8 CEO-Proven Resilience Builders

When the going gets tough, here's how the experts keep going.

8 CEO-Proven Resilience Builders

When the going gets tough, here's how the experts keep going.

If successful CEOs share one trait, it’s resilience. “They either have a natural hardiness about them or they’ve learned tricks that help them do well under pressure,” says Michael Kahn, PhD, a psychologist in Maryland. Kahn interviewed more than 60 executives to find out how they handle the responsibility of leading companies in times of uncertainty. “When I felt frustrated with my own personal challenges as an entrepreneur, I wondered, How do successful executives handle these challenges?” The result of Kahn’s “CEO Stress Project” is a litany of practices common to nearly all of his interviewees. He says anyone can adopt them to remain cool and maintain success amid chaos.

So get to it — then discover the story that has changed thousands of lives: the essential 100 Ways to Live Until 100!

Man writing on clipboard

1
Plan more efficiently

“Planning is the most important thing a CEO can do to avoid stress,” says Kahn. Plan by the day, week, month, and year–and habitualize each planning session. For, example, check your daily schedule every morning before reading your e-mail; preview your week on Sunday nights; and preview the upcoming month every 27th. “I learned in the Navy that if you make a list of all the things that need to be done, you get them out of your head and don’t have to think about them,” one of Kahn’s CEOs told him. To gain a sense of control, prioritize tasks using the old A-B-C theory: A’s need to be done, B’s ought to be done, and C’s can wait until later.

Businessman in meeting looking at camera

2
Use the buddy system

“Select a trusted colleague and instruct him or her to pull you aside when he notices that you’re raising your voice,” says Kahn. A good consigliere can help make you aware of certain behaviors that you are trying to minimize.” Explain to him that you demand honesty, even if it stings. You’ll feel a weight lifted, having that security—and while you’re at it, turbocharge your happiness with these 25 Ways to Be Happier Now!

Men in suits arguing

3
Call a time-out

Effective leaders don’t spend a lot of energy on emotional angst, says Kahn. Just as a basketball coach will call a time-out to slow down the pace of the game and regroup when the other team is on a run, good CEOs know when to disengage in times of high emotion and reflect on their core values before making decisions. When you feel a tide of anger or frustration rising, call a time-out and leave the room to regain your composure. It might help to imagine a bird sitting on your shoulder, a bird that has been observing things and can whisper feedback into your ear. Be aware of what’s happening, what you want to be different, and what your options are to facilitate a shift in the process.

Man staring out of office window

4
Know how to say no

Someone who has too much on his plate needs to be able to say no to more tasks without feeling regret. That’s where good planning and delegating can help. Schedule regular appointments into your week — like a Wednesday tennis lesson — so that you’re not always reacting to the needs of others. One of Kahn’s CEOs makes a game of trying to get the most work done with the absolute minimum of effort. That’ll leave you more time to tackle these essential 50 Things You Must Do Before You Die!

Men walking in an airport

5
Develop a healthy arrogance

Great CEOs believe unequivocally that they can ace the job. Nurture this belief by reviewing past successes, and identify times when you faced similar obstacles and overcame them.

Employees working on the same table together

6
Delegate ruthlessly

A good manager will always relinquish tasks that others can do so that he can focus on the things only he can do. Then take your allotted vacation days every year — and go on these life-changing 25 Adventures Everyone Should Have.

Man relaxing in office chair

7
Respect the unexpected

Kahn says efficient execs tend to be very sensitive to the feeling of becoming overwhelmed. Like canaries in a coal mine, they recognize when the air is getting bad, and they know how to react before stress paralyzes them. Kahn recommends this stress-management ritual:

Man with a headache

8
Recognize your mind-body signals of distress

They might be muscle tension, rapid pulse, sweaty palms, or irritability, so:

Disengage by taking a walk or doing a breathing exercise.

Check and see if you have one of these 4 “Headaches” That Aren’t in Your Head.

Identify the stress source: Is it a project, a deadline, a personal interaction?

Generate a solution that you can implement immediately. For example, you might recognize, “I’m trying to do two-and-a-half days of work in three hours!” The solution: Delay doing one item on your list and deal with it at another time.