I run many resilience programs and at the start of each program I always ask people what is testing their resilience and why they are in the program. The answers are often different – not just between the participants in the room – but more importantly between the participants in the room and the leader or manager who hired me to run the program.
Underneath it, there are usually three underlying causes:
Has there been, or is there a lot of ongoing change? This is a big tester for resilience.
Are your staff feeling overwhelmed? This is not so much caused by a lot of change but by the sheer volume of the workload.
Have you or your staff had a major adversity or setback? Constant hurdles are another cause for resilience.
Each of these can exist independently of the other. For example, your organisation may be going through a lot of change however overwhelm or adversity isn't the issue (admittedly, that is unusual). You may be facing setbacks (this can take many shapes; irate customers, bullying, abusive behaviour, a death or illness) - but there is not a lot of change or overwhelm. On the other hand, things might not be changing and you may not be facing adversity but the sheer volume of work is daunting.
The reason it’s important to understand what the exact stressor, is that while they all test your resilience, the cure to each is slightly different (but overlapping).
Too Much Change? - Understand The Change Curve
If the issue is one of too much change, then the solution is around helping the staff to place themselves along the change curve and normalizing what they might be feeling. There's a bunch of other strategies too – too many for me to go through here – but they include things such as giving more prominence to what has stayed the same, and how the change may be beneficial rather than detrimental.
Workload Overwhelm? Attend to Long-Term Priorities
If the issue is overwhelm, then usually what causes the stress is the sense that none of the important long-term stuff gets done, because the day-to-day “business as usual” always gets in the way. In addition, there are too many ‘open loops’. The solution here is clearing headspace and finding ways to work that helps you address some of the bigger picture items.
Setback? Bounce Back Better
If the cause is a setback - then the solution here is how do we bounce back when things go wrong and what have we learnt from what happened? Again, this is a learnable skill.
Resilience Is the Key Theme
The underlying theme for all three is, of course resilience, but how you achieve that is different. So if you want to help your staff to become more resilient first find out what is testing their resilience; too much change, a sense of overwhelm or a setback or adversity- or a combination of all three.
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