Every now and again, buzzwords creep into our business language. The main one at the moment is resilience, with leaders wanting to build resilient teams and raise people’s resilience in the workplace. But what is resilience? Can it be developed or even influenced? Many people refer to it as the stand-up syndrome, or the ability to persevere during tough times. Let’s begin by looking at the roots and definition of resilience.
Resilience in the face of challenging situations has been around for centuries, as is evident in myths, fairytales, art, and literature which portrays heroes and heroines. And it continues in today’s thriving movie industry. Just look at Aquaman, The Avengers, Wonder Woman, Black Panther, or Spiderman to name a few. It is only recently though that individual resilience is spilling over into the workplace.
Resilience was first studied as a scientific concept in the 1970s while researching children who were classified as high-risk problem children. Over the next three decades, further research was conducted which indicated that resilience led to increased positive behaviour, academic achievements, a happier and more satisfying life, and a decrease in mental illness, emotional distress, criminal behaviour, and risk-taking activities. Looking at these benefits, it’s no wonder that everybody wants to increase their resilience, especially leaders in the workplace. But resilience is more than just bouncing back from adversity. It has two important benchmark criteria: firstly that you are doing better than anticipated from the adversity, and secondly that there has been a positive outcome. It’s not just about bouncing back and being in the same state of mind as before. Growth needs to happen based on a “threatening” situation. You can obviously appreciate that resilience takes time, practice, and a mindset to develop. In a work context, adverse situations are often present, but do we always come out better than expected or grow from it? Our case study is about how to implement resilience in a working environment.
Our client is in the insurance industry and has a solid track record of delivering excellent customer service. They go the extra mile with every client, and through their stellar quality work, outperform their competitors. The company is a medium-sized business with approximately thirty employees, which made it easy to engage with every employee and make a lasting and positive impact. The Managing Director had scheduled a strategy session with the team, and wanted to include tools and techniques to support the employees to be resilient in an anticipated challenging year ahead.
We were invited to facilitate a half-day workshop on developing resilience. The purpose was to impart knowledge and tools for the team on how to increase their level of resilience, and manage difficult situations and/or aggravated customers. It was about boosting the team with practical know-how so that they could thrive in the coming year.
Approach and Processes
We started off by providing background information on what resilience is, the benefits of developing it for both an individual as well as for the organisation, and ended off by sharing practical tools on how to build and maintain resilience. We also played a fun physical game with the team to assist them to transpose the learned material into real work-life situations. In this case study we will share two main resilience tools that you can apply in managing your day-to-day irritations, frustrations, and disappointments.
Tool 1 – Question your Internal Beliefs
In a moment of distress we seldom start by looking at ourselves, but rather jump right into being reactive and finding fault in the situation, which leads to us going down the blame and fault-finding path. This is not a helpful process for us. We taught the team to reverse this by questioning their assumptions and beliefs about the situation that was causing them distress; first looking inwards and then identifying their thinking traps. The practical tool to apply is the ABCDE method in which the following steps are followed.
The “A” stands for Adversity, and you need to pinpoint and name the situation that is causing you distress.
The “B” stands for Beliefs, and these are the assumptions you are making on what is causing you the actual distress. These are you sinkholes in your thinking.
The “C” stands for the Consequences of holding onto these beliefs around the adversity. It is very helpful to gain clarity of the consequences of holding onto the assumptions and beliefs.
The “D” stands for Disputation. Here we question ourselves whether the beliefs and assumptions are the only feasible explanation for the adversity. We begin to become open-minded and curious about possible alternative reasons. We challenge our thinking by looking for evidence and pondering the implications of our beliefs, assumptions and consequences.
Finally, the “E” stands for Energisation. In this last step, we become energised by removing the limiting and negative assumptions around the adversity which usually results in us moving towards a positive action.
Tool 2 – Examine the External Environment
Only in this tool do we look outwards at the external environment that is adding to the level of distress we are experiencing. It can be friction with a colleague, time management, unreasonable work deadlines, or not having the necessary resources available. We imparted a short, practical tool for the team called ADAPT, and designed a plan of action to work through the adverse situation.
The first “A” stands for Attitude and is about questioning your mindset and exploring which thinking sinkholes are in the way. It also includes examining your emotions and the perception you have.
The “D” stands for Defining the problem and setting a realistic goal.
The second “A” stands for generating Alternative solutions. Brainstorming different ways of how you can accomplishing the set goal and writing down some alternative ideas.
The next step, the “P”, stands for Predicting the consequences. This entails examining the alternative solutions generated in the previous step, and evaluating their level of effectiveness. You start to look at things from all angles, and place yourself in other people’s shoes.
And the final step, the “T”, stands for Testing it. Moving into action and implementing the plan.
Impact and Results
This two-step process was a start for the team to adjust their thinking towards life’s challenges. It was about accepting that life is fluid, and that irritating, frustrating and annoying situations will happen to all of us on a regular basis. We cannot prevent them from happening, however we are in control of our thoughts, we can regulate our emotions, and we can choose how we will react and grow from the challenge.
For organisations, teaching people resilience skills is very beneficial to their profitability and productivity. In a recent study by Gallup in 2018, figures showed that 23% of people suffer from permanent burnout, and 44% from occasional burnout.