Actionforhappiness tells us it’s one of the 10 keys to personal happiness, but what exactly is it?
Resilience is an individual’s capacity to bounce back in the face of stress, adversity or change. Though largely perceived as something you’ve either got or you haven’t, personal resilience is a product of both an individual’s personality and a supportive and positive environment. ‘…categories that promote resilience, namely individual dispositional attributes, family support and cohesion, and external support systems’ (Richardson 2002).
Important elements of emotional resilience include emotional competence, the ability to respond to change productively, the ability of the employee to foster authentic relationships and work with others effectively, and the capacity of the individual to manage and feel in control of their own workflow. The impact of a lack of resilience – whether it’s a snide colleague that’s irking you or the stress that’s piling as fast as the paper on your desk – can be wide-reaching, weakening our ability to manage good relationships as well as our own behaviour.
Widening the term to an organisational level, it’s important to note that resilience in this case includes the ability of the organisational processes and culture to hunker down and perform robustly as well as the resilience of the individuals themselves.
“Call it the resilience gap. The world is becoming turbulent faster than organisations are becoming resilient”
Hamel and Välikangas, 2003, p. 1
The pace of the world
It’s a more-for-less, instantly gratified, fast-paced world out there. The speed and depth at which we’re required to work is exhausting even if you love your job. At work stress levels can rocket among the heavy workload, long hours and changing priorities. Work/life balance, multitasking, commuting, technology… The list goes on.
“It is not necessarily the amount of stress people experience at work, but how quickly they recover from the effects that is important to their health and wellbeing.” Cropley and Purvis, 2004
The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) show that the total number of working days lost due to work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2015/16 was 11.7 million days. 11.7 million! The main work factors cited by respondents as causing work related stress, depression or anxiety were workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.
The resilient leader
“Leaders are the stewards of organisational energy [resilience]…they inspire or demoralise others, first by how effectively they manage their own energy and next by how well they manage, focus, invest and renew the collective energy [resilience] of those they lead” Loehr and Schwartz 2003
Nurturing, inspiring, people-focused leadership naturally and positively influences the resilience of the people around them by laying the foundations of trust, vulnerability, open communication and healthy conflict.
Trusting leaders encourage honesty and engagement in their people. Leaders who give their people a voice and provide opportunity to learn and achieve will create employees who feel that they matter, both on a personal and organisational level.
Vulnerability is the courage to show up and be seen. A vulnerable leader will be humble and acknowledge their own fallibility, understanding that together individuals are so much more together than the sum their parts. Authenticity is promoted by vulnerability.
Employees who understand the role they play in the bigger picture, and how it is aligned to the team and organisation’s success, will have a stable sense of purpose and security.
Whilst the word conjures negative associations, high doses of challenging, rational debate with deep, trustful empathy, together, open up a space in which rich and creative dialogue can take place between people willing to be authentic and true to themselves and the businesses they operate in.
How to enhance the resilience of your people
In “First, Break All The Rules”, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman told the story of how the Gallup Organisation had interviewed and sifted the responses of more than one million employees and how they’d boiled this mass of data down to twelve simple factors that matter to highly engaged employees.
Employees that are treated as they should, guided by the 12 questions below, for example, will harbour far higher natural resilience than those who aren’t. As the authors said at the time: “These twelve questions don’t capture everything you may want to know about your workplace, but they do capture the most information and the most important information. They measure the core elements needed to attract, focus, and keep the most talented employees.”
1. Do I know what’s expected of me at work? (Goals)
2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right? (Tools to do the job)
3. At work do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day? (Getting the right fit)
4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work? (Reward & recognition)
5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person? (Interpersonal relationships)
6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development? (Development)
7. At work, do my opinions seem to count? (Interpersonal relationships)
8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my work is important? (Getting the right fit)
9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? (Getting the right fit)
10. Do I have a best friend at work? (Interpersonal relationships)
11. In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress? (Development)
12. At work, have I had the opportunity to learn and grow? (Development)
Read up on emotional intelligence, investing in team-working, authenticity, metaphor in the workplace, generational division, remote working, and happiness at work