Greensilkmuse's Blog

On Building Resilience

Posted in Change,Resilience by greensilkmuse on April 8, 2010

I’ve been thinking about resilience a lot lately.  Significant changes and set backs are a part of life so, like most people, there are times when you feel like this:


I’ve been involved in a lot of organizational change and I can remember, 10 years ago, my clients, who were completely changing their business model – again — , saying: “We need to help our people be more resilient.”   It was, after all, a technology organization.  If there is any place where rapid and continuous change is ongoing it is in that arena.  They were looking for something like this:


The answer back then was to educate people on the change process.  We used concepts like “the change curve” and “Bridges transitions model” to describe what people typically experience.  We had folks take the Change Style Indicator self-assessment to learn more about their personal reactions to change. 

We helped people understand that each person’s reactions are not necessarily the same for all changes – that different kinds of changes impact people differently – and that even those circumstances can vary over time.  For example, when I was in my twenties I would be thrilled to travel or to move to another city or country.  Ten years later I had a family and decisions to travel or move were much more complicated – impacting more than me alone.  My reaction to that kind of change at that time would have been vastly different.

We tried to help leaders understand that how they launch and manage change is critical to how well their teams adjust.  You can’t just focus on making your folks more resilient; but rather, you need to take responsibility for the way you communicate and implement the changes affecting them.  So often, business and organization changes have been discussed by management teams for quite some time and when they are ready to implement the “new” way, they want to move fast.  They forget that they’ve had time to develop and adapt to the changes ahead; their people have not.  Their people need some time to come to grips with what the changes mean for them as individuals.

That’s not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t build resilience.  After all, not all changes are made as a result of careful planning.  The latest recession has brought about numerous changes that no one planned.  One of the top concerns for HR execs this past year has been how to keep people focused and engaged in tough times…how to help people be productive despite huge set-backs.

 I’ve come across a few people who have been doing work in the field for years.  They have conducted research to understand the factors that help to build resilience and enhance performance during tough times.  They’ve created assessment tools that help you understand your own resilience profile and have developed workshops to teach people various techniques they can use to be more resilient.  It seems to come down to understanding which attributes to tap depending on the change. Sometimes the ones that are our strengths, that are more natural for us, are most effective.  In those cases, we manage the change with little disruption to our mental, physical, and emotional well-being.  Where we may get stuck is when an attribute that is less developed in us is called upon.  In those cases, we can learn techniques to better deliver on those attributes.  So, to be resilient takes balance – an ability to flexibly call on any and all resiliency attributes, as needed.

When I think of resilience, I think of this:


Bamboo trees – firmly rooted to the earth and flexible enough to sway in any direction the wind takes them.

If you’d like to learn more about resources for resiliency assessments and techniques, send me an e-mail at and I’d be happy to tell you more.


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