Developing Resilience

We learn, we pick ourselves up, we go again

Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts
Winston Churchill


The resilient rise from the ashes of failure and disappointment – hopefully – stronger. As an individual, we can build resilience through good mental practices, self-awareness and self-care. But more than anything, resilience is forged through experience. We learn, we pick ourselves up, we go again. The problem with this pandemic is, it is unlike anything we have ever experienced before. In all the uncertainty, one thing we do know for sure is things will look different when we come out the other end.

Ask yourself: What would you like your organisation to look like when this is over?

There are a lot of great articles around personal resilience (one of which we’ve referred you to, below). What we want to explore here, however, is what resilience looks like for an organisation, and what practical things – still within our control – we can do to get us through.

‘Resilient people are like bamboo in a hurricane, they bend rather than break’

Tough decisions need to be made. And quickly. Whether it is downsizing or diversifying, this is about survival, for most. From fine-dining restaurants, cooking home ready-meals, to high fashion brands making scrubs for the NHS, we’ve all got to find our way. In times of crisis, we know that fear narrows the mind. It can also narrow the field of vision. This makes it harder to see the bigger picture and stay positive to the opportunities ahead.

It is often in adversity, however – when we are forced into doing things differently because our backs are against the wall – that opportunity presents. Curious and progressive leaders will be flipping this whole thing on its head and asking: What have we gained through these enforced changes? Where are the opportunities?

One of the key traits of a resilient individual is a positive mindset. As a leader, how you turn up is going to be important for your organisation, right now. It is not just about riding this out; it is about overcoming. For some, this may even be an opportunity to be successful and thrive.

It’s a word that gets bandied around a lot, but this is an opportunity for genuine transformation.

Test, learn, and move on. Quickly!

Currently, you are probably experiencing that, as each day goes by, the goalposts keep moving. Continually changing your direction is difficult. To cope, you’re going to have to adapt and make decisions quickly. Accept that sometimes they may not be the right ones. Don’t beat yourself up. When we enter the unknown, we need to embrace a more test-and-learn approach. If it doesn’t work, then learn from it and try something else. Sometimes that is all we can do.

This is not about failure, and it’s not about blame, it’s about becoming more agile and creating an environment where it’s ok to try something new. To be successful in this, you might need to reframe things. Benjamin Zander has some useful tools to enable this. He believes that, instead of looking up at a mountain, before you’re about to climb it, and saying how do we do it (with feelings of dread, anxiety and failure), try projecting yourself forward to standing on the top of the mountain (with the feelings of achievement and success that brings) and asking how did we get here?

Reframing things, in a different more positive way, opens us up to the possibility that the goal is achievable.

Now is the time to get creative

The biggest opportunity that will present itself to your organisation is the ability to shift, realign and redesign the world of work. We’ve seen it across the country; hospitals being built in record time, GPs moving to telephone and video consultations, companies diversifying their production and their teams to meet demand for critical equipment. Without the pandemic, none of this would have happened.

Your employees might currently be working without a job description, being managed by their output rather than their hours of work, successfully working from home for the first time… Now is the time to be creative. Let’s draw a line and ditch the things that distract – red tape, office politics, endless meetings – they have no place in a crisis, so why bring them back to life when things go back to the next ‘new normal’?

Instead, let’s embrace and celebrate the things that have worked and make them part of your ‘new’ organisation.

Who is shining in this crisis?

How well you come through this will depend largely on how well you treat your people. You recruited them and you’ve developed them, but are you using them to their full potential? Now is the time to involve them. You are in this together, so empower them to support you. You need to solve problems and you won’t have all the answers. So, let your team help. Collaboration will be key.

When times get tough, we sometimes see a person’s true character. I am sure there will be individuals within your team and even your organisation who have surprised you and others who have been disappointing. There are those that have stepped up and those that have shied away. This is all important feedback and needs to be considered when you think about succession planning and the employees you consider as ‘talent’. Now could be a great time to test this further.

Why not give those who have proved themselves additional responsibilities and the opportunity to support you further?

Every day is a new day

Times of crisis don’t always bring out the best in people and, as a leader, there may be things you have done and said that you are not proud of. Be kind to yourself, these are exceptional times. Tomorrow is another day. Resilience is about learning and coming back better. As Buddha said: ‘Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.’

We don’t know how long we will be reacting to this pandemic and how long we will be restricted, but it is important to have one eye on the horizon. Every day this continues, we are one day closer to it ending. If resilience really is about coming back stronger, then what does that mean for your organisation? Make no mistake, it will be different. But will it be better?

Approached with the right mindset, this is a genuine opportunity to learn and develop, perhaps, even transform. Now is the time to start thinking about the organisation you want to be.


Psychology Today has a helpful article on understanding the ’10 traits of emotionally resilient people’, here

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