belief is developed through achieving small victories and building upon them. As a coach, I encourage my clients to set attainable goals to develop mastery and confidence, which are critical for resilience. A new manager, Laura, whom I coached, doubted her ability to lead her team. She established and then met small goals, which helped Laura build confidence. That feeling of self-efficacy not only positively transformed Laura as a team leader but also led to more trustful relationships within her team.

How to tip:

Develop self-efficacy by establishing and accomplishing small, achievable goals. These initial successes lay a foundation of confidence that progressively strengthens and extends. Select tasks that are both challenging and attainable. Challenging objectives provide a sense of achievement, while achievable goals enhance your sense of control over your actions.


In the end, resilience includes emotional regulation, optimism, cognitive agility, self-compassion and self-efficacy. You can make a significant difference in your personal and professional resilience, and, as a result, in your success by cultivating these characteristics. As a leadership coach, I've witnessed the enhancement of not only leaders' resilience, but also the resilience of their teams, over and over, especially in challenging times. Coaching is a central method for influencing one's development and thereby, personal and professional resilience.