Demystifying Resilience: Actions HR Leaders Should Take To Foster Resilience

"Learn to treat setbacks as opportunities to do better. It boosts your mental functioning; resilience begets resilience," says Vandana S Ahuja, Organisational HR Adviser & Executive Coach (ICF), Executive Director - Metamorph Dynamics Consulting


‘The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived,' so said popular author Robert Jordan. This quote beautifully captures how to survive and thrive, we need to develop resilience to adapt to change.

As geopolitical factors continue to impact the industry, the fast-paced, rapidly changing world demands leaders to be change champions to keep their organisations ahead of the curve. Change comes in multitude forms, making it a formidable challenge as there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Moreover, change operates at two levels - the external aspect that we see outwardly and then there is a psychological reorientation, transition, within each individual as we adapt to the external change. Transition is a dynamic process that is inherent to growth. Successful transitions require flexibility, resilience and a proactive mindset to navigate challenges.

Demystifying Resilience

The capacity to recover from setbacks & bounce back stronger is frequently cited as a distinguishing factor between those who succeed and those who do not. This is resilience. Proven to have a positive impact on job satisfaction, engagement and overall well-being, resilience is a trait that can be cultivated through diverse experiences, pushing our boundaries, emerging resilient to surmount setbacks, effectively managing work pressures and mitigating the scale of challenges we encounter.

Our childhood is the seedbed of resilient qualities such as confidence, self-efficacy, optimism and a desire to succeed. Positive childhood experiences at the hand of dependable and emotionally enriching caregivers leads one to form a positive perspective of oneself and one’s abilities. The Attachment Theory postulates, the care and support of prominent caregivers allow the child to develop a sense of security and initiate the confidence that is needed to handle obstacles.

Change and Resilience - Insights 

Here are interesting insights that emerged from research on ‘Change & Resilience: A Psychodynamic Exploration of The Relationship’ which involved seasoned C-suite professionals with extensive experience in effectively navigating various forms and dimensions of organisational change:

  • First, accept the inevitability of change; it enables you to be adaptable with resilient qualities - strong internal locus of control, healthy self-esteem, solution-focused approach and optimistic attitude to navigate the uncertain waters and the overwhelming demands of change.
  • Be change tolerant, knowing change is transient and that no feeling is final. We are constantly evolving beings and each challenging experience through positive adaptation adds a layer that fuels our resilience.
  • Learn to treat setbacks as opportunities to do better. It boosts your mental functioning; resilience begets resilience.
  • Following a daily resilience ritual helps immensely in reinforcing it. Link every day to your larger purpose, reframing challenges and taking control. Regular exercise de-stresses, recharges focus and gives clarity of thought, which are much-needed and desired tools for success and well-being. The more willing one is to embrace diverse experiences and step out of their comfort zone, the more resilient qualities one develops.

Resilience as a Leadership Craft

Resilience has been attributed to be the X-factor that sets successful change leaders apart enabling them to endure, positively adapt and thrive amid uncertainty. HR leaders can contribute significantly to building a resilient workforce by adopting the following measures:

• Foster Optimism: Encourage transparent and open communication within the organisation to foster optimism and cultivate an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing challenges and seeking support. Recognise and celebrate achievements and address conflicts promptly to maintain a harmonious work atmosphere to boost self-esteem and resilience. A positive workplace culture makes employees feel valued and appreciated. This reflects greatly in their approach to work and the desired output.

• Continuous Learning Opportunities: Offer diverse, enriching experiences to upskill, reskill your workforce and build adaptability. Offer opportunities for continuous learning and development which enables the workforce to stay relevant to the dynamic market and job needs. This not only enhances employees' skills but also contributes to a sense of accomplishment and resilience in the face of challenges.

• Resourcefulness: Empower employees through trained coaches to tap into their resilience. Resilient teams rebound from setbacks and welcome new challenges. They devote their energy to solutions and remain focused on outcomes regardless of external conditions.

• Building Effective Support Systems: Resilience is not innate, it is built by an individual’s interaction with the environment, bolstered by strong relationships and networks. The research on ‘Change & Resilience: A Psychodynamic Exploration of The Relationship’ conducted with an industry participant group revealed that connections can help us become more resilient when we encounter major life or professional challenges. This got reinforced with the research conducted by the Harvard Business Review with a similar group of professionals. Leaders who provide a psychological safe space by making effective support structures for their teams are able to bring in more resilient behaviors. A psychologically safe environment provides a sense of security and wellbeing that has a direct positive impact upon areas such as trust, teamwork, innovation, creativity and engagement that drive strong employee retention.

• Provide Resilience Training Programmes: Implement training programmes that include activities that foster resilience e.g practicing gratitude, mindfulness, resilience inventory, reframing stress, problem-solving skills and cultivating adaptability, to name a few.

• Reflection and Assessment: Developing resilience necessitates a degree of self-awareness and empathy, qualities that may not be inherent in all team members. Leaders should evaluate their team situation, zone in areas of vulnerability and implement strategies aimed at assisting team members in dismantling obstacles. This process aims to foster the establishment of trust, transparency and self-awareness within the team.

• Lead by Example: Last but not least, demonstrate resilience as a leader by fostering open communication with your team, actively sharing challenges, and welcoming their insightful contributions. Elevate your leadership effectiveness by openly addressing obstacles and emphasise the important role of self-care to cultivate a resilient team culture. Leaders who model resilient behaviour set a positive example for their teams. 

In essence, successful change leaders have three key attributes- i.e. they accept the inevitability of change and change transiency, demonstrate unwavering commitment to success operating at superior capacity through their resilience and they are committed to building their teams’ resilience. Effective champions of change find that engaging with the team to solve a challenge or a problem halves it and makes solutions better. Being more stress tolerant enables them to function at a higher level even during challenging times. If they function at a better level, they can enable their teams to build resilience, deal with change and deliver positive results.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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