According to Psychology Today, “Resilience is the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties, traumatic events, or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, highly resilient people find a way to change course, emotionally heal, and continue moving toward their goals.”
A recent study from HBR found that resilience is not connected to gender, age, ethnicity, or nationality. What it did discover is two factors that could help people become more resilient. The first is that resilience is a reactive state of mind created by exposure to suffering, and the second is that the more tangible the threat, the more resilient we become.
With the pandemic, the study found that your level of resiliency was related to how closely you were impacted by the virus. If you or an immediate family member was affected, the more resilient you became. This indicates that we become more resilient when we face adversity directly. The reality of situations we fear is likely less scary than we think it will be.
It’s through these experiences, where we have to react to adverse situations, that we discover what we are capable of. You could say these types of situations strengthen our resilience. We learn about ourselves and how we do more than we thought we could.
Another notable finding from the pandemic is that the more people were impacted by the changes thrust upon them, the more resilient they were. Interestingly, what these findings indicate is that, “humans do not function well when our senior leaders gloss over the reality. We don’t need them to sugarcoat in order to make us feel better. It won’t. It is far more frightening, and damaging to the psyche, to downplay tough or dark realities, or to pretend they don’t exist, because then we allow our imaginations to run riot.”
This speaks to the need for transparency and honesty from executive leadership. This may be counterintuitive to what you think you need to do for employees, but the reality is that you need to deliver difficult news or unknown situations with candor. Employees can handle whatever it is you need to share.
These findings should not be surprising to us. Psychologist Viktor Frankl said 90 years ago, “Our response to unavoidable suffering is one of the primary sources in our lives of meaning and purpose and self-efficacy. Suffering and difficulty must never be hidden from us. Instead, show them to us honestly and clearly and we will reveal — to ourselves and to you — our greatest strength.”
Setbacks are part of life for everyone. Knowing we can deal with them is part of how we grow personally and professionally. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” People are strong and as a leader you need to understand and respect this. It will build a stronger culture and improve employee engagement. If you have questions on building a resilient culture, let us know how our executive recruiters can help.