Resilience may have become a business buzz word, but it’s a powerful concept. As business coach Dean Becker put it: “More than education, more than training, a person’s resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics and it’s true in the boardroom.”
Moreover, demonstrating resilience can help get you noticed by the boss. “Employers want resilient employees who can deliver results by navigating through uncertainty and ambiguity, by handling change and pressure, and by using personal coping strategies to manage their stress levels,” says Josie Thomson, an executive coach whose client list includes Macquarie Bank, Origin Energy, Coles Myer, Rio Tinto and the Queensland Government.
Being resilient allows a reflective rather than a reflexive approach to situations, she says, and it creates a steady inner calm that helps people overcome work challenges over the long-term.
Some of us are naturally more resilient than others. “There are many studies that validate how our environment and nurturing contributes to our outlook and approach to life’s adversities,” says Thomson. “Emotional maturity has also been proven to be a significant factor in capacity for resilience.”
The good news is that resilience can be learned, then used as a chosen response to change and other challenges. Making that choice is important, she says, because people need to overcome their built-in compulsion to avoid change, which the brain instinctively perceives as pain or a threat.
Here are Thomson’s five steps to building resilience at work:
- Take the lead in your life. Do something about less-than-perfect situations that you can change. We’re all responsible for our own happiness, and unhappiness.
- Stop wasting time. There are things you can’t change. Stop banging your head against the proverbial wall and put your energy into working with it, or around it. Acceptance is key. It doesn’t mean you have to like what’s going on, but you stop suffering and drop your battle with reality.
- Never stop learning. Every event or disaster has a lesson. Consider what you’re being invited to learn from the experiences and circumstances you’re in. Take the new knowledge forward. You never know when it will come in handy.
- Being ‘selfish’ = self care. Take care of yourself. Tend to your own feelings and needs, be they mental, physical or emotional. Hard times can be even more difficult if you don’t have your health. Take time out for the things you enjoy doing and ‘fuel your tank’.
- Attitude of gratitude. Focus on what you have rather than what you don’t have. And share that attitude with others.
As Thomson sees it, when it comes to growing the capacity for resilience in the workplace, the buck starts and stops with HR.
“It’s our responsibility as HR practitioners to develop business leaders who are good role models and understand that employee health and wellbeing, and engagement, are a competitive advantage.”
Generally, post global financial crisis, employers in Australia are cost-cutting and demanding more from fewer employees, she says.
“They want high levels of productivity and performance, and often a company’s success depends on the creativity and dependability of the workforce.
“Economic downturns don’t last forever, and wellness and resilience programs invariably lead to fit, active and productive employees. When the market improves, an investment by employers in their most important asset – their people – will, sooner or later, deliver breakthrough performance.”
Fostering good resilience skills gives a workforce the tools and techniques to manage work pressures more effectively, reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity, she says.
“It enables workers to thrive in times of ambiguity and change, it helps retain and engage critical talent during periods of change and uncertainty, and it motivates employees to focus on maintaining and supporting internal and external stakeholders.”