The key to Resilience isn’t a popular one

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I hazard a guess that the word “resilience” has been used more in the year 2020 than it has in the last decade. After all, in 2020 we’ve needed to dig deeper than most previous years in our lives.

One could argue that it’s fast becoming one of those overused words. Words that become ‘trendy’ but that can often be misplaced or misunderstood.

Resilience is often perceived as a tactical antidote, an extra special ‘potion’ that can be swallowed, a tap that can be turned on, when things get tough (as they have for many in 2020).  

The word resilience can also be railed against when in a skills development context.

For example, when in 2019, a highly successful law firm tasked Equal Talent with helping a group of their high-potential associates become resilient the associates themselves took umbrage. In their opinion they were already over-worked and couldn’t stomach the idea of being asked to work even harder. So we helped them to find clarity around what was really being asked of them: to develop their self-responsibility, confidence and self-reliance skills. This was a case of becoming smarter, not working harder, as they first feared. 

Resilience has been defined by many organisations, and often slightly differently. I like Roffey Park Institute’s Resilience Capabilities Model.

For a start it frames resilience as a skillset that is attainable – but with hard work over time – as opposed to something we can simply acquire when needed. It comprises 5 capabilities: Managing physical energy, Perspective, Emotional Intelligence, Connections and Purpose, values and strengths.  Each capability represents a huge body of self-development work over an infinite period. For example, no-one manages their physical energy 100% effectively all of the time, not even an Olympian. And no-one lives a life completely aligned to their purpose, values and strengths 100% of the time – not even the Dalai Lama.

It’s hard to conclude, over the years of working with professionals on their Resilience, which of the capabilities is the most important or impactful. It’s much easier to conclude, based on the evidence, that all five developmental areas can be overlooked in our lives. Until we learn about what resilience really is, and the work it comprises, it is very common for us to neglect many of these core requirements. For example, rather than it being lauded as a great keadership skill, emotional intelligence is avoided by many Baby Boomer, alpha-male executives for being a weaker or ‘sissy nonsense’ leadership style. To these people it’s incomprehensible that EQ could help them survive, or bounce back from, times of austerity or hardship.  

One capability that stands out for me is Connection. I often see a common pattern among particularly stressed, anxious and struggling clients, when I first start working with them: they have let their connections, their relationships, slide.  They’ve chosen pride and stoicism over asking for help. They’re not comfortable reaching out to let others know that they’re not OK. Having as diverse and strong a set of connections – professional as well as personal – can make or break us. One’s scaffolding in life, as I like to think of this capability. Identifying the different kinds of support that we need around us; and then of course nurturing these relationships so that they are reciprocal, trusting, strong – that they will weather the storms ahead.

Resilience takes hard work – arguably a lifetime’s worth. Which is why, for a lot of the time, we aren’t particularly resilient; and why we are all at very different stages of resilience development, depending on the amount of work we may – or may not – have undertaken recently. Roffey Park breaks a complex field of personal development down into comprehensible chunks; it helps us to understand that this is an interlaced body of work – each capability area boosts the next. And it’s a cyclical model too because no sooner have you done work on all areas then you need to repeat and come back to each area time and again.    

Resilience isn’t a temporary state; it is a set of practices that requires grit and determination. The key to resilience is hard work. Unpopular and easy to put off.

You only know you have resilience when you recognise, often with hindsight, that the months and years of hard, self-work have got you through the difficult days. Don’t wait for chance to gift you resilience, start working on it now ahead of the next pandemic, job loss or period of anxiety.  Have a resilience plan – a growth plan – and make a start now.  Don’t put off the hard work. That’s the key to your resilience success.

If you would like help understanding what Resilience needs to look like for you, and how you are successful in implementing your Resilience plan, contact Equal Talent.

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