How To Build Resilience In The Midst Of Disruption

There’s no question, for most of us, these have been some tough weeks. For some, the impact has been minimal. Maybe you’re adjusting to working from home and dealing with the challenge of moving meetings around and trying to do things virtually. For others, the stress of quarantine, impacts on family members, and economic hits to businesses are overwhelming. In talking to my clients across many industries, I’ve heard emotions from fear to anger to resignation and everything in between. Some are trying to make the best of downtime; others are focusing on family and still others are trying to ‘save the company’.
Wherever you are on that continuum, whether you are thriving or putting your head down and trying to survive, NOW is exactly the right time to think about building resilience for yourself and for your organization.
We have broadly said that resilience is about intentional preparation. It is. Ideally, that preparation started long ago and you and your organization are aligned and ready for this kind of disruption. But if not, there are still some very intentional things you can do right now to be more resilient.

Coping Vs. Building Resilience

First, it’s important to identify whether you are merely coping vs. being resilient. It may not seem like a big deal but there is an enormous difference.

When we are coping, we are not in control. We are reacting and hoping to survive. Coping is a defensive posture. If you are leading a team (at home OR at work), ask them. They will know. If you are coping, there will be increased stress on them and they will follow your lead into survival-mode too. If you are being resilient or focusing on building resilience, you are intentionally taking steps to be energized and elevated by this experience…and others will see that. Granted, there are times when coping takes every bit of strength we have. When we fight illnesses or deal with the loss of financial resources, coping may be an appropriate reaction. But if you are one of the vast majority of people hanging in limbo right now, taking this opportunity to build resilience might be an incredibly empowering step.

3 Signs That You’re Building Resilience

In our new book, Resilience: It’s Not About Bouncing Back (How leaders and their organizations can build resilience before disruption hits), we have often quoted Diane Coutu, Harvard Business Review editor and one of the first resilience researchers. She talks about three characteristics of resilient people and organizations.

1. You Have A Firm Grasp On Reality

The reality right now, is that we don’t know when things will get back to normal. Leaders who understand this are preparing to transition to virtual meetings and figuring out to motivate people who might not be used to the self-discipline required to work at home. They are digging into technology that can make their team more productive – things like Zoom, Slack, and shared editing of files. What they are NOT doing is giving up and figuring everyone is going to take two weeks off. They are not letting up on productivity and they are very focused on what CAN be done to drive revenue and productivity in a difficult time. The people stocking up on more toilet paper and paper masks than they will ever need are not being resilient. There are coming from a place of fear, not reality. If you want a gut check on your own grasp of reality, ask:
Yourself: Am I acting out of fear or out of what I really know to be true? How many years am I prepared for?
Your Team: Are we aligned and connected enough to be productive on our own, outside of a physical space?

2. You Find Meaning In The Disruption

Leaders who are building resilience are using this experience to figure out what “Plan B” needs to be next time. They are thinking about contingencies and what can be learned from this. They are talking with their teams about how to better plan and prepare and they are reflecting on what was missing this time. They will be more ready for the next unexpected disruption because of this experience. They are also planning now in case this lasts longer than expected. They know that no one has the “right answer” here, so they are including everyone in this conversation, regardless of what level they are.

People who are finding meaning are not blaming the government or looking for a source to hold accountable. Instead, they are asking what they can do personally to help their neighbors or what lessons they can draw from this experience for next time. If you want a gut check on how well you are doing at finding meaning in disruption, ask:

Yourself: Am I spending more time and energy on blame vs. providing solutions for myself or others?
• Your Team: What can we learn from this experience that we can implement right now? For next time?

3. You Learn To Improvise

The people who are able to improvise right now are acting like Chopped Champions making meals from the pantry. They are coming up with in-home activities for the family and making the best of their time together without going to a public place for entertainment. Leaders with this ability are already making sure that their teams are aligned around what needs to be done and what modifications need to be made to work outside the office. You’ve seen restaurants and stores that never offered take-out service before, suddenly figuring out how to do a drive-up handoff without touching. That’s improvisation. If you want a gut check on how well you are improvising, ask:

Yourself: How well am I making use of the resources I have right now? What am I missing?
Your team: What more can we do virtually? How can we stay on track and on the same page? What are we missing?

Even in the midst of disruption, it is possible to intentionally build resilience. If you want help building resilience right now, call us. It’s what we do.