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Personal and organizational resilience

Human beings are creatures of habit. We appreciate change, but most prefer it in small doses, and 2020 has shown us all the anxiety uncertainty can cause more than any other year in recent memory.

COVID-19 has taken the global economy for quite a spin and we are likely to be dealing with the fallout for years to come. But even without a global pandemic, the increasing pace of technological, social, and economic development has us confronting the unknown almost on a daily basis. That’s why it’s time to talk about resilience in the workplace, which can be divided into three categories:

1. Personal resilience in the workplace – Building resilience in a company starts from the ground up, with individuals. How each and every member of your organization handles change and uncertainty has a huge impact on the bigger picture. Resilience on the individual level is often a pre-existing character trait people bring to the workplace built up from past experience, but like a muscle, it needs to be trained and can be developed by following the right regimen.

2. Managerial resilience – It is even more crucial for the managerial level of an organization to show high resilience, as doing so sets an example for those they lead. A resilient manager is transparent and patient. Even when dealing with change and uncertainty, managers should have the tools to handle things calmly, reflect, and stick to decisions with a positive attitude.

3. Organizational resilience – In many ways, organization resilience is the sum of the personal and managerial resilience within a company. But it is also much more. Personal and managerial resilience relies heavily on emotional intelligence, whereas entire organizations rely on a safe culture of support and seeing challenges as opportunities. Moreover, organizations need to consider physical resilience: the ability to survive and thrive in a changing environment.

The traits of resilience
Whether faced with a natural disaster, economic downturn, or simply a changing market and business strategy, it’s important that a company experience resilience on all of these levels. But how? What are the ingredients of resilience? How do you know when you’ve achieved it or what you’re aiming for exactly? Here are a few ways to show your resilience, whether you’re an individual, a manager speaking for your team, or an executive speaking for an entire organization:

* Be optimistic – Negative thinking often helps lead to negative results. When faced with a dilemma, it’s best to be realistic about your situation, but once you’ve chosen the best plan of action, keep your focus on its positive aspects and what you hope to gain out of it.

* Always stop to see the bigger picture – Change always occurs within a larger context. If you fear what you stand to lose through change, take a step back, and imagine a new reality. You may be disappointed, sad, or feel angry, but there is always something bigger and more important you can shift your attention to. 

*Learn to enjoy learning – Change is always an opportunity to learn. An athlete relishes the challenge to step out on the big stage and win the championship. When you can approach the challenges you face with the same positive energy, uncertainty becomes a chance to tackle something new and experience something meaningful.

How to foster resilience in your company
While general attitudes and practices can certainly set a tone of resilience throughout an entire organization to encourage positive development, it’s important to bear in mind that resilience, especially on a personal level, is very individual; what works for one person may not work for another. Some may thrive with a constant flow of data and information, while others may feel this only increases pressure on them. This is one of the reasons it’s important to find ways to support resilience in three ways: practically, personally and informationally.

Here are a few tips to help your organization achieve and maintain resilience.

1. Increase organizational flexibility – Being flexible is one of the key ways to give everyone the confidence that your organization can weather any storm. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, digitization can go a long way to increasing flexibility, even allowing employees to work from home if necessary, for example. Having contingency plans for various scenarios can help you be more flexible and prepared. You could also launch an effort to make sure that everyone in the company knows the basics of one other person’s job, mitigating the loss of specific individuals. Be prepared to adjust work hours, the character of your organization, the tasks you take on and even your SLA. No matter how you change and adapt, empathy must be the one characteristic you maintain. There are lots of possibilities, the important thing is to find what works for you.

2. Invest in resilience training – One of the most direct and effective ways of increasing resilience throughout an organization is to discuss the topic openly with everyone and arrange for relevant training. This will get the entire team considering this issue on their own and give them useful tools to improve their personal resilience and have a greater, more positive impact on the company.

3. Lead with a clear vision – One of the easiest ways to let anxiety creep into an organization is to be ambiguous about your goals. Where is your company headed, and why? Sure, there may be some unforeseen roadblocks and changes along the way, but everyone will handle them far better when they understand the ultimate goal – the reason they need to endure change and uncertainty.

4. Invest in a long-term safety net – Resilience is often the result of knowing you have a fallback position, something stable you know you can rely on if everything else were to fall apart. Risk-taking can certainly be healthy to drive growth and generate energy within an organization, but setting aside even small amounts to invest in more secure, long-term projects can go a long way in creating mental, and even financial stability when the unexpected happens.

5. Communication, communication, communication – Why three times? Because clear, authentic communication has to be ongoing, especially during challenges like the coronavirus pandemic that last more than a few days or weeks. Maintaining this kind of repore throughout an organization builds trust and a sense of security.

Resilience isn’t just about managing major crises like a global pandemic, although that is the perfect case study. It’s about properly dealing with the stress of day-to-day work, the pace of change, and the fear of losing your job. Adding up all this pressure, it’s easy to see why many people and companies struggle to maintain their composure in tough times. With more global instability looming on the horizon, it’s a good idea to make your organization a safe space with the resilience to see through whatever might come your way.

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