As I browse through posts on my LinkedIn feed, Resilience seems to be taking the CenterStage in almost all discussions.
In fact, the world economic forum recently published its “future of jobs” report, which included the critical skills required for the future. Fifteen emerging skills were identified for India, and out of these 2 are to do with emotional intelligence and resilience, stress tolerance & flexibility.
There is a growing realisation that the leaders’ ability to manage their own emotions is critical to organizational well-being and success. The way organizations have navigated (and still are) through the pandemic is reflective of this more than ever before. The pandemic has underlined a need that was being almost denied by most organisational leaders.
So, what is Resilience? How does one make fungible a feeling word like “resilience”?
Simply and most tangibly put resilience is the ability of individuals and therefore organisations to bounce back from adversity.
Are some of us more resilient than others? Can one practice or train themselves to be more resilient?
The resounding answer to both the questions is – yes.
Our cumulative life experiences do determine our ability to bounce back from setbacks. If we have moved cities and changed schools a couple of times as a child, some of us learn the skills to make new connections and with every experience, settle in more quickly in the new environment. If we have played a sport competitively and turned up for practice with continued determination after losing a game (or few!). If we had parents or teachers that focussed on ways to improve versus dwelling on errors. If our supervisors role modelled a strong problem-solving mindset. Many such life experiences (big and small) do determine our ability to be resilient.
The fundamental of course is our innate emotional tendency/preference for resilience, which determines how quickly and easily we will learn from the above-mentioned experiences. In the absence of an innate preference, we may find it more difficult and may take longer to build resilience, but the extent to which we can develop it is not limited by the starting natural tendency.
We build resilience, like we build other skills critical for success. Research and empirical experience provides several points of view on how this can be done.
The 7 Ingredients of Resilience by Dr Karen Reivich and Dr Andrew Shatte provide a holistic and structured approach.
- Resilience must not be misunderstood as being stoic (or not experiencing negative emotions) in the face of adversity. Resilient people do feel scared, disappointed, angry, frustrated and many other emotions. There is sadness in leaving friends and moving to a new city, frustration, and anger in losing that match! However, resilient people do not get stuck in the emotions, they acknowledge and manage these emotions to move forward. The key is to build of self-awareness, about our emotional triggers and responses. And then having strategies to cope with our emotions to move forward with a plan of action.
- Stop and think! Resilient people take an explicit pause to consider the most useful reaction to a situation, one that helps them, and others move forward.
I see this closely with my son who plays cricket. Every run up after a bad ball is an opportunity to evaluate what needs to change. Every time a batsman gets into a stance to take a shot is a moment to reflect and view it as an opportunity, even if the past several shots were near misses.
- Resilience is not about denying that the problem exists, it is in fact seeing things as positively as possible within the bounds of reality. It is exactly this what helped many organizations display speed and agility in recalibrating business goals during the pandemic and keeping these goals agile. This in turn determined ways of working to keep both customers and employees engaged, and businesses viable.
- The ability to view and analyse the problem from a variety of perspectives. This allows leaders to come up with a greater number of ways to handle the situation, in other words, it is making sure that you have a plan B, a Plan C and more. Several organizations we consult with demonstrated flexible thinking in coping with the pandemic. Telecom companies like Airtel realised that If customers cannot come to them and will not allow them into their homes, they needed mechanisms to do remote KYCs for new customers. This is what Mr Randeep Sekhon (CTO Airtel) had to say in our recent panel discussion… “The amount of innovation and digitization that has happened in the past 9 months hasn’t happened before … they say who has done the most digitization? The Chief Digital Officer or Chief IT officer? No, the Covid pandemic has done more for them than anything else for digitization, it has made us more agile.”
- Companies that were able to cope well through the pandemic and surmount the challenges all had leaders who kept balance and equanimity through the pandemic, and therefore role modelled that for the rest of the organisation and even their customers.
- A strong belief in self, our strengths, capabilities, and our ability to cope with stress. This is much more than a strong sense of self-esteem; self-efficacy is about knowing what makes you effective. Organizations with a strong purpose and deep sense of understanding of their capabilities have withstood the pressures brought on by the pandemic.
- Empathy is the key to strong relationships and strong relationships serve resilience. Strong relationships enable us to ask for (and offer) help, advice, and foster collaborations that can further increase our ability to cope and solve problems.
- According to Shenu Agarwal, CEO Escorts Agri Machinery, speaking in our recent panel discussion…“In our organization, everyday a group of people came together in the evening and decided how we could gauge the pulse of the team….as we wanted to build some hope and optimism in the organization before we could build other things.”. Making the effort to understand the emotions and points of view of those around us, helps leaders to build systemic coping strategies.
- Resilient people take risks. I am not talking about jumping off a cliff without a parachute, I am talking of appropriate horizon-expanding risks. Being open to ideas, trying new things, and in case the outcome is not as expected, learning from these intelligent failures. This is really about cultivating a growth mindset; being open to learning, experimenting, leveraging feedback to course-correct, and always … always be willing to challenge old ways of thinking that may no longer be serving you!
So, what are your Resilience Strengths, these would be the ingredients you have in abundance. And what do you need to build more of.
Do the same for your teams, even your family!