Imagine for a moment that you and a few team members are preparing to raft down a river. As you look at your map, you notice that your trip will encounter Class IV rapids. How would you prepare to make sure that you and your team safely cross the rough waters? Maybe you would seek the help of experts or rely on the companionship of trusted friends with rafting experience. Perhaps you would add an extra life jacket or upgrade to a more durable raft. The hope is that with the right tools and support in place, you will not only survive the challenges of your river adventure, you will emerge a more courageous and confident rafter.
Life doesn’t come with a map, but there is a guarantee: we will encounter life’s version of rough waters. Everyone will encounter twists and turns, from everyday difficulties to traumatic experiences with more lasting impact, like the loss of a loved one, a life-altering accident, or a worldwide pandemic. As we’ve all observed, each change hits people differently, bringing a unique wave of emotions, thoughts, and responses. Sometimes we shut down in the face of these experiences, and sometimes we adapt well, and when we do, psychologists refer to that as resilience. Resilience could be defined as the process of adjusting and changing in the face of trauma, tragedy, and adversity. Resilience is more than just surviving a painful experience; it’s capitalizing on it for personal growth.
For years, organizations have sought to recruit and retain resilient people because, as all organizational leaders know, dealing with adversity is unavoidable. Setbacks and hardships are an inevitable part of work, let alone life, so we need people who can roll with the punches and come out the other side a better version of themselves.
What we sometimes overlook are our opportunities to contribute to our team’s resilience. According to Martin Seligman, the leading authority on the topic, resilience can be taught, and organizations are often uniquely positioned to contribute both to the tools and support structures that could wire their people to adapt well. In other words, we can create environments where our people learn to not only survive the challenges of life and work but to emerge from them a more courageous and confident person.
We may even be encouraging resilience and not even realize it. For instance, if your team would describe your leadership style as optimistic, then you’re contributing to a culture of resilience. Seligman refers to optimism as the key to resilience. Another overlooked measure of building a resilient team is acting as a champion of self-care. Don’t tune out!!! Yes, self-care is a buzzword these days, but that doesn’t make it any less of a legitimate practice for well-being, and it helps to build resilience. Stress affects the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. Leaders who encourage their people to take their vacation days, promote health initiatives, and support mental health practices are actively investing in their people to have the tools and support to behave in resilient ways.
Question for the Week: What are you doing to cultivate greater resilience within your organization?