On Leadership: How to build resilience in your company or team

ResilienceWhat CEO wouldn’t wish for a ‘resilient company’?

In the prevailing economic conditions, resilience might just be the most important of characteristics for any corporation or organisation. If resilience isn’t part of one’s DNA then chances of surviving the future must be greatly reduced. Resilience is important for the times in which we live and lead. 

In 1989 Emmy Werner, a developmental psychologist, completed a 32 year longitudinal study on resilience. She had followed a group of 698 children in Kauai, Hawaii from before birth into their 30’s and through the study Werner identified three factors that contribute toward building environmental resilience.

The three factors that contribute towards organisational resilience are:

  1. Caring relationships. The need to demonstrate care in the context of relationships within our organisations directly contributes toward building the capacity when it comes to resilience. At a personal level, away from work, this isn’t hard to understand or believe and yet somehow, this fundamental is forgotten when ‘work needs to be done’. Machine-like metaphors and the language of performance efficiency all but kill the basic need to care when dealing with others. Caring has often been seen as ‘soft’ and not what is needed in ‘driving performance’ and results. When our people don’t feel cared for the impact is to lessen resilience, something we only ‘discover’ when in all likelihood it is too late!
  1. High expectations. This forms the ‘flip side’ to caring relationships. Caring does not mean excusing shoddy performance or slack results. High expectations work best in the context of caring relationships and again, in our personal lives – think about your own children, this is ‘easy’ to see and understand. High expectations naturally form part of most work environments but they need to be seen in the context of the need to care and when these two sides meet in the same coin, resilience is developed.
  1. Opportunities to participate. When people are afforded the opportunity to participate, resilience is developed. Again, it is not really difficult to understand this principle and this ought to provide ample incentive to ensure a more participative management style throughout our organisations. Why would we not wish to give resilience every opportunity to flourish? Knowing that opportunities to participate will help this ought to have every leader and manager asking more questions such as, “So what do you think?” as well as pulling others into the outworking of solutions and strategies.

It wouldn’t be too hard to find appropriate ways to ‘measure’ these three factors within your company. You might well already have aspects of them present but you simply haven’t seen the bigger picture of how they connect to building resilience. Raising the awareness levels as to why these three things are important and the link to resilience might just be the most important work you do as a leader. Of course there can be no ‘blueprint’ for how best to undertake this work as leadership is always context specific and you will need to work out how best to do this in your particular context and environment.

Resilience is important. It doesn’t ‘just happen’ but is something that requires intentional effort to develop and nurture. Knowing how best to do this is important and Werner provides leaders with a good platform from which to explore the theme of resilience within their own organisation.

So, you want to be a resilient company? Well, now you at least know what it will take!

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