We’ve all probably heard the term ‘resilience’ a lot over the past twelve months or so, but it’s worth examining it a little more closely, because it may mean something slightly different for all of us.
Is it stoicism in the face of a changing world? Is it quietly managing monumental change? Is it keeping on going even when you’re close to breaking point – or is it something different entirely?
If we start with the official definition, then resilience is specified as two things: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and the ability to spring back into shape. Those are two things, we imagine, that most of us will have had to draw on in this past year – and then some.
Read on for everything you need to know about resilience, from what it looks like, why you need it, and how you can apply it to individuals, teams, and leaders in your organisation…
However, if we’re asking ‘what is resilience?’ in 2021, it’s important to say that recovering quickly or simply springing back into shape isn’t necessarily enough – in any context, the workplace or otherwise. We’re still emerging from the pandemic and we don’t just want to get by, just about keep our heads above water, and then go straight back to how we were before, right? Actually, no. Now is the time to leverage what we’ve learned and use it as fuel to move forward. We want to be able to draw on everything we’ve experienced over the past few months and use it to cope at the time of need, yes, but also to grow and influence our teams, leaders, and wider networks. We’ll talk more on that later, but first let’s look at other times we may need resilience…
Why do we need resilience in the workplace?
Well, change is the only constant, right? Last year really made that clear. We can’t avoid change or think that it won’t happen to us, because we’ve ALL had to pivot over the past few months. Teams may be smaller than before, roles may have changed, communication styles may have needed to shift as we worked – and continue to work from home – and so on. If we’re not resilient to change then we’re going to find ourselves in trouble when the next big change comes around.
It’s therefore not surprising that resilience has been named as one of the top power skills of 2021 in LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report. How resilience looks for you specifically, however, can vary.
Resilience probably looks a little bit different for all of us. For some of us, it could be about being more vulnerable and human. It may be about switching up our communication style and practising empathy – or it could be being more direct and forthright in order to cut through the noise and get the really important actions actioned. It could also be about creating a work culture where everyone feels empowered to ask the tough questions that make a business take a hard look at itself.
Ultimately though, if we’re asking how to build resilience at work, the short answer is this: step outside of our comfort zone. Finding that sweet spot where we’re challenged, but not burning out, is key. Whether that’s how we talk to ourselves, how we talk to others, or both, is up to you.
Why is resilience important to individuals? Well, in a nutshell, it’s good for us. Harvard Business Review report on how resilience has been shown to positively influence work satisfaction and engagement, as well as overall well-being. But they also go further – and point to the critical value of connections on resilience. In their own words: “resilience is not something we need to find deep down inside ourselves: we can actually become more resilient in the process of connecting with others in our most challenging times.” As we say ourselves at Insights, resilience is really about community.
How can a team be resilient? Well, psychological safety is a critical part of it – and by that we mean creating a culture where everyone in the team feels safe. Safe to speak up, safe to challenge, and safe to try something and fail – without fear of consequence. Forbes calls psychological safety one of the key components of a resilient culture. “When people are not terrified of making mistakes or being judged, they become more engaged in solving problems and are likely to challenge their way of thinking… Instilling fear is a sure-fire way to crush innovation, creativity and flow.”
Another important way of creating a resilient team is to think about preference. Not everyone is going to show up at their best without a little bit of structure – or the opposite, room to flex. It’s critical to be plugged into the unique needs of your team. Listen hard, and act accordingly.
For leaders, resilience is two-fold. They need to practise compassion for their teams, but also for themselves. Firstly, Harvard Business Review report on how leaders are often in a different stage on their resilience journey to their teams and they may be much more robustly equipped to deal with challenges effectively. They therefore have to make sure they are supportive of their teams who may be at a much less-advanced stage – how can they support their people through that?
However, they also can’t forget about themselves. Leaders have had a lot on their shoulders for the past few months and it’s important they also apply the same compassion they apply to others – to themselves. Of course, leaders want to set the bar high, but it’s OK to be human too.
OK, so now we know that a big part of improving our resilience is stepping out of comfort zones. There’s another critical aspect of resilience and that’s self-awareness.
But first, a quick introduction to our way of thinking…
At Insights, everything we do is grounded in self-awareness. We believe that this is key to unlocking your own potential, connecting better with others, and leading teams to success – and so it’s no surprise that our approach to resilience is the same. Resilience is a personal journey, right?
It’s about understanding what you’re good at – and what you’re not so good at. It’s about knowing where you shine – and where you need support. And it’s also about spotlighting your personal response to change and giving you the right tools to enhance how you respond to change.
Gaining a better understanding of yourself and how you show up in challenging situations is key. To know that, you need to understand your communication preferences. We do that using the four-colour model, which draws on the psychology of Carl Jung. We believe that everyone has a unique combination of four different colour energies: Cool Blue, Fiery Red, Sunshine Yellow, and Earth Green. Each of those communication preferences has different strengths and weaknesses.
You can find out more about Insights methodology and the four colour model.
However, it’s worth saying that while self-awareness is key to resilience, it isn’t enough alone. It helps you understand your personal communication style and the strengths and weaknesses that come with that, but it doesn’t help you flex. That needs to come from you.
To be truly resilient you must be intentional about pushing yourself beyond your bandwith.
The world has changed – and it’s likely that you have too. But that doesn’t mean you can just jump into influencing your organisational culture straight from the off. Resilience functions best when you start with the most important part – yourself – and develop your personal coping strategy.
Next, it’s time to think about key learns and how you apply those. How can you create resilience in a team? How can you ensure you – and your team – are poised to take on the next big challenge? This is where we you can also tackle big topics such as growth mindset and psychological safety.
The final stage is about building a resilient workforce and really influencing change. How can you create a space where everyone feels safe, productive, motivated and – in turn – more resilient?Insights Discovery
The 3 stages of resilience are coping, learning and influencing.
It’s hard to think about growth or personal development goals when you’re stuck in the moment; feeling stressed, under pressure, and burning out. We’ve all had to deal with huge challenges over the past year, and that’s why the first part of developing resilience is about coping, because if we can tackle the here and now we can then focus on the longer-term. But we all deal with stress in different ways. That’s why understanding our personal stress triggers, and how we can better manage them using the power of self-awareness, is the critical first step in the resilience journey…
Growth comes from stepping outside of what feels comfortable. For most of us, as we toughed out the turmoil of the past few months, we’ve been outside our comfort zones for a long time. Now is the time to tune into that learner mindset and think about how our experience can catalyse growth, which is why the next step of the resilience journey is about learning. How can we leverage everything we took from the past few months and use it to power peak performance – for ourselves, our teams, and our leaders? How can we inspire a culture that places learning front and centre?
Everything turned upside down in 2020 and, with it, came enormous transformational change in the world of work. That said, a lot of those changes weren’t in our control. All we could do was react the best we could. Now we have the power to shape real cultural change in our organisations, which brings us to the final step of the resilience journey: influencing. How do we rebuild a resilient workforce? How do we make sure our people feel safe and able to bring their whole selves to work? It’s time to really interrogate what’s gone past its sell-by-date and inspire proactive change.
Containing blogs, bite-sized guides, and an in-depth white paper, we’ve created this complete resilience toolkit to support you in your resilience journey
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An in-depth dive into mindset drawing on key insights by two of our Insights psychologists.
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As we look to the future, what should we do differently when it comes to the world of work? Here are 6 key things to either stop, start, or continue…
What is it, why it works, and how you can implement it in your organisation – starting today!