Do you have the bounce-back factor needed for resilience at work? Learn how resilience could definitely help you to achieve more, perform better and develop your true leadership potential. 

As an organisational development consultant, it’s not every day that I refer to football managers, or to football in general for that matter.

Not really my thing.

But, in this case – Ian Dowie, take a bow. One-time manager of Crystal Place, Mr Dowie coined the term “bounce-back-ability” (Wiktionary, accessed 16.5.16) as one of the most accurate and relevant definitions of resilience I’ve encountered thus far. It’s an excellent way to describe a life-changing factor in maintaining wellbeing, both in the workplace and outside of it.

I’ve written about resilience before; indeed, it’s a key part of my work with people like you; leaders and executives who balance demanding work roles at a senior or managerial level, and it’s a specialist area that I’m known for.

Therefore, I thought it would be useful to pass on my knowledge and experience, to offer you clear takeaways on what resilience is, what it looks like, why it’s important, and how to start developing this essential quality without trying too hard.

Firstly, these three things are true:

  1. Newsflash. You are not a superhero. You do not have superpowers. In fact, nobody is – or has. We’re all infallible, we make mistakes and most likely, we’ll continue making them because that’s the way things are.
  1. No one is an island. Whether at work or in your personal life, other people are the glue that keeps us connected to each other. Other people will help you to thrive.
  1. Standing back up when you fall down, and having the mindset to dust yourself down, recover and move on with a consistently positive outlook is YOUR human catnip.

We’ll come back to these pivotal points throughout this article because, in my view, they’re the guiding principles behind resilience in the workplace.

So, What is Resilience?

Ultimately, resilience is all about your inner strength, and being able to recover and “bounce back” from something bad, say a serious error at work, a stressful event – even trauma or shock. Or, anything that upsets your emotional apple cart that’s not necessarily “bad”, say an organisational change, or moving to a new office location.

In other words, it’s an ability to thrive despite or even because of pressure, having emotional flexibility, responding positively to change, or controlling that ever-increasing workflow. In summary, all those categorically positive elements enable leaders to deal effectively with demanding situations.

Plus, manage their emotional responses in a working environment.

Captain Sir Tom Moore Got it Right

It’s about knowing deep down that although today may not be going particularly well, tomorrow will almost certainly be a whole lot better. In the words of our now passed- on national treasure, “Tomorrow will be a good day”.

And with resilience, it could well be.

And the Zebras

In my piece Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, I explored mindset.

In my experience, what we think is worthy of endless worrying, isn’t always real.

As I’ve said, zebras are only concerned about lions when they’re actually right in front of them, looking forward to dinner – the lions that is, not the zebras. Thoughts of lions aren’t fully formed. Or, to be more precise, they’re not formed at all.

If you list out your worries, then examine those that are happening right now, as opposed to those that might happen, you could be surprised. How big is your genuine list? OK, go ahead and worry – if you catch my meaning.

What about the maybes, and the possibles, though? Those prospective, in-the-offing, worst-case scenarios? Are you sure? Are these genuine, or are you just worrying?

Can you control external events? No. Can you control how you respond to them? Most certainly, you can. Perhaps it’s time to get curious about your resilience.

Why Is Resilience Important in Your Organisation?

An easy answer:

Because people perform better if they’re not firefighting, or keeping their heads above water.

Consider an organisational change, for example. At any level, employees who respond positively see exciting opportunities opening up in front of them – not something to grit their teeth and endure. In fact, with any setback, they’re better engaged, have greater job satisfaction and they’re more committed to their jobs.

For you as a leader, resilience is your key to sharing positive visions of the future, setting ambitious yet achievable goals, and communicating with confidence. Leadership behaviours, such as problem-solving, and encouraging contribution become second nature.

Let’s Get Connected

Your buffer against the stresses on resilience comes in the form of other people.

Rob Cross, Karen Dillon and Dana Greenberg, authors of “The Secret to Building Resilience” stress that a well-developed network of relationships is crucial in helping us to bounce back from setbacks.

Your resilience Teflon, if you like.

What they mean is, certain people are able to support you in specific ways.

For instance, you may have connections who always manage to remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing – and why it matters. Likewise, people who bolster your self-confidence, or those to whom you know you can turn to for empathy and support. And, those calm, kind souls who manage to add a sense of perspective and take the storm out of your sea of troubles.

Of course, it’s not a one-way street. You do this for your fellow human beings, too; you just may not be conscious of it.

Your Guide to Resilience

  1. Pay attention to your physical health

With good health – a varied diet, exercise and enough sleep – resilience comes to you easier, and aids recovery should you fall ill.

  1. Reframe your thoughts

Are they helpful, or useful? Importantly, are they actually true?

If something is difficult or a long way outside your comfort zone, could it be an opportunity for growth?

Self-fulfilling prophecies are everywhere. Are you guilty of this?

What do you say when you talk to yourself? Pay attention to your self-talk, and be kinder to the person who matters the most: you.

What can you control, and what can’t you control? Do something about the first; react differently to the second.

Is it a threat, or a challenge? A flight or fight response may not be serving you.

  1. Get Connected

See above!

  1. Build workplace resilience in your team

For lasting mindset change, coaching could help to increase resilience, reduce burnout and help your staff reduce workplace stress.

I work with leaders and their teams to help them develop the strengths and skills that will help them face (almost) everything that the working environment can throw at them.

So, food for thought?

Resilience moves beyond bounce-back-ability to enable us to grow strong relationships and networks. Interacting with others helps us to nurture ourselves and one another, and it affects us in all kinds of ways.

Setbacks happen, we just need to be able to reach out to others, and find our own internal resources in order to move forwards.

Of course, resilience is a quality that becomes easier the more you practice it, so do get in touch if you would like to learn more.

You may also find this HBR post on resilience at work useful.

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