11/12/2013 - 14:48

When the going gets tough…

11/12/2013 - 14:48


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Challenging times require resilient leaders who can bring the best out in their team.

NOT COPING: A manager’s lack of composure under pressure can have a detrimental impact on all staff.

Picture this workplace scenario.

You have two very competent, skilled professionals working for you.  Both have very good experience and are intelligent.  However Mr A has better knowledge of your industry and has high-level contacts that help bring in business. 

Mr. R might not have the industry background and contacts, but he has some other advantages. He is fit, never gets sick, is positive even when things are not working out, and seems to know when to provide or hold back his opinion on controversial matters. 

Mr A, on the other hand, gets cranky under pressure and seems to be struggling with some personal or health issues, although he is unwilling to discuss these with you.

In short, Mr R is competent and is also resilient while Mr A is competent and connected but not very resilient. If you had to downsize your team, which one would you choose?

Research has shown that resilient people have a peculiar ability to improvise, enabling them to find the most positive solution given the situation at hand.  They also demonstrate the ability to recover from adversity and difficult change with greater strengths and abilities and a sense of growth and development.

Research has also shown that resilient people think differently. And this could be the defining difference – business need people who can think differently and in ways that can sustain organisations in the face of an ever-changing business landscape. 

Take one example – think of a project that is currently running in your business. Who will be the most successful members on that project – the ones who can get results yet are stuck in their own ways and cause significant fall-out along the way, or the ones who have a different and more effective approach to setbacks, the ones who can keep going in the face of negative results? 

To determine how resilient we are we might consider a weight scale. On one side is the amount of stress, everyday hassles and life events we experience which pull, stretch, press and bend us. On the other side is how well we manage our physical health and wellbeing.

Affecting both sides of this scale is our emotional intelligence and mindset, our supportive relationships, the life and work structures we have in place, and our life’s purpose.

It’s been about 40 years since academic research into the topic began. Many early theories emphasised the role that genetics played, arguing some people are just naturally resilient; they were born that way. Yet research increasingly confirms that resilience can be learned.

Managers and supervisors especially need to be resilient. They are the ones who often have to deal with setbacks and disruptions that hit their team. They have to find a way through the storm and often don’t get time to look after themselves since they are going from one fire to another. 

The Harvard Business Review found that: “More than education, experience, or training, an individual’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails.” 

By providing specific training and development opportunities, an organisation can assist employees such as Mr A to build their capability to face reality in a resolute manner.

Managing change isn’t enough anymore. Businesses need to assist their employees thrive and grow in the face of adversity, to become more resilient. By adding to their existing business skills and acumen, resilient employees bring a type of hardiness to a business and are an asset to any organisation, rather than a cost and a burden.

Ron Cacioppe is the managing director and Beth Nurnberger is a senior consultant with Integral Development.


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