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Building Your C.O.T.E. of Resilience

Do you ever have one of those times when everything that could go wrong goes wrong?

The past few months have been like that for me. A tenant caused $20,000 in damage to my rental home in Louisville, Kentucky. The air conditioning at my home kept failing during the July and August heat wave, which compelled me to camp out at friends’ houses and hotels. Meanwhile, I am the lead on several high-profile work projects.

You probably have had or maybe are going through intense times. How do you build the resilience to succeed under pressure?

According to Hendrie Weisinger, author of Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most, you need to build a C.O.T.E. of armor (or resilience).


Weisinger defines confidence as “a sureness of feeling that we can master the task at hand [italics in the original].” Confidence helps you fight the harmful effects of pressure that can lead to doubting yourself and failing to rise to the challenge. Not that you don’t have doubts. But, with high confidence, you can put your doubts in perspective. You see your obstacles as challenges to be overcome rather than crises to be endured.


Confidence is what gets us through the moment, while optimism is what propels us toward the future. Humans are unique because we engage in mental time travel. The prefrontal cortex in our brains is responsible for our ability to plan the future. Therefore, the more optimism we have for our future, the better we can fight the moment’s stress and achieve a positive outcome. According to research, people who believe in a positive future will exert more effort to resolve their current challenges.


Weisinger writes that tenacity is a “key component of performing under pressure [italics in the original].” Tenacity is the ability to persevere in meeting a challenge despite facing setbacks and even failure as you strive toward a goal. You may have heard of the growth mindset in which people view challenges to grow and learn how to achieve. Tenacity is built upon goals, focus, hope, and coping, writes Weisinger. The stronger the components of tenacity, the better we can meet challenges.


Pressure causes us to think poorly, make bad decisions, and reduce creativity. Stress can cause teams to fail. Enthusiasm counters the problems of pressure and makes us more effective in meeting challenges. Think of enthusiasm as an energy source that increases our abilities to think effectively and develop solutions. Like negative emotions, positive emotions are contagious. Have you ever worked on a team where a team member’s bad mood brings down everyone? Or does an enthusiastic team member’s positivity energize everyone to achieve more than they thought possible?

Maintaining Your C.O.T.E. of Resilience

Weisinger recommends four actions to take daily to keep your C.O.T.E. of resilience strong. The first action is to affirm yourself, and the second is to be positive daily. The third action is committing to your best, and the fourth is celebrating even your small wins.

Building resilience in the federal workforce is a significant concern for federal government leadership, hence the increase in wellness programs and employee assistance programs. Federal employees can also help increase their resilience by building their C.O.T.E. of armor.

Dr. Bill Brantley works in the U.S. Navy Inspector General Office as a Senior Training Specialist where he is leading the project to build the Office’s first learning portal for nearly 1,000 employees in the enterprise. He has been a program manager for the Emerging Leader Program and Supervisor Certificate Program at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He also managed the Executive Coaching and the Career Coaching Programs. Dr. Brantley was awarded the 2019 Emerging Training Leader by Training Magazine and is an IPMA-HR SCP, a Certified Professional in Talent Development, an ROI certified professional, a certified data scientist, and a Certified Professional in Training Management. He is a certified Project Management Professional, a certified agile project manager, a certified professional in business analysis, and is certified in Disciplined Agile. He has completed over 200 hours of coaching training from the Neuroleadership Institute, the American Confidence Institute, emotional intelligence coaching, and the Global Team Coaching Institute. Dr. Brantley is an adjunct faculty member for the University of Louisville (20+ years) and the University of Maryland (8+ years). He is the author of the “Persuasive Project Manager” (2019) and “Four Scenarios for the Future of the Federal Government” (2019).

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