Article: Resilience: Can it be learned?

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Resilience: Can it be learned?

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In the organizational context, a resilient workforce can be built through various dialogues, innovative assignments, a support network, mentoring, and guidance. Let’s explore how.
Resilience: Can it be learned?

It is 5 AM on the clock, Ria wakes up to get ready for work, makes some food for herself, and switches on her laptop. She meets and greets her new colleagues on chat and starts to prepare for her onboarding in a new company. She is excited to begin a new adventure. 

On the same onboarding call, is also Steve, who woke up just ten minutes before the call and is not that enthusiastic about this change. He misses his old colleagues and is also extremely anxious about his new role, as he makes a career transition. 

For some people change is an energizer, a motivator; in fact, these people may seek out change and thrive on it. For other people, it is just the opposite, and change is experienced as exhausting and demotivating, something to put up with and be endured. And even though there is no agreed definition of resilience, it fundamentally relates to one's ability to respond to change, stress, and adversity, positively.

Knowing how change affects you, your peers, and your workforce can help determine learning and development strategies that will allow you to build a much more resilient workforce for a world of work where the only constant is change.

Once discovered and understood how change affects everyone differently, the important question to ask is: Can resilience be learned?

Resilience is not a passive quality, but an active process. How we approach life, and everything it can throw at us has a massive impact on our experience. According to psychologist Susan Kobasa, there are three main elements that resilient people possess: challenge, commitment, and control.

In the book, ‘Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness’, Dr Hanson also discusses the scientifically grounded foundation for lasting wellbeing. He cites inner strengths including grit, gratitude, compassion, and courage, that can fortify resilience to help overcome life’s inevitable adversities. So yes, resilience can be learned, encouraged, imparted and harnessed. 

In an organizational context, a culture of resilience can be fostered and among the workforce the competency can be built through various ways: challenging projects, a support network, mentoring, and an empowering work culture that allows people to push past their mistakes. Let’s explore how: 

How can business leaders, HR & L&D professionals help?

Complex problems & challenging opportunities

“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.”

- Gever Tulley

How often do you give your employees the chance to solve different problems, or do you wait for external pressures to take them by surprise? It is true that we can’t predict change, we can’t foresee a crisis. To prepare them for this change, talent must be indulged with diverse opportunities. They should be encouraged to work out of their comfort zones. This can be encouraged by enabling people to flex within their roles; encouraging self-development and upskilling, entrusting them with key projects and responsibilities, and enabling them to build relationships with colleagues across silos. That way, when crises do occur, people are already communicating, collaborating, and out of their comfort zone. 

Some organizations also foster resilience through simulation learning and gamifications, wherein they put the employees in a business scenario or a crisis situation they could face in the future. People often find that they have grown and now are stronger as a result of a struggle.  

Learning from failure 

Failure has always been the best teacher and time and again world renowned leaders have proven that. But leaders rarely give themselves and the employees a chance to experiment and fail. HR leaders and business leaders should hence work together in building a culture where failure is welcomed as a springboard for growth and an opportunity to learn and upskill, rather than something to be shied away from. Enable the talent to make mistakes, accept their mistakes and learn from them. 

Talent should be encouraged to confront failures and understand them, and leaders must work along with them to help them deconstruct these failures and learn from them.

As the quote that never gets old says, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”

But it should also be a two-way dialogue, where leaders are empowered to discuss their failures and what can be learned from them. We all need to get a bit more comfortable making failure part of our everyday vocabulary, and a more transparent component of our careers as a whole.

A strong support network

Caring and positive workplace relationships provide social support which nourishes further emotional resilience and also makes teams feel more connected – which can also lead to them being more productive. Whatever the crisis or the stress trigger may be, people often need to hear other points of view in order for them to get a bit of perspective. As leaders, in fact, you can guide talent based on your own experiences and adversities you may have faced in your life. 

Through a strong support network, the employees can guide each other and help each other sail through the storm. 

How can you learn resilience yourself? 

Respond & not react 

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. 

-Charles R. Swindoll

Easier said than done, yes! But it is the bitter truth. How do you want to shape your life? When facing change, try to put your efforts where you can have the most impact, you feel empowered and confident. Change the narrative of your thoughts, replace them with positive affirmations and look for solutions. 

Part of resilience comes from the knowledge that you have a choice; that you can respond in an intentional way that reduces your stress rather than just reacting to what is happening.

Commitment & Purpose 

Being committed to a larger purpose and your goals often provides a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning. From concepts like ‘Ikigai’ to ‘Essentialism’, there are many ways in which you can help yourself identify what motivates you, guides you, and inspires you. 

As Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles say, “There is a passion inside you, a unique talent that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the very end.”

Take care of yourself 

Most importantly, practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself. Take care of your well-being. Some experts recommend mindful journaling, yoga, and meditation. Others may find more positive energy by playing a sport, doing something creative, or simply going for a walk. 

Don't let negative thoughts derail your efforts. Instead, consistently practice positive thinking. 

So when the next challenge or change comes, remember, that this time the ball is in your court: Do you succumb or do you surmount?

Insights believes that it’s only when people truly understand themselves through developing self-awareness that they can be as focused, productive and resilient as they need to be. Visit & find out more.

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Topics: Learning & Development, #Discover&Lead

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