Resilience. Like all words it carries the weight of its past associations and the expectations we place upon it in the present. Currently, it’s a buzz word that’s thriving in the corporate wellbeing space. It speaks of strength, courage, hardiness and the ability to get up and keep going when the going gets tough. Lately the going has been hard; unpredictable, uncertain, limiting, controversial. In times like these a little bit of strength is worth having and there is no doubt that in business having people with a decent dose of bounce-back-able-ness is desirable but what could resilience be if we were to hold it to a very high level and how can moving beyond resilience – as we understand it – benefit people in business?
After a hard winter of frozen nights and rock-hard ground, plants do one of two things. They die, or their roots go deep, and they recover. In our garden the lemon tree didn’t make it through the negative 10 Celsius nights, the Feijoa tree did. The latter is now – surprisingly – growing fresh leaves and holding its own. It survived and so has proven itself to overcome adversity and win. In traditional thinking it’s resilient and from the above ground viewpoint it’s just barely come out on top. It has new small leaves and likely will not produce any fruit this season. What cannot be seen is what has occurred under the ground where its roots were forced by necessity to burrow deeper down and anchor themselves to survive. I predict – and biology confirms – that the result in the long term will be a strong, healthy, productive and deeply rooted tree that is more likely to survive another cold winter. With each successive win comes the likelihood of greater resilience.
Resilience in humans is more complex than in plants, we don’t just survive and get stronger when we overcome challenge. We grow in confidence, take more responsibility, develop awareness and can draw on the experience in hindsight. It’s an adaption process that is essential for our forward progress – and it is more than this. It can lead to creativity, innovation, breakthrough and the busting of myths. Ideologies crumble in the face of the victors over challenge and even the social despots of the 20th Century where unable to crush the spirits of the people who rose to replace their idealised systems. Humans are resilient. They do not need to be taught resilience, they need to realise it as innate, back themselves, and strive to move beyond it.
Taking this to its highest level in the workplace means using resilience training to empower and unlock stored potential in people. To equip and enable them with education, understanding, and tools that do exactly this. Then to be willing to support them as they integrate their learnings. It begins with understanding themselves, how they function physically, and what role stress plays in adaption to uncertainty. When they know how to hijack their nervous system and bring it under control through breath, movement, posture and mobility they are now the holder of their own personal power. The realisation that their attention can be directed and to exactly where they want it there is a powerful shift of mindset and when they are given permission to speak freely and share their triumphs and struggles, reserves of truth, trust, vulnerability, and ease are unlocked. By offering this simple and powerful information to people you are empowering them to own their reactions when times get shaky and life erupts into chaos. This will be equally valuable for them in their work and home life as there is very little separation psychologically between the two. We bring our personal challenges to work and our work struggles home. As the old saying goes ‘wherever you go there you are’. What sort of people do you want turning up to work each day? Responsibly empowered people who welcome challenge and speak their minds or silently suffering humans curtailing their own brilliance through lack of understanding and awareness of their own capability?
Let’s take resilience to its highest level. Its more than toughness, hardiness, strength. It’s the potential within each of us that yearns to shine forth. The unformed diamond contained within the rock that can only be brought forth under the hands of the sculptor and her tools. Life demands growth and deep down we all want to be a diamond. Equipping the people in your team with the tools and understanding they need to develop their resilience means not leaving them to figure it out on their own. Support them to become such a bright gem they commit long term and exceed their own expectations.
There are risks in offering this level of training in moving beyond resilience. Risks that people may start having real conversations, asking tough questions, and standing up for themselves. Risks of teams becoming strong enough not to tolerate bullying, injustice and antiquated systems. They may decide to question the values of the company and whether or not the direction its heading aligns with the statements proclaimed from the marketing team. People will be creative, emotive, rebellious, and authentic and it takes a special kind of leadership to allow others to flourish and potentially surpass your own level of skills. It’s a risk on excellence and ability and it’s a risk that can unlock the very best in individuals and propel your business forward. Are you willing to move beyond resilience? –