The disruption caused by Covid-19 has forced abrupt change on and in organisations throughout the UK. It’s been unexpected and unwelcome in equal measure.
With workplace doors shut, there’s been a transformation in office culture.
Has your business weathered the storm, to emerge into a better place? Organisational resilience could be the key.
Leaders can embrace and maintain resilience, not least in these challenging times. It is completely do-able. In this article, you’ll learn about resilience, why it’s important, and how best to influence and embed this essential quality at all levels in your business.
It’s understandable that organisations may prefer to focus on preserving profitability and market share. Yet, any company’s most fundamental asset is its people. And, it’s fair to say that right now, your staff may still be struggling to cope – in survival mode even – demotivated, uninspired and potentially looking for roles elsewhere.
A resilience mindset could help you to grow your business whilst taking care of your staff, yourselves, your families and ultimately, each other.
Our Coronavirus Response
The consequences of the pandemic have been calamitous – and for those who have lost loved ones, utterly devastating. Suddenly, in March 2020, the Covid-19 situation moved in on us at the speed of sound.
It simply overwhelmed people.
We blinked, and there it was. An overnight draconian change imposed on us against our will. In living memory there had never ever been anything like this. Do not travel. You must work from home if you can. Staying at home saves lives. Masks and handwashing.
As an Organisational Development and Executive Coach, I’ve seen first-hand the consequences and the effects of Covid on our working lives.
Let me explain.
Where We Are Now
Whilst we all respond differently to circumstances, I’ve noticed that a few strands have been consistent:
Where home-based working has become the norm, relationships are now stretched. Why? Because people are reduced to images on a screen.
Ill-equipped as we are to deal with distance from one another, it’s easy to forget to treat your colleague with compassion, easily forgetting what issues they may have. We draw strength from other people, and as support networks dissolve, so does commitment and engagement.
Surge capacity. We’re in fifth gear all the time, rather than just for some of the time. There’s almost nothing left in the tank. I can see that organisations and teams are facing burn out. The sense of exhaustion is very real.
Anecdotally, I’m witnessing The Great Resignation. Loyalty and close, tightknit bonds are loosening. We’re seeking to re-create them elsewhere, with new employers, it seems.
My medical qualifications and experience tell me that this pandemic isn’t over yet – we must find strength and resources.
How Does Resilience Play a Part in All This?
In brief, resilience is broadly defined as “bounce back-ability” and the ability to recover from bad circumstances. First claimed to have been invented by Iain Dowie, the manager of Crystal Place (Wiktionary, accessed 16.5.16), resilience is about relationships. In a working environment, relationships are everything. They are the glue that keeps us together.
Within an organisation, resilient people:
- Adapt under pressure – and can even thrive, even due to pressure
- Are strengthened by adversity
- Being strengthened by adversity
- Are emotionally flexible
- Respond positively to change
- Can foster good relationships
- Can control their own workflow
- Have positive emotions as a buffer against depression
- Can create a sense of community at work
Effective leadership is about investing in resilience to ensure the safe functioning of your services and systems, as well as creating a firm foundation for wellbeing, productivity and profitability.
Essential at any time, Covid-19 has put resilience centre stage.
How do you foster learning opportunities, and develop strong “next times” rather than falling back on a blame culture? How does your business remain adaptable and flexible?
What we think affects how we feel. And how we feel directly influences our behaviour. Negative thoughts are like acid: they melt away resilience.
The following could help you acquire resilience as a daily habit and develop a more positive culture; one that’s ready for change:
It’s up there at number one.
Make sure that you communicate clearly and consistently why you’re doing what you’re doing. Importantly, double down on ensuring that everyone has access. Maximise technology with video conferencing, livestreaming, Slack, your internal social media – anything and everything so that your people hear and understand you.
When someone does something great, tell them. Being generous with genuine praise (it must be attached to the right things) can have an outstanding effect on the brain’s dopamine neurons, thus creating a sense of motivation and action.
It’s easy to centre on the hills to climb, or the goals yet to be met. Don’t, at least not always.
Focus on how a team member has made a positive contribution to the organisation – and watch their face light up with pleasure.
The result? A strong belief that they can, and they will; a bit of lead in their pencil, you could say.
Focus on Achievable, Short-Term Goals
Don’t overwhelm anyone with talk of large, long-term goals. Break things down into bite-sized, realisable objectives. We’re referencing dopamine again, as your staff achieve one small thing after another – all adding up to the bigger picture.
Be Available and Visible
Make sure that you are available to answer questions and to offer support and encouragement when needed. As a leader, your obvious presence, as well as clear and present proof that you care about your employees will help to build strong organisational resilience.
No, you don’t have to hug trees.
Nevertheless, small acts of human kindness are not only contagious, they also create a sense of safety. Demonstrating authentic empathy and compassion is one of the most crucial leadership qualities around. Feeling safe is calming, thus creating an environment where people will be more receptive to change.
Creating and maintaining organisational resilience in a time of Covid will empower leaders to harness the true human potential in their organisation. People can achieve more than they think. Your role is to help them believe it.
If you liked this post on organisational resilience, read more of my posts linked to Organisational Development here.
You may also find this post interesting in the HBR.