In the past ten years, it is likely every surviving organization in the country has made a serious adaptation to manage significant changes. A perfect storm of external factors have forced us to look at our environments with no real systems established to absorb what we have seen. Who could have prepared for post 9/11 realities, the economic meltdown, or the aggressive emergence of information technology so complex that IT now looks more like neuroscience than computer science?
To continue the analogy, navigating such rough seas requires sturdy ships. For organizations the systems, processes and financial reserves can be considered building materials, and the internal culture could be symbolically framed by the ship’s hull shape. Some hulls are designed to be responsive and agile on the surface of the water (a planing hull), while some sacrifice speed for stability (displacement hulls). So from an organizational perspective, the ship you find yourself in determines your ability to assimilate to changes in your environment. Assimilation is the ability to recognize information due to the fact that systems and structures are already in place to absorb facts and details.
It would be so convenient to react to changing conditions by simply switching what boat you chose to sail! The reality is that we can’t just jump ship in response to the change of tides. It’s the people on board that can offset the limitations of the boat. A trained crew will be able to accommodate for design shortcomings and adjust to environmental surprises. The more your crew is resilient to crisis or maladaptive conditions, the less likely you will find your organization rolling into danger when the going gets tough.
A Crucial Precursor:
Companies are better able to cope with a crisis when they maintain a social workforce environment that provides emotional and moral support. Yes, processes, systems and structure are important, but they are not adaptive. People are. Resilience in your workforce breaks down into varying degrees of individual courage to address hardship, fear and uncertainty. Perseverance through tumultuous conditions is possible. Here are four considerations for leaders and managers that we’ve adapted from a psychological model called “The Circle of Courage:”
- Give people a sense of belonging that goes outside of their unit or department. Courage requires understanding the bigger picture for everyone involved in an effort.
- Encourage a mastery of professional competencies. Every person has a drive to become competent at something.
- Stress responsibility through accountability. Find ways to empower people to further develop and exercise their competencies or learned skills.
- Foster learning and mentoring between employees. Respect and learn from individuals and their strengths in an uncompetitive manner.
Do you factor the importance of resilience into your training, development and professional interactions?