The 19th-century evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin taught us that the ultimate form of resilience is the ability to adapt to change. Be it salamanders on the Galapagos Islands or sales managers in a cutthroat industry—or a weary workforce reeling from a global pandemic—our capacity for resilience determines our fate.
From a business perspective, resilience has evolved quite a bit in just a few short months in the face of supply-chain havoc, the Great Resignation, and shifting customer expectations. Companies in every industry have dealt with a lot, and those that had already prioritized adaptability as a form of organizational resilience, from the shop floor to the top floor, are the ones faring the best in their respective markets.
Evolving To Deliver More Value
To continue weathering the storms that arise, organizations should build adaptable structures and establish cultures that appreciate resilient employees. What does it take to stoke this process? It all begins with you, even if you have doubts about your own ability to persist and endure. Resilience can be modeled and taught, and these four steps are the basis of the lesson plan.
1. Remember your purpose.
What do you stand for? What are the key components of your personal brand, and your company’s brand? Why do you work for your chosen employer, beyond a steady paycheck? If those answers aren’t immediately clear, hit the pause button and reflect long and hard on the reasons you produce and perform your particular offering of goods and services. This raison d’être should serve as your North Star, guiding all the decisions you make. Ideally, your purpose aligns with that of your company and drives everything it does, from the messaging it shares to the people it hires.
“Businesses and people driven by a well-defined purpose are much less likely to stagnate in the face of real or perceived challenges,” says Margaret Scovern, managing vice president of diversity and inclusion at Pariveda, a strategic services and information technology consulting company. “A clear purpose or ‘why’ serves as a signal in the noise, allowing us to distinguish the technologies, investments, or ideas that can truly benefit us from those that are merely distractions or fads. It can also help us identify the partners who are best suited to help us achieve our objectives.”
2. Find a social support network.
We all get by with a little help from our friends. Not much in this world is accomplished alone. And in today’s hyper-connected digital world, assistance is literally just a few clicks away. Why not lean on a community of like-minded individuals to glean guidance and advice from? Together, everyone achieves more.
“The social support network that surrounds the person is one of the most important external resilience factors,” says Shonna Waters, vice president of Alliance Solutions. “A person’s social network provides a buffer against the stresses on resilience. This is because social support helps people manage stress. It’s also because social support helps people solve their challenges and find new opportunities. In fact, one reason extroverted individuals tend to be more resilient may be because they are more likely to reach out to others when they need help. When building resilience, you are raising the hood and tinkering with the processes of your own internal engine, after all. Most of us will benefit from support in building resilience.”
And the need for networks isn’t limited to individuals; companies that only look inward, with leadership teams that fear affiliates and cross-promotions, are vulnerable in rough seas.
3. Set a healthy work-life balance.
I know, I know: easier said than done. But it’s true. Resilience isn’t about steeling yourself so that you can endure 80-hour workweeks. People are at their personal and professional best when the scales are even—not too much work, not too little family time, just a healthy dose of life’s most necessary ingredients. Are you taking adequate time off to recharge the batteries? Are you forfeiting daily exercise to squeeze in another hour of work? Do you set this example for the people who work for you, letting your team go incommunicado all weekend long?
Too much of anything is counterproductive, so make sure you are tuned in to what your body and mind are lacking and take the steps to refill those buckets. Burnout is all too common these days. If you learn to truly take care of yourself, resilience is an automatic side effect.
“Individuals can build personal resilience at work by achieving a healthy work-life balance. This is especially challenging in the world we are living in,” says Heather Craig, a provisional psychologist at Monash University in Australia. “Technology can mean that employees may have access to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In order to be able to bounce back from stressful situations—i.e., to be resilient—workers need to have the energy that can be easily depleted if a healthy work-life balance is not in place. Workers need time to relax, unwind and recuperate.”
Just because the software is available around the clock doesn’t mean humans have to use it around the clock.
4. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This is the most difficult item on the list and, therefore, the most rewarding. Everyone has fears. Everyone does what they can to avoid doing what they fear. The select few who keep moving ahead, regardless of their discomfort, are the ones who become less and less overwhelmed by fear. Evolving to accept and embrace these scary moments is how resilience is forged.
“When you confront your fears, it can help bring a sense of control over the situation. Managing emotions directly can help you build resilience,” according to a recent blog post from Indeed’s UK editorial team. “One way to confront your fears is by gradually exposing yourself to what scares you. For example, if you have a fear of speaking up in meetings, you might first make an active effort to talk more in small groups. You can gradually increase the size of those groups until you feel comfortable in a meeting.”
Of course, today’s workplace jitters are sometimes caused by much bigger concerns than a fear of public speaking. You may find yourself managing a project for a service that is entirely new, with no precedents or guidelines to follow. In the wake of an extremely tight job market, you may be unexpectedly tapped to a high-stakes leadership position that makes you feel out of your league. A beloved brand that you helped build may be swallowed up in a merger. But the more discomfort you work through, the more resilient you will become.
There’s more good news: resilience is closely associated with greater work happiness and job satisfaction. Imagine what would happen if resilience went viral.
William Arruda is a keynote speaker, author, co-founder of CareerBlast.TV and creator of the LinkedIn Profile Type Indicator (LPTI) which measures your LinkedIn profile likability and credibility.