Its often used by Senior Managers in times of change – or more accurately when jobs are being lost. ‘How can we help our workforce cope with the impact of all this? Lets help them be more resilient.’ It’s easy to dismiss this as just something to settle the conscience of senior managers – ‘lets give people a bat so they have a chance of hitting the stuff we throw at them.’ So you run a resilience workshop – that’ll do the trick, or you give people ‘Who moved my cheese?’ – ‘That will help people cope with the change. But it won’t work – not as much as it could anyway.
If resilience is the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity, threats, and from sources of stress such as work pressures, health, family or relationship problems, then a resilient person is not only able to handle the crisis more effectively, but they are also able to recover and get back on their feet more quickly. It’s at times of significant change when any organisation needs resilient people to contribute and shape those changes. Lovely words, but lets be honest – it’s just not how people feel at those times. If your job is on the line then you feel ‘done to’ – you certainly don’t feel empowered to challenge and shape. So how can organisations or managers pull off this trick? Clearly many don’t. Some are either so set on the change, or nervous of showing perceived weakness, that they drive through changes at all costs. Others pull back and get into trouble delivering nothing and ultimately putting that service or organisation at risk. They are not resilient.
Obviously, it would be great to ‘not start here’ – ideally we want organisations and therefore people to develop and innovate – to keep relevant to what needs to be done and then big structural changes wouldn’t necessarily be needed. But sometimes things come at you that you just have to respond to and they are not incremental. If you have to take 25% out of a budget and it pays for people, how do you work with those people so that the remaining 75% can still deliver what’s needed – or ideally lead on what might be needed? How much better for those who remain to be a team proposing the next change or development rather than waiting for it. You probably can’t convince everyone this is a more positive way to go. But you can increase your chances the more resilient people you have – but critically that includes those who are ultimately accountable for the changes.
To gain organisational resilience you need the capability to respond rapidly to change. It is the ability to bounce back — and, in fact, to bounce forward — with speed, grace, determination and precision. It’s no different from personal resilience. It’s why managers have to encourage and support resilience in their teams. To actively ensure they encourage challenge, listen to it, and act on it especially in times of change. Not to shut it down. Some preferred options will change – suggestions will be taken adopted . Some things won’t change. Deftly managing this is hard and obviously not everyone will recognise it might help in the long run. To come through the other side with some people more resilient than before will help the organisation and those people significantly in the long run.
It would be great if those people were managers too.