How Personal Resilience Builds Business Resilience with Melody Wilding

Melody and I talk about why investing in developing skills to strengthen how we personally deal with change creates a huge impact on how we approach leading our businesses through change.

Susan Boles
November 3, 2020
Quote: "It's not necessarily about success or achievement but rather the process of building inner strength, inner fortitude. What I've heard from people over and over is that they realize they can't always control the world around them. What they can control is their own experience and the meaning they derive from it." – Melody Wilding

As founders and business owners, we tend to build businesses that reflect us. 

Our strengths become the strengths of our business. And, yep, our weaknesses become the weaknesses of the business… because we’re the ones who are building it. 

That’s why investing in developing skills to strengthen how we personally deal with change creates a huge impact on how we approach leading our businesses through change. 

If you listened to the episode with Elatia Abate, you know that the ability to be resilient and flexible in the face of change IS a skill and a mindset that you can work on. You can't control the change (because change is inevitable!)—but you can control how you react to it

On today’s episode, I’m talking with Melody Wilding. Melody is a former therapist turned leadership and executive coach for smart, sensitive high-achievers who are tired of getting in their own way.

Melody is a licensed social worker and a former researcher at Rutgers University. She is also a professor of Human Behavior at Hunter College and she has a group coaching program all about building resilience.

Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • How Melody uses systems and structures to help minimize stress, build resilience and manage change in her life and business
  • Why being kind to yourself and empathetic to your team is a HUGE part of effectively managing a rapidly changing environment
  • How to accept that during intense change, your bandwidth is a LOT smaller than it was
  • Techniques and systems to building personal and business resilience in your own life
  • How to find the right structures that minimize your mental load so you can take care of you and your team

Episode Transcript

Susan Boles (00:00):

The biggest complication I see is overworking and burnout being the biggest threat to their resilience and their wellbeing because there's lack of boundaries. There is no separation. What I really been working with clients around recently is how do we create some of those micro-structures for you? Because we don't have just the natural, organic separation of work and life now. They are so blended together. But if we don't have boundaries, you're constantly going to be leaking your energy all over the place or reactive to certain situations and you can't be your best self. You can't make your best decisions when you're in that frame of mind.

Susan Boles (00:43):

As business owners, how we personally react to change has a lot to do with how our businesses react to change. If we tend to roll with the punches and have strong personal resilience skills, our businesses probably will too. I'm Susan Boles and you're listening to Break the Ceiling, the show where we break down unconventional strategies you can use to save time, boost your profit and increase your operational capacity.

Susan Boles (01:10):

As founders and business owners, we tend to build businesses that reflect us. Our strengths become the strengths of the business, our weaknesses become the weaknesses of the business because we're the ones building it. Investing in developing skills to strengthen how we personally deal with change can have a big impact on how we approach leading our businesses through change. And if you listened to the last episode with Elatia Abate, you know that the ability to be resilient and flexible in the face of change is a skill and a mindset that you can work on. You can't control the change, but you can control how you react to it.

Susan Boles (01:51):

Meet Melody Wilding. She is a former therapist, turned leadership and executive coach for smart, sensitive high achievers who are tired of getting in their own way. Melody is a licensed social worker and a former researcher at Rutgers University. She is also a professor of human behavior at Hunter College and she has a group coaching program all about building resilience. Melody is all about using systems and structures to help minimize stress, build resilience and manage change. And today we'll talk about some of those techniques and systems you can use to help you personally build up those resiliency muscles and lead your team through change.

Susan Boles (02:34):

Hey Melody, thanks for being on the show.

Melody Wilding (02:36):

Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Susan Boles (02:39):

You work with what you call sensitive strivers. Can you tell me a little bit about what that is, who those folks are?

Melody Wilding (02:49):

Sensitive strivers are high achievers, they're driven, they put a lot of pressure on themselves to succeed, but they are also highly sensitive in that are people who think and feel everything more deeply. And biologically speaking, this is about 15 to 20% of people who have a genetic trait difference that actually leads them to have a more highly attuned nervous system. They're actually picking up on more information, more things that are happening both around them in their environment, but also within them, their own thoughts and emotions. These type of people, they're deeply caring, they give their 110% to everything that they do, especially their work, all with an inner world on overdrive. And so while these qualities it's just like any personality trait, these qualities lead them to rise really quickly in their careers or their businesses, because they are very driven, conscientious, thoughtful, caring. But on the flip side, these qualities do have shadow sides. Sensitive strivers tend to disproportionately struggle with things like self doubt, imposter syndrome, perfectionism, people pleasing because they are so attuned to their own emotions and those of the people around them.

Susan Boles (04:16):

I feel bad. Because of that, I'm imagining there is a lot of work that you need to do with them around dealing with all of those big emotions and how to manage those. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Melody Wilding (04:36):

Yeah, absolutely. Sensitive strivers, I've broken down the traits that sensitive strivers have into six different qualities, one of which is emotionality. That we tend to have bigger emotions, as you were saying, more complex emotions so we feel them to depth and complexity that other people don't. And especially now in the climate and the year that we're in, it's been quite a roller coaster ride for people. And actually I was just talking to a member of one of my group programs earlier and she was saying something she's starting to work on is not having a reaction to her reactions. Sensitive strivers tend to be the type of people who they may be disappointed if a client doesn't come through for example or get frustrated because an idea is just not coming together and we can get stuck in those emotions longer than most people if we don't have the right tools to deal with them. But we can also then have this sort of meta level reaction to our emotions where then we beat ourselves up for, we feel bad about feeling bad, because many of us have been shamed for having this level of sensitivity.

Melody Wilding (05:55):

We haven't learned how to accept it within ourselves and really just allow those emotions to exist. Or as I like to say, metabolize them. Have different structures, systems, tools in place to metabolize and work those emotions through you so that you're able to move past them. You can't get rid of them, but you can learn how to not let them grind you to a halt or just stop you in your tracks.

Susan Boles (06:22):

Yeah. As business owners, I think there's a lot of corollaries here, having strong skills around managing and reacting to change and becoming personally resilient really impacts our businesses. Talk to me a little bit about how you see that coming up with the folks you work with or just in your ecosystem, especially in the extra crazy time that this year has been for managing change and learning how to be resilient.

Melody Wilding (06:56):

Yeah, I think that's the number one word I've heard over and over and over again from people is just this idea of resilience. And actually I happen to have a group program called Resilient and one of the first exercises I have them do is define what resilience means to them. I thought it might be helpful to go over that because I think it adds some color around what this means to people.

Melody Wilding (07:27):

What I tend to hear from people is that resilience to them means dealing with whatever life throws at you, being able to bounce back from a challenge or persisting, even when things are not smooth sailing. I also heard using your lifelong experiences and learning to help guide you to a calmer situation or a place. Finding joy in difficult seasons, moving forward, even when you know, something's going to be hard, but you know the process is worth it. And what I think is interesting about all these definitions is that it's not necessarily about the outcome. It's not necessarily about success or achievement, but rather this process of building inner strength, inner fortitude.

Melody Wilding (08:16):

And so what I've heard over and over again from people, especially those who are more sensitive is that they realize that they can't always control the world around them, but what they can control is their own experience of this year and the meaning they derive from it and wanting to get through 2020 and the rest of what we have of it and the aftermath, because we're going to be living with the repercussions of, and the growth that's come from this year in many different ways, but doing that with less emotional turmoil and more peace.

Susan Boles (08:53):

I like that. And I think it relates in a lot of ways to the work I do with clients. I help them build resilient businesses and that we're creating structures and systems and ways to make sure that the operations of the business keep rolling even if there is times of stress or if you have to be away from the business for a long period of time or any of those things that we need to deal with and the ability to bounce back, I think really resonates with me on both sides. Speaking of systems, structures, a lot of those systems, the structures, the things that we've built that business owners and I think just busy professionals use to help manage stress or help them systematize resiliency or systematize the ability to kind of deal with changes, a lot of those have really broken down this year or just disappeared completely.

Susan Boles (09:54):

And we are all dealing with managing a new level of change, a new level of stress without those kind of systemic structures like schools. No one ever really plans for schools to stop existing. As a parent, it never crossed my mind that the schools would somehow not exist. And I think that's a good example of one of those structures that we're used to counting on for support, for managing personal resiliency, giving ourselves as adults, time alone. And I know that you are all about creating systems and structures to help you manage stress, your clients manage stress, be their best, but what are some of those techniques or structures that you recommend that you work with clients on particularly now?

Melody Wilding (10:51):

Yeah. Yeah. And like you were saying, I think this year just kind of blew up everything that we had. And also just the regular, the typical mechanisms we had for separating work and life. And that's been the biggest complication I see, especially for the people I work with is overworking and burnout being the biggest threat to their resilience and their wellbeing, because there's lack of boundaries. You're not leaving to go to a co-working space or your children aren't out of the house for whatever, six to eight hours a day. There is no separation.

Melody Wilding (11:31):

And for business owners who already put so much of their identity into their business, it has just been compounded a 100 fold. And so what I really been working with clients around recently is how do we create some of those micro structures for you? Because we don't have just the natural, organic separation of work and life now. They are so blended together. But if we don't have boundaries, you're constantly going to be leaking your energy all over the place or reactive to certain situations and you can't be your best self. You can't make your best decisions when you're in that frame of mind.

Melody Wilding (12:16):

Something that I can provide, a few examples of what I've seen help some of my clients. One is creating more structure to the week wherever possible. Some of my clients have done this by creating A and B weeks. They may have an A week where that is all client service, where they're working on a certain project or they have sessions, whatever it may be. And then the B week may be for more content creation, other strategic work, planning, but that sort of separation helps keep them in one mode and then another mode so they're not constantly switching back and forth because every time you're doing that, there's an energy loss there. And for sensitive folks like us, who run on that and who are already putting out so much of our energy to other people, we can't afford to keep task switching like that.

Melody Wilding (13:22):

Either creating A weeks and B weeks can be very helpful or just theming your days. Sometimes it's not possible or realistic to have A and B weeks and this is what I do in my business is I theme my days. I have certain days that are for clients and on those days, that is all I do and I'm very disciplined with myself about anything that falls outside of client service, it gets done on my other days. And that just helps me create some boundaries around how I use my time so that I don't become burned out. That's one thing that's really helping people.

Melody Wilding (14:00):

Another is decision fatigue. Eliminating decision fatigue, wherever possible. Right now our attention is in so many different places and we have so much background noise. I often say, it's like, if you have 25 apps open on your phone, they're all running in the background and draining your battery. We have that in spades right now, just with everything that's going on in the world. And so focusing on what you can control and eliminating to the extent possible, decisions you don't have to make, which I'm sure as you know, that can involve things like automation, creating standard operating procedures. For example, something I've really been focusing on is my client on boarding and how can I automate that as much as possible? Really bringing in, putting together new systems and processes so that is all happening in the background and does not require my intervention to think about or track. And just that time savings has brought back so much more focus and a weight lifted off of me.

Susan Boles (15:15):

Yeah, we ended up doing something. We realized that deciding on dinner, not necessarily cooking dinner, but deciding what to eat for dinner was one of those things that over the last six months has just gotten harder and harder and harder. And our solution was to start subscribing to a meal box so that we didn't have to decide. You had to decide, here are three choices, pick one. And that it's interesting that it was such a small tweak. That's not a very big thing to take off your plate, but after trying to manage virtual schooling, plus my husband runs a business too. Trying to run and negotiate the two businesses around virtual schooling, that was the decision. That was the point where we just had started noticing that we just couldn't make any more decisions.

Melody Wilding (16:08):

Yeah. And I was just, meal prep was the other example I was going to give. Deciding your meals in advance or for example, deciding what workout you're going to do the day before so that it's not in that moment. You don't have to choose which Peloton exercise you're going to do, you've already pre-decided.

Melody Wilding (16:28):

And something actually that has worked really well for me has been a lifesaver is I have a separate email address that I use to sign up for newsletters, email lists, things like that so that I keep all of that email outside of my normal inbox that I'm in 99% of the day so that I'm the one who's making a choice when I want to go renews for example, or look through newsletters and click on links and things like that. I get to decide when that happens. I don't have those constant interruptions throughout the day, so that because when something pops in your inbox, hopefully everybody doesn't have notifications on and things like that. But again, that's another area where you are making micro decisions every few seconds and that's then focus you don't have to dedicate to the rest of your business. That's something very minor that has been a real lifesaver for me and a lot of my clients have adopted that and really, really love it.

Susan Boles (17:35):

Yeah. I love that idea. I have a tag that they automatically get tagged, but they're still in my inbox. And definitely throughout this time period, one of the things that I've noticed is that I really I've started pausing my inbox and trying to batch through, but so much of it is still, and I'm pretty diligent about clearing out subscriptions I don't like and unsubscribing from stuff I'm not using and it's still can be really overwhelming. I love the idea of just a separate email address that it just goes there and you just pick it.

Melody Wilding (18:07):

Yeah, and you also realize what's not essential. And I think that's another lesson that's come out of this time period, is that it's really stripped away everything that doesn't matter and it's forced us to focus on what's most important right in front of us now, because we don't know. We don't know what is going to happen next week, next month and we're all operating with such different bandwidth than we had before. And so just the emails is a little microcosm of that because you realize that at one point you may have thought it was so essential that you read through every newsletter that you get from a certain person or every bit of news that comes across your plate. And once you take it away, you realize that you're able to function without it and it's not that important. It's a nice way to, especially us sensitive strivers, we tend to be perfectionists and maximizers. And so it's a good way to let go of some of that and loosen around it.

Susan Boles (19:11):

Explain to me the term maximizer because I kind of love that. And also in no way feel personally attacked.

Melody Wilding (19:21):

Likewise. Maximizers, this comes from psychology where they have generally grouped decision making into two different types. This is a big generalization, but you have maximizers who will look to make the most optimal decision possible. And then you have satisficers, so combination of satisfying, who look to make just the best decision for right now. They don't get caught up, they don't overthink things, they don't get caught up in needless details. Satisficers are more so, or I should say, taking a satisficing approach is having a greater bias towards action or just satisfying the most important criteria of a decision and then moving on. Whereas a maximizer may not make a decision until they have satisfied all the criteria. To bring it to a business context, it's kind of like if you're choosing a software, you will not make a choice about the software until it has every single bell and whistle and feature that you required versus satisfying well, you'll take 70% of the features and figure out the rest, but keep moving forward.

Susan Boles (20:40):

Well, that did feel like a personal attack.

Melody Wilding (20:43):

I hear you.

Susan Boles (20:44):

In my head, I'm like, no, I haven't been messing around with evaluating course platforms for six weeks. Yes, exactly. Exactly.

Susan Boles (20:54):

Is it worth it? Every small business owner wants to know that the money they spend on their businesses is worth it, that their investments produce results and help them grow. But if you don't know your business finances in and out, it's hard to know whether those expenses and investments are really worth it. Plenty of business owners, even the successful ones feel like they're shooting in the dark when it comes to how they spend, save and invest their money. Like you, they wonder if the ads they're buying, the software they're investing in or the people they're paying are really paying off. And that's stressful.

Susan Boles (21:35):

Feeling unsure about how you're spending or investing your money might be common, but it sure isn't fun. I want something different for you. I want you to feel confident that every decision you make is guided by your financial intel. I want you to be able to decide what actions to take to grow your business from a place of confidence and purpose, not panic, so that you can feel masterful at managing your money instead of inept or just playing scared. I want you to know exactly what's working so you can go all in and make your money make more money.

Susan Boles (22:10):

This is what I do for business owners. When I step in as their chief financial officer on demand. I help them parse the numbers, look for opportunities and invest where it counts. We get clear on where they're getting in their own way and where the math just doesn't add up. And now I want to teach you to do the same for your own business, because trust me, you can. Join me for Think Like a CFO. It's a four month accelerator online workshop and small group coaching program where I'll work alongside you so you can start thinking like a CFO and know that every penny you spend on your business is worth it. You'll dig into your relationship to money, put your financial data at your fingertips and build systems of cashflow, taxes and budgeting. I'll help you integrate your financial knowledge into your operational systems and technology so that your whole business works better. And by the end, you'll feel wildly capable with your money. Think Like a CFO is starting soon so go to scalespark.co/cfo, to get all the information and sign up. I can't wait to work with you.

Susan Boles (23:22):

A lot of our listeners and business owners and I know a lot of the people you work with, they manage teams, they're leaders in their organization. What are some of the ways that business owners can help their team members build resilience and support them in managing change, minimizing stress? What are some tools that we can use to out our team?

Melody Wilding (23:46):

Well, first of all, let me say that the fact that you're asking this, the fact that the listeners are asking themselves this, says so much about their thoughtfulness and their character as leaders, because there are many business owners and leaders who this does not cross their mind. The fact that you're even asking this, puts you head and shoulders above the rest of people. And I hope eliminates some of that imposter syndrome that I think a lot of us feel, am I a good leader? Am I really a great business owner? Am I qualified to do this? The fact that you care that much, it speaks for itself. That's first. But I think the biggest and it probably seems very simple is to ask. Is to have conversations because every team and every culture, even if your business is only yourself and a VA, you still have a culture, is different.

Melody Wilding (24:44):

And so what I've encountered among clients, it really spans the gamut. I've had some people who their teams are really wanting, they're craving more connection. And when they've asked, things have come up where the team on certain skill training or troubleshooting on certain areas so those clients have organized kind of mini masterminds, where they're bringing together a few people on their team or bring in someone to come talk about a certain topic. I've had other people say, "It would be really helpful if work and life sort of blended." I've had some people bring in, offer fitness classes. For example, the team will do a yoga class in the morning together. Or I had one client where his team would do a reading time with kids. Someone would bring a storybook and read over Zoom to the kids. It was a nice way to give the kids something to do. It was a bonding time with the team and family.

Susan Boles (25:47):

Yeah, I really love that.

Melody Wilding (25:49):

Yeah. Yeah. It was a lot of fun. And then I've had others where their team has said, "You know what? We are so Zoomed out, please, please, no more meetings." And so they've created no meeting days where Fridays are just, they have a blanket policy now where no meetings, you can do heads down work. That's for you. I think it's mostly important to understand what your people want and need.

Susan Boles (26:17):

Yeah. I love the aspect of personalizing it and understanding that every member of your team is also unique. There's this measure of what your company culture is and what your specific team wants and also what works for each individual member of your team, who might be dealing with trying to care for sick relatives or kids or they might be stuck in their house alone and really crave contact. And I think I love the idea of asking and having it just be very individualized and reactive to the specific needs at that point in time.

Susan Boles (27:03):

And I think that's one of the opportunities that really came out of this shift is it gave us a chance to kind of get knocked out of our traditional mindset of it has to be this way. There has to be the separation. It has to look like this and give us an opportunity to really redefine what that work looks like, what that relationship with our work looks like and how that blends together. Because I don't think as much as we would all like the world to return to the way that it was before, I don't think it's going to happen.

Melody Wilding (27:40):

Yeah. And that was so wisely said. I think you're exactly right. That this has really caused us to question a lot of the way we were doing things before. And one, I don't know if I would say silver lining, but something that I've seen come out of this for the people I work with in particular, they tend to be slow to change, slow to adjust to change because the hallmark of the trait of sensitivity is thinking and taking time before acting, but we didn't have that luxury in 2020. And what I've seen that do is rather than cause people to go into a frenzy, it's actually been a huge confidence builder for a lot of my clients who are business owners, because they've had to step up more quickly. They've had to make adjustments. They've had to make quick decisions rather than overthinking things. They are taking more of an experimental mindset to everything and that has given them the gift of proving that they have so much more capacity than they ever thought they had before.

Susan Boles (28:57):

Yeah, I like that. I love being, being more Experimental has been a goal of mine as well because I tend to, I want to systematize everything. Before we do anything, I want it to be a system and I want it to be documented and I want to be very clear and that's a really difficult way to operate, especially in a small business where things change so quickly. And so I love the idea that this was something that kind of triggered people who were reluctant to change to get some practice in that kind of mindset, because I think it is something you have to practice if it's not something that comes naturally.

Melody Wilding (29:36):


Susan Boles (29:38):

Is there anything you think we should talk about or touch on here that we haven't yet?

Melody Wilding (29:43):

Well, I think on the two things. On the team front, just a few other things that I'm seeing are important there. One is being much more explicit in how you offer praise and having a way to celebrate with people. Because again, we don't have as much organic interaction, but also people are feeling a little bit, I've seen a lot of doubt creep up during this time and imposter syndrome go off the rails, largely because people are more isolated, we are more separated and so our mind comes in to fill the blank, fills that vacuum with, well, I'm not good enough. I'm not doing a good job. I'm going to get fired. And so making sure that you're praising your team, that you take opportunities to celebrate, like for example, just having a Slack channel or thread where you're putting in wins or you're acknowledging people for great work they've done to go above and beyond on something. That can make a huge difference to morale, people's commitment and your own mood.

Melody Wilding (30:56):

That's one thing I would add there. As well as not everything has to be a meeting. And I think the tendency now is okay, let's have a meeting to talk through this or that. And so I would say now more than ever, rely on the tools we have, like Loom. L-O-O-M is my best friend. And I use it all the time now to do short screencasts for my team and so that we have something documented. I can walk them through something or give them feedback on a deliverable without having to call a meeting for it. And that's a lifesaver for everyone because right now I would assume most people are not butt in chair for eight hours a day. They're kind of sneaking things in. Just being empathetic to what other people have going on and the Zoom fatigue that's happening.

Susan Boles (31:51):

I love that. I have a violent hatred that is probably an understatement of meanings because my background is military and higher ed where we have meetings about meetings to prepare for meetings. And so my default now is always, is there a way I can do this without a meeting? And yes. I love that. And I think that's an excellent place to wrap up. Where can our listeners find you if they want to connect with you or learn more about what you do?

Melody Wilding (32:24):

Yeah, so you can find me at melodywilding.com and I have a free guide there, it's called the 5-Minute Inner Critic Makeover that you can grab. Really walks you through some techniques for overcoming imposter syndrome, overthinking, some of those mindset blocks that might be getting in your own way.

Susan Boles (32:42):

Awesome. Thank you so much for being here.

Melody Wilding (32:44):

Thank you so much for having me. It was really a blast.

Susan Boles (32:48):

Being kind to yourself and empathetic to your team is a huge part of effectively managing a rapidly changing environment. And during periods of intense change, your bandwidth is probably a lot smaller than it was before. I know mine is. Finding systems and structures that work for you, that can help you minimize that mental load, even something as simple as filing your newsletters into a separate email address so you don't have to review them as they come in, it can lighten the load, but find the systems that work for you so you can take care of yourself and help lead your business and your team.

Susan Boles (33:28):

Next week, we're talking about how and why you need a contingency plan for your business. Being prepared has so much to do with being resilient. Hit subscribe in your favorite podcast player so you don't miss it. Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media. Our executive producer is Sean McMullin. Production coordinator is Lou Blazer. This episode was edited by Marty Seefeldt with production assistance by Kristen Runvik.