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I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all the news on the global financial crisis and what it means to business now, and in the New Year. It seems hardly a day goes by when there isn’t another story about a collapsed corporation, a share value dive, or a government funded rescue package.

It seems every organisation, and every individual, will be affected at some level. How we respond, as individuals and organisations, will depend on just how resilient we are. It got me thinking about how often successes are built during exactly these sorts of tough times.

It truly is survival of the fittest.

The business landscape is becoming more and more connected, more and more unpredictable and volatile, and the consequences of external events more and more impactful. Respond late and you run the danger of being left behind. Respond late to this global crisis and you run the danger of joining in it.

While this is economic change of an unprecedented nature, let’s not forget the other changes we’re experiencing right now. To what extent is your business affected, directly or indirectly, by environmental change and global warming?

Maybe you’re caught up, directly or indirectly, in other political or social agendas. I can’t help thinking there are interesting times ahead, for the developers of the controversial St Kilda Triangle project – most of the previous council was thrown out at the recent election!

Maybe you and your organisation are caught up in the increased pace of merger and acquisition. Perhaps you’re coming to terms with the rapid career transition of Gen Y, or the unparalleled advance in information technology – I just bought a new iPhone and sometimes I’m not sure if it’s a phone, or a diary, or my email, or a camera!

Heavens, the Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012. We haven’t much time left!

Quick, what makes people and organisations resilient in tough times?

Generally resilience in people is characterised by their ability to quickly bounce back from trauma or adversity. Resilient organisations typically are populated by resilient people and anticipate and plan for disaster or near disaster.

Resilient people can laugh in the face of adversity, retain their sense of purpose, happily accept change, and learn the skills to adapt to the new ways. Resilient organisations adapt too, but more importantly, they anticipate the critical action they need to take, by monitoring emerging trends.

Puts a different perspective on strategic planning, doesn’t it? Organisations that are resilient strive for the best, and plan for the worst! They are known for their ability to bounce back from near disaster, implement on-going and continuous change, and often will set the trend, rather than follow it.

How can you strengthen the resilience of your people and your organisation?

Like life itself, so much of resilience is attitude. Finding and developing the right attitude is important – people who view difficulties as challenges to be overcome, will survive far better than those who act from fear or self-pity. These people know how to maximise their strengths and find resources to compensate for their weaknesses. They stay in control.

Perhaps the most famous example of resilience is Viktor Frankl, a writer, psychiatrist and survivor of Auschwitz. Frankl observed a common attribute amongst survivors – they were connected with a purpose; they were clear on their values; and this gave them hope. In these tough times, remind your people about why they’re there, the best in customer service, the high achievers, or the quickest response support.

Interestingly, truly resilient people are also humorous, fit and persistent. Having a capacity to laugh at yourself and adversity, takes the stress out of the situation. Being fit can allow endorphins to positively affect mood, along with the more obvious benefits. Nothing takes the place of persistence, when people are faced with the need to learn new skills and re-learn from trial and error.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

Peter Senge first introduced us to the concept of a learning organisation and it’s times like these, that we realise, we can take this to another level of adaptation and recovery. A resilient organisation is not only a learning organisation redesigning itself constantly, it is also a flexible organisation, that can rapidly adapt to new ideas and swiftly implement changes in behaviour.

Resilient organisations, adopt and design systems, that emphasise resilience in their people and acknowledge their positive intent and behaviour, typically encouraging decentralised decision-making. Won’t that mean a loss of control? Not if the extent of the authority is clearly defined, and the independent groups are also interdependent, constantly in touch with each other, sharing knowledge.

Resilient organisations are also in touch with their purpose, and their values. They’ll take the time to review these, in view of the changing environment, to maybe re-affirm or re-adjust and take the time to develop their people, to adjust to these changes.

And finally, resilient organisations anticipate emerging opportunities and threats, treating the threats as more than just the last letter in SWOT. Their strategic planning sets up appropriate scenarios. It’s been said if we fail to plan then we plan to fail. Equally if we fail to anticipate then we anticipate to fail.

What has been the effect of current global financial crisis on your organisation? What has happened, that you’ve had to “re-act” to, and what might happen that you’ll need to “pro-act” to? Most importantly, without losing sight of your own purpose, what systems and processes are in place, to identify how you and your people are monitoring and adapting to these external pressures right now?

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