According to Billy Ocean “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” – a sentiment many people working in business would echo and applaud. Tough is a word people often use to mean resilient. It may not scan as well, but when the going gets tough, the resilient remain resourceful, creative and healthy.
Studies have found that more resilient people are higher performers and respond better to change. They are more motivated, build better working relationships and are less likely to take time off sick or suffer from low morale.
Crucially, people with high levels of resilience have ways to protect themselves from stress. The hormones released into our bodies when we are stressed impact not just on our immune systems, making us more susceptible to illness, but on our thinking and emotions, potentially affecting the decisions we make.
Building a resilient workforce is good for business
Clearly investing in building a resilient workforce makes sound business sense, so it is not surprising that many businesses look for resilience when recruiting and build it into their training and development programmes.
For some people resilience means being ‘hard’ and impervious to difficulties, carrying on without being affected by anything that’s thrown at you. For others it is being able to ‘bounce back’ after a difficult experience.
Or it’s adapting to events, flexing and reshaping in a better form in response to them; as the saying goes ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.
I think of resilience as our ability to learn from our experiences and put that learning into practice until it becomes second nature. If we understand what affects our resilience negatively, for example, not getting enough sleep or regularly arguing with someone at work, we are in a position to do something about it.
It used to be thought that resilience was a personal quality; you either had it or you didn’t. Research into leadership resilience indicates that there are some key capabilities that underpin resilience. It follows that we can influence how resilient we are by developing behaviours that strengthen these capabilities.
Resilience can be developed
The ability to stand back from events that cause us difficulty and reframe them more positively is an important capability. To ask ourselves questions such as, “What do others think about this situation? How will it look in a year’s time? What is really important here?”
When faced with a problem we often only see our own immediate perspective and react accordingly. This limits our options for problem solving.
For example, if we fail to close a crucial deal, we may react by becoming negative about our sales ability. We will learn nothing from the experience and most likely continue to struggle to close deals.
Another person may instead remember that each failed deal takes them closer to a successful one. They may reflect on what they have learned from the experience they can use next time or simply realise that some things are outside their control, let it go and move on.
One of the best ways to improve our perspective is to talk to others and check out our take on a situation. Looking at the bigger picture is a habit that can be learned.
Having clear goals can boost resilience
Being clear what we want to achieve in our work is important. Having compelling goals means that when we are in the midst of a difficult situation we are able to keep ourselves focused and persevere.
Our goals need to have real meaning for us, so it’s worthwhile businesses supporting employees to develop goals that they really want to achieve. For some that might mean being individually the best, for others achieving a team goal.
Planning and prioritising work
Something else we can do is effectively manage our workload. Frequently people take on more than they can manage and this depletes their energy.
Resilient people are better at avoiding becoming overwhelmed. As a result they have sufficient time both to think and act. They are good at planning and structuring their work and are able to say no when they need to. They prioritise based on an understanding of what is important and essential to deliver well. A lack of these basic work skills is often at the heart of poor resilience.
There is little that is more stressful than feeling you have too much to do and not enough time to do it, or not knowing where to start. If we pace ourselves well we will have more energy to respond when new challenges coming winging in from left field.
Everyone’s resilience varies over time. The greater the number and toughness of the challenges we face, the more we use up energy and risk becoming less resilient. To deal with this we need to ensure our energy is continually renewed.
Renew energy levels to help build resilience
They say laughter is the best medicine and there are good reasons for that. Research has shown that laughter reduces stress and is beneficial to health. It also creates a sense of wellbeing and optimism and builds connection between people. It has even been attributed with boosting creativity and problem solving skills.
In recognition of the potential benefits some companies have deliberately built fun into the workplace – one in North America even had a Director of Humour. This may be going too far! However, if you want to boost resilience in the workplace there are worse ways than building laughing and having fun into your company’s culture.
Health and wellbeing is a cornerstone of resilience
Most businesses understand the need for employees to look after their health and wellbeing. This is a cornerstone for resilience and includes getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising regularly.
It also means connecting with others and having pastimes that create joy and have personal meaning. Whether it’s a night out with friends, a good book, singing in a choir or having a relaxing bath, it’s helpful for people to notice which activities increase their energy and do them regularly.
Everyone has different conditions they require to be resilient. However, there are some common themes and if you, and others in your workplace, are taking steps to improve your resilience then your businesses will realise the benefits.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Charlotte Hitchings. Charlotte is a member of Toastmasters International in Monmouthshire, Wales. Toastmasters is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. There are nearly 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7000 members. Find your local club at www.toastmasters.org
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