Don't Bounce Back. Bounce Forward.

The buzz

Resilience is a real buzzword at the moment. Wherever you look there are articles and posts on resilience in the advent of natural and manmade disasters, resilience amongst political turmoil, resilience in the face of climate change, resilience to cyber threats, resilience on the playing field, resilience for children and resilience at work.

My passion is building resilience in every individual in the workplace. Everyone in the workforce today is faced with constant and relentless change whether it be driven internally, externally or both.

The increasing pace of change and the uncertainty it brings, requires investment in building a resilient workforce if we are serious about reducing fatigue, stress, anxiety and burnout.

When we address these things in a serious fashion, we reduce mental health issues in the workplace and increase employee engagement, productivity, profitability, creativity, and innovation. All of which are paramount to organizational survival.

Writing this article is timely given that a few days ago the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized ‘burnout’ as a syndrome and has included it in its International Classification of Diseases.

WHO describes burn-out (ICD-11 QD85) as follows:

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

If your people are showing signs of depleted energy or exhaustion, appearing disengaged, expressing negativism or cynicism or lacking in self-belief, then you have a burn-out problem.

The good news is that it can be addressed. They need resilience.

What is it?

Before we look at the solution, let’s look at what resilience really means.

The Collins dictionary defines resilience as:

“the ability to bounce or spring back into shape, position, etc.”[1]

This is a common definition of resilience. However I don't think it is a good one.

Think about this. Does this look like resilience?

Yesterday. I got knocked down and I was able to spring back into the position I was in when I got knocked down. 

Today. I got knocked down and I was able to spring back into the position I was in when I got knocked down. 

Tomorrow. I will get knocked down and I will be able to spring back into the position I was in when I got knocked down. 

That is not resilience.

I will stop bouncing back because nothing has changed. I am back to where I was before I got knocked down. At some point, I am going to stay down. 

When I bounce, I want to do so to a better place and have learnt something along the way.

Therefore, real resilience is not about bouncing back; it is about bouncing forward.

Resilience moving forward copy.jpg

When we bounce forward we learn from the experience and are better for it. We are more resilient as a result. Setbacks are informing us and equipping us to do things differently the next time. They are opportunities to learn, develop and grow.

If we want individiuals to be truly resilient and capable of bouncing forward, we need to equip them with the resources, tools and techniques to do so.

Real resilience

When you are truly resilient and keep bouncing forward you:

·      View setbacks as learning opportunities

·      Are better prepared for the next challenge

·      Celebrate failures as well as successes

·      Have a growth mindset

·      Persist and persevere

·      Are confident in your abilities and making good use of strengths and not focusing on weakness

·      Maintain a growth mindset and view failure as learning and development

·      Accept ambiguity and embrace the uncertainty of constant change

·      Maintain a positive outlook

·      Have emotional intelligence

·      Connect and collaborate

Remember resilience can be learnt. It is not something you have or don't have.

The solution

If we want a truly resilient workforce that can keep bouncing forward, we need to provide them with more than mindfulness Mondays and yoga Fridays. We need to do more than provide flexible working and quiet spaces in the office. These are good things but on their own will not build a resilient workforce.

We need to provide the resources, tools and techniques that every individual can access whenever they need them to be resilient in the face of constant change.

We need to equip everyone with the ability to:

·      Regulate – practice stress tolerance and impulse control

·      Empathize – be aware of others feelings needs and concerns

·      Collaborate – work with others towards shared goals

·      Explore – be passionate about learning and persevere to achieve goals

·      Experiment – try new things, innovate and create

·      Question – challenge the status quo and think outside the square

·      Believe – have confidence in ones abilities

·      Observe – practice self-observation and mindfulness

·      Project – have realistic optimism that things will get better with effort

·      Adapt – be flexible and adaptive

·      Achieve – have a sense of purpose at work

·      Celebrate – welcome successes and failures and celebrate the outcomes and learning

·      Laugh – use humor as a coping mechanism

·      Envision – have a long term perspective

·      Reveal – be their authentic self

·      Thank – have gratitude 

·      Reframe – see things from a different perspective

When we equip everyone with these capabilities we will have a truly resilience workforce.

A workforce in which everyone is engaged, productive, motivated and invested

The journey

resilience roadsign copy.jpg

These are not capabilities that everyone will master overnight. Most individuals will already have some of these capabilities and just need to learn others. They can be learnt.

They will use the capability they need given the challenge they are faced with or the context they find themselves in at any point in time.

Organizations need to establish an ongoing resilience program to enable these capabilities.

Everyone in the organization needs access to these resources, tools and techniques every hour of every day. 

With change is volatile and uncertain; you never know when you are going to need them.

Resilience is a journey not a destination.

I have a resilience program called Unleash The Resiliator, which includes an interactive self-help resilience platform that individuals can access when they like, how they like, and where they like. 

Contact me at for more information.


Karen FerrisComment