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Resilience in an age of uncertainty

One of the key words of this pandemic must have been ‘resilience’.

It’s a little like the secret elixir that will protect you from the ravages of change, and yet one can’t be quite sure when or whether you ‘have it’ until it’s put to the test!

I decided to invest in my own retake of a course in resilience recently, and I tend to agree with the authors and my colleagues, Pippa Shaper and Gabi Louw that I am somewhat sceptical of the simplicity of the definition of ‘bouncing back’,

and frankly at almost 50, not too much is ‘bouncing back’ these days!

I like the neuroscience definition I encountered through Neurozone, which speaks to a 3-fold definition;

  1. the capacity of the brain/body system to prevent implosion in the presence of prolonged stress
  2. the ability to bounce back once the stressor has subsided
  3. the potential to grow through stressful events (the so-called post-traumatic growth)

One of the coaching platforms for whom I coach, released their 2020 results for tracking resilience during a pandemic, and I’ve been interested to contrast those with some SA results (since most of what gets released tends to be mostly US-based) which the Neurozone brain-body platform released for this period too.

I’m a bit of a data-freak, so I’ll save that for my workshops and rather summarise here some of the business implications for you as managers and leaders.

First up that elusive ‘innovation’ may need to be dusted off beneath the layers of your COVID PPE, but truth is, if you’ve fostered resilience, you’re the guy or gal who continues to be creative under these stringent conditions. Not only that, but you managed to maintain your productivity levels under lockdown or even (as we’ve seen in many cases) exceed them.  These are the folk who have retained their exercise programme during level 5 lockdown and not had disrupted sleep patterns (dreaming of vaccines), and preserved your daily practices of purpose.

What’s fascinating, (and anyone who’s worked under a manager like this will know) is that resilient leaders have a multiplier effect on teams. So frankly it’s contagious and they spread it around to enable and empower their teams.

Translating this into the bottom line means that these teams have lower turnover intentions and are less sensitive to burnout.

And finally (which is why I’m on a repeat course!) resilience can be learnt, and is in fact measurable, which makes resilience quantifiable, when you link it to its key drivers of cognitive agility, emotional regulation and self compassion.

So there’s a reservoir of statistics that underpin this research and a great deal of support for the power of coaching to enable you to build and retain resilience. But what I can tell you is that resilience is a journey and it looks different for each one of us. Some of us have been sorely tested during 2020, while others have been buoyed by the opportunity of crisis. Regardless of where you find yourself, I do think there is merit for looking at this work, on both an individual and team level and for reflecting on what has enabled you and what stretches you to become even more resilient in your lives.



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