Cultivating Resilience in the Workplace and in Your Teams

Co-Founder of DICE Business Game Changers, Kate Cousens, Shares her Top Tips on Increasing Resilience in the Workplace.

Being resilient has become a business buzzword in recent years. This is not surprising given the sheer volume of change that has affected every workforce across the globe. But what does it take to enact resilience in the workplace as an employee, leader, or business owner? 

What is Resilience?

There is a famous Japanese proverb ‘fall down seven times, get up eight’, and that to me is the perfect way of summarising what being resilient is. It is the ability to pick yourself up and dust yourself off when things don’t go to plan. It is learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable. As humans, we inherently don’t like change. When we are subjected to change or even the threat of change, it can make us fearful and trigger those most primal feelings in the body of ‘fight, flight or freeze’. 

The good news is that we can learn to become more resilient. Most of us do this through experience over time. We come to realise that we can’t always control the outcomes of things we do in business. So we get less attached to things going a certain way. I believe my resilience grew when I learnt to ‘go with the flow’ of what was, rather than try to manipulate things to be a certain way. Obviously, there will always be certain things that you would like to happen in work, and in life generally, but coming to terms with the fact that things won’t always be exactly as you plan them to be certainly helps you have a more resilient outlook.

The Job Interview Example

Take going for an interview for a new job. I am sure we have all been in the same boat where we desperately want the job we have applied for. We have put our heart and soul into preparing for the interview. We genned up on the background of the organisation, and spent hours researching their values and business strategy. Only to get to the day of the interview and metaphorically mess up.

Maybe you misjudged your train times and got there late, or maybe the interview itself didn’t go great. Maybe you even think you did a sterling job, only to receive feedback that your answers hadn’t met the mark. Someone who is lacking resilience might catastrophise that good things never happen to them, that they will never get another job, that the world is against them. As opposed to a resilient person who might naturally feel a sense of disappointment but would quickly move on, chalking it up to experience and looking ahead to their next opportunity.

Young woman interviewing for a job across the desk from a businessman

I have wondered whether you can naturally be a resilient person or whether it is something that you learn. Reflecting on my own teenage children, I can see that between the three of them, there is an intrinsic difference in how quickly they can get over things, which is largely personality driven. 

Bouncing Back

The ability to bounce back quickly from adversity is something I personally had to learn from a very early age. I moved school and home several times as a young child. At the time, this wasn’t always pleasant but I think it prepared me more than most for the inevitability of change. Likewise, leaving home and fending for myself from the age of 17, putting myself through university and working two (sometimes three!) jobs at a time to fund my studies equipped me with more resilience than most. 

But what if you are leading teams who haven’t been exposed to that degree of challenge or change? What practical things can you do to help people become more resilient in the workplace?

The Five Pillars of Resilience in the Workplace

5 Greek white marble pillars in a row

Whilst building resilience takes self-reflection, time, and practice, there are five key pillars of resilience that can support your people. Understanding and learning how to manage and positively influence these can make a big difference to how they feel and act at work. These are:

  1. Emotional Wellbeing
  2. Inner drive
  3. Future focus
  4. Relationships
  5. Physical health

Emotional Wellbeing

Taking each one in turn, Emotional Wellbeing is how well you manage your emotions and thoughts. This is often referred to as ‘Emotional Intelligence’ and is intrinsically linked to how you view yourself and the world. This is arguably the most fundamental pillar of resilience. If you can understand yourself and manage your emotions, you are far more likely to be able to overcome challenges and smash through hurdles that come along your path. It starts by getting people comfortable sharing how they are feeling at any given moment.

Ask any of my clients and they will tell you that we always start every development session with a ‘check-in’ to allow people to share how they are feeling….’fine’ and ‘ok’ are not emotions! This gets them into a habit of thinking about their feelings. This is one of the main ways you can increase your emotional intelligence. If people in your team need support with their emotional wellbeing there are many books and resources available to help them. The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters is a great place to start. 

Inner Drive

Inner drive does what it says on the tin! It is the ability to set goals and motivate yourself, as well as adopt a forward-thinking approach to progress through life. Whilst it might not be something you can force on individuals, it is something I have seen people expand themselves through teaching, mentoring and development sessions.

Future Focus

Future focus is the ability to focus on solutions and positive change, whilst also encompassing acceptance of failures and adversity. This is possibly the one pillar that you can positively influence through training and development. Teach people to come at things with growth rather than a fixed mindset. This can help them to explore potential opportunities for the future and move on more quickly.

Relationships

Having strong relationships with friends, family, and colleagues to provide emotional and physical support is another pillar of resilience. This is largely driven by the individual themselves. However, this can be encouraged in the workplace through the organisation of team events and organisation-wide get-togethers.

Physical Health

A man and woman on treadmill at the gym

Finally, there is physical health, in which I would also include mental health, recognising the importance of looking after yourself physically and mentally. Where this isn’t the case for an individual, it can impact the other pillars. This is where, as a leader, it helps being able to spot the early warning signs for people. Such as in terms of their sickness absence records or recurring ailments such as headaches. Offering support through Employee Assistance Programmes or access to fitness classes or gyms and alternative healthcare can play a part in supporting people.

In summary, within the workplace I would suggest that resilience can be cultivated through leaders being in regular contact with their people, getting to know them on a personal level and understanding what is happening for them both in and out of work. I believe this is best done through regular check-ins and one-to-one meetings. 

Final Thoughts on Resilience in the Workplace

It is also something that leaders can encourage people to take ownership of. They can do this by sharing their experience and tips on how they have got through challenges and overcome adversities. Everyone has their fair share of highs and lows in life but sometimes people choose not to share these with others. They glide through life like the proverbial swan, whilst paddling like mad beneath the surface of the water! Particularly in this Instagram world where people’s feeds are a collection of high points and happiness. It can make people think that it is only them who is experiencing difficulties.

Personally, I believe that the more open you can be to sharing your experiences and lessons learned with others, the more authentic and the more relatable you become as a leader, which in turn cultivates greater resilience in others.

If you need any support in growing resilience in your team, please drop Kate a line via www.dicebusiness.co.uk 

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