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Engendering a resilient culture

Engendering a resilient culture

And some simple steps to strengthen our individual resilience


Dean Becker, co-founder of Adaptiv Learning Systems reaffirmed the thoughts of many experts when he said” “More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails.”

So, what does this mean for us as individuals and employers, and what practical steps can we take to create and nurture a culture of resilience?

A resilient organisation is one where strategy, process and decision making are aligned. This promotes a flexible, mature culture where individuals take ownership; and leadership can be devolved across teams so that everyone is part of, and instrumental to, any corporate decisions and changes.

Individual ownership and devolved leadership, around aligned processes, creates a core set of capabilities that makes an organisation resilient to changes in personnel, workload, location, market forces, or whatever challenges come along. And where these capabilities are built around a set of core values that are understood and shared, the organisation can flex and adapt with the confidence that it will not risk its identity and the things that make it special.

Everyday resilience

Of course, the resilience of an organisation depends on the strength and purpose of the individuals within it. The good news is that there are many simple and practical steps that can be used every day to strengthen our individual resilience:

Be optimistic and nurture self-belief: we frequently hear the benefits of a positive outlook, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone and can be difficult to practice when faced with adversity. But we can remember to celebrate the successes: instead of beating ourselves up over what went wrong – reflect on, and celebrate what went well. When faced with project challenges avoid the ‘can’t do’ mindset and think ‘how can we’. Being solutions-focused will help bring successes.

Remain grounded in reality: optimism is great and is to be encouraged, but it needs to be grounded in reality to ensure we don’t waste energy trying to achieving the unachievable. Set small, realistic goals so that the achievements will help breed positivity.

Exercise mindfulness: this doesn’t have to be through formal meditation, simply practicing calmness and being able to detach will help with mental wellbeing, but also our ability to ‘see’ challenges more clearly, and hence improve our problem-solving capacity.

Take breaks, both of mind and body: it’s impossible to maintain a constructive focus for long periods of time so don’t be afraid to take mental and physical breaks as needed. Stepping away from the desk regularly will help boost productivity and creative thinking; mixing up tasks and activity types in your calendar will also help provide much-needed boosts and stimulus.

Maintain strong values: conducting ourselves and our businesses with integrity founded in strong values will help us be bold and strong, and sticking to these values is what helps get people through – be true to yourself.

See challenges not crises: how individuals respond to challenges and setbacks is very subjective and a real indication of an individuals’ resilience. We should see crises as challenges that can be overcome rather than reacting to them as disasters, and then use these challenges as opportunities to develop new skills and build a resilient mindset.

Compartmentalise to manage time and workloads effectively: in the workplace, pressures of time and workload are perhaps some of the most significant drains on resilience, yet learning to compartmentalise tasks and introducing strategies to manage time and workload is an area where small wins are achievable.

Maintaining ‘to do’ lists are a really effective way to help prioritise tasks and see achievements which will help create a positive mindset. Often people make the mistake of tackling the high priorities first, but feel the albatross of pressure from the other numerous tasks on the to do list and therefore can’t focus effectively. Taking a different approach of tackling the smaller ‘quick wins’ first will help remove the pressure, engendering a positive mindset and clearing the decks for a healthy run at the high priority tasks.

Part of good management is also setting expectations – how often do you find yourself emailing in the evening because it suits you to clear some work, but then you get cross because there is an expectation that you are available 24-7. Also, emailing others outside office hours puts them under pressure to respond. The best strategy for this is to use the ‘delay send’ feature in Microsoft Outlook – which means you can do your tasks at a time to suit you without setting unrealistic expectations and putting pressure on others.

Introducing just some of these practical approaches will help build our daily resilience and strengthen us day after day.

I’ll leave you with one final thought: given Dean Becker’s assertion of resilient people being more successful, as employers – should we determine levels of resilience during recruitment, and if so, how?

Tori McKillen is a partner at Acteon