We have all climbed steps – maybe it was a trek, a historical monument or even a pilgrimage. There is that moment when you feel like you simply cannot go one step further. And then you do. Resilience. That quality of toughness, of elasticity. The getting up after almost quitting, after a fall or failure, but stronger each time.
Adversity creates a lot of those ‘I can’t climb one more step’ moments. During that time, everything is intensified, seemingly without end and feels final. Yet, taking that one more step or landing on the other side of adversity is accompanied by a strong sense of achievement. The unbeatable feeling of knowing you can do it.
A pandemic like the one the world is in the grip of, will lead to many questions that may not have fully coherent answers for some time. However, the current crisis has also forced us all to find how resilient and adaptable we are, both in our personal and professional lives.
RESILIENCE IS A MINDSET
If this can become a core mindset, it means healthy people and therefore healthy organizations - because resilience breeds continuity. If we can see this time as an opportunity to build such toughness within individuals, teams and organizations, we would have emerged successful from this pandemic that has held the world ransom, in a whole new way. And this is particularly important as the world begins to emerge from lockdowns.
While people coming back to their workplaces may be six months to a year away, it is important to consider what sort of mindset they will come back to work with. With work from home having become the norm, this inevitably has meant changes in behaviors and ways of working for all of us. But building resilience is like training for a marathon; no one wakes up one morning and decides to run one. You decide you want to push yourself and then work towards it, and every time you decide to give up, you run a little harder, a little longer.
It is standard practice to look at structures within enterprises as individuals, teams and organizations. What we sometimes fail to realize is that these relationships are wholly symbiotic. An individual is part of a team, that is part of other teams, that are all part of an organization. As leadership and other functions start planning for what the changed workplace will be, it becomes critical to consider how the ground can be laid for the workforce to return, armed with forward thinking and a positive, future mindset.
Which brings the conversation back to resilience, which is not a black and white characteristic or behavior. So, how do you weave it into everyday work? How do you make that happen for your teams? What tools can you employ to turn this into a mindset, so that when the next challenge, crisis or transition arrives (and it will), resilience kicks in not as an instinct but as practiced behavior, and takes over?
To use another sport this time, it is like a relay and will need to be done at all three levels equally – individual, team and organizational. Which means everyone is on the same page, working towards the same objectives, following the same game plan. There needs to be readiness, agility and awareness of each other to ensure performance. Failures are merely indications that a new strategy is needed; one that optimizes individual and team strengths. Where the organization comes in handy is in building such an attitude of resilience into its culture.
CREATING RESILIENT ENTERPRISES
There are certain factors that come into play when assessing mindset to prepare for existing and oncoming challenges. Insights are available that can help organizations and leaders understand the overall health of their people. Crisis situations can bring to light previously ignored or hidden strengths and weaknesses that can be channelized to find whole new directions, solutions and even avenues for business.
A fundamental measure in this exercise into building resilience into our mindset is perspective. Is there a tendency to look at problems with a solution-finding outlook or do we get stuck? Is there a balance between the physical and emotional needs of everyone within the team that allows them to retain a sense of purpose at work? Are teams geared to assess the needs of its members and offer requisite support?
The role of team leads in keeping not just business going but managing morale without the benefit of face to face interaction is a tough one. It helps for all of us to acknowledge that none of us, at any position, is going to be able to do it all. Which is why it is important for organizations to understand that building resilience as a culture can strengthen teams and individuals with a sense of belonging. When there is pride in being a part of a team, brushing yourself off after a fall and trying again becomes easier.
This can be achieved by encouraging open conversations and questions, connecting with the team, providing clarity and maintaining calm. Setting up interdependencies through buddy programs are also a way of helping those that need support get it with the least hassle. Recognition and acknowledgment are important, and of equal importance are offers to coach and mentor so that skill levels within teams can be upscaled.
Building such practices and ensuring ongoing implementation creates an environment that transcends online and offline equations. This leads to a sense of continuity when all of us come back to work eventually and continue with our tasks, as individuals and as part of teams, picking up where we left off from our previous day’s interactions, without feeling like we’re learning to ride bicycles again!
WE NEED THIS NOW THAN EVER
The current situation is beset with uncertainties that provide no clear picture of what 2021 or 2023 will be. What we can do it readjust our plans and spend the interim time well on evaluating existing systems, practices and weaknesses, and working on fixing them. It is also a time to see how others are reacting to the same set of problems; this could be competitors, partners and even other industries. If we treat the current crisis as one that has levelled the field in terms of resilience, there is a lot to learn and therefore change, thereby strengthening our teams and organization.
As for leaders at every level, we are going to have to be best-of-class gymnasts – find the right balance between business continuity in all its forms and ensuring overall individual, team and organizational well-being. In other words, build performance, confidence and resilience – all at the same time.
I began with a sports analogy and believe it is a good way to end this piece. If organizations and leaders can be like coaches who maintain the critical balance between pushing hard and being compassionate, resilience can be built brick by brick. Every single person within will work that much harder and automatically make such organizations ‘great places of the future’.
Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just illusions – Michael Jordan