Build strong foundations: Resilience is a practice, not a personality trait

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Resilient organisations are made of resilient people. Which is why investing in the mental health and wellbeing of a workforce makes so much sense. Employees are twice as motivated and productive if they are resilient – plus, resilience has a moderating effect on the relationship between job stress and job satisfaction. That’s a relationship that can be under even more tension where someone isn’t just juggling work and personal life but the responsibilities of being a carer, or a parent, too.

HR responsibility to carers and parents

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 71% of carers have poor physical or mental health. The emotional burden can be intense and the tasks involved in maintaining routines and physically sustaining another life, exhausting. For many carers, the equivalent of a half day’s extra work is piled on to the regular 9-5 schedule every working day. And then there are the challenging feelings that come from trying to balance work with caring responsibilities, such as the guilt of leaving someone helpless or the fear of what could happen when your attention isn’t on them. On top of all this, carers don’t have the time and resources to focus on their own needs – or may not know how to optimise what is available. And, as we all find out eventually, it’s not possible to pour from an empty cup.

Improving retention, job satisfaction, productivity and absenteeism

So, where does resilience fit with all of this? It is a primary component in positive mental health – and in riding the waves of life’s challenges with compassion and optimism. Resilient employees have a better experience of life in general and show up differently in the workplace too. That can translate, not just into higher rates of productivity, but also improved retention, reduced absenteeism and more job satisfaction. Because resilient organisations are made of resilient people, everyone benefits from a resilience training investment.

Resilience is not a personality trait

Key to note here is that resilience is a practice, not a personality trait. No one is born resilient, and it doesn’t come naturally to any of us. The combination of core beliefs, mindset, habits and strategies that make us resilient come from sources like what was modelled to us as children, our life experiences and what we’ve been through over the years. 

The good news is that this means low resilience can be changed – and in a relatively short space of time with the right insights and expertise. What makes this possible is an understanding of the self (why we do what we do), the obstacles that can undermine resilience (low self-esteem, imposter syndrome etc) and being able to take charge of the conscious tools that all of us have to be more resilient – namely mindset and habits. Being more resilient doesn’t just mean surviving tough times but having a greater depth of adaptability, flexibility, optimism and resourcefulness too, no matter what is happening around us.

What do learned resilience skills look like?

It will be different for everyone but the basis is this:

  1. Identifying the obstacles to resilience. These can be many and one of the big challenges is that we may not even be aware of them. Core beliefs, for example, can be deeply rooted and unconscious until we bring them into the light through a process like training/coaching. Other obstacles that can be improved through resilience training include an anxiety habit, imposter syndrome, procrastination and low self-esteem. While these often feel like huge, immovable blocks, in reality they can be dissolved through simple changes to perspective and behaviours.
  2. Moving to a growth mindset. Many of us acquire a fixed mindset early on in life. This is the view that you’re either good or something or you’re not, that failure is the end of the line and something isn’t worth doing if there is no guarantee of success. With a resilient growth mindset, failure is an opportunity to evolve, discomfort is welcomed as a sign of growth and the focus shifts from achievement to learning. The benefits of this change are obvious on an individual and organisational level – we become flexible, curious and psychologically steady, able to sustain the momentum and energy to thrive.
  3. Practical tools and strategies. The secret to resilience lies in the thoughts, actions and behaviours that we repeat (often automatically) every day. These are not permanently ingrained but habitual, which means they can be changed. Simple tools and neuroscience-informed strategies that embed new habits are easily learned and generate the kind of resilience that fuels adaptability, motivation, creativity, innovation and job satisfaction. 

Greater resilience is available to everyone. And is especially vital for individuals who are under stress or juggling carer/parent roles alongside work. Employees with more resilience are the foundation of teams that are cohesive and collaborative, productive and agile – which is why the wider organisational impact of investing in people on an individual level like this can be huge.

By Alex Pett, P&P’s Panel Expert on Resilience


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