Prosper or Just Survive?

Building Resilience Capability

By David Yesford

At the expense of sounding cliché, “Nothing is constant but . . .”

I will let you finish perhaps an overused phrase. But, ponder for a moment the true grit behind it.

All around us is change—challenging change, tumultuous change, hard change, and exhilarating change. How your organization survives or thrives depends on what you tell yourself about change, how you deal with and refocus dispersed energy, and how you lead through it.

In this article, we are offering a three-step process for building resiliency skills so that individuals can see change as an opportunity to advance in today’s world—seeing change as a gain instead of a loss, something to react to, or “dealing with a disruption.”

The Role of Leaders in Building Resilience

At Wilson Learning, we see the role of leader as engaging others in committing their full energy to the creation of value and success for themselves and their organization. We also recognize that how much energy employees contribute at work is their choice; the amount of energy they are willing to give over and above the minimum needed to keep their job is at their discretion. In times of change, their energy is at risk—and so is yours.

Leaders are often the first ones to hear about a change as organizations devise new strategic imperatives to respond to ever-increasing challenges. All strategy calls for implementation, and all implementation requires change. Change requires the best of those involved, including executives, managers, and employees. For the organization to move forward, employees need to be resilient and leaders need to be resilient.

It does not matter how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up. —Vince Lombardi (1969), originally Oliver Goldsmith (1761)

A Three-Step Process for Leading in Times of Change

Resilience is often described as durability + sustainability—the ability to recover from the disruption of change and then move forward confidently in a context of opportunity. The true key to effective organizational change is ensuring leadership is proactive by building the skill of resilience through a process to first manage change for themselves and then to influence, mentor, and support others as they move through change.

Building your and your employees’ resilience involves three critical steps:

1. Recognize and reconcile your own loss

Change is often perceived as a loss—a loss of status, friendships, identity, authority, tradition, purpose, etc. The moment change happens, energy disperses. The natural tendency is to immediately go inside and think about “what does this mean for me?” And, everyone’s self-talk responds to loss differently in what we call the Four Dis’s.

  • Disorientation: “Where do I fit in?”
  • Disenchantment: “Isn’t it awful?”
  • Disidentification: “I used to be somebody.”
  • Disengagement: “I will just quit and stay.”

To be resilient, the first step is to recognize what’s happening, deal with your perceived loss, and resolve that in yourself. You then can make a choice to move forward in the context of opportunity, focusing your energy toward the creation of value and success.

It is not about what we lost in change but what we gain that needs to be told.

2. Intervene to help others

Just as you felt a sense of loss by what you told yourself about this loss, so do your employees. As the change begins to be communicated, they too respond to loss and their “Dis” might be different than yours.

Employees may not tell you that they are struggling with the change. Our experience in training leaders to tune in to what employees are saying or doing equips them to help better manage energy dispersed by their employees’ perceptions of the disrupting situation. The key for leaders is to be proactive and recognize the clues employees are sending, intervene to help them recognize and reconcile their loss, and move at their pace, as we all move through change at varying speeds. Traditional change management is about a step-wise progression to push people through change. Resilience is proactively intervening to help others move through change at their pace for recognizing perceived loss and choosing how they will commit their energy to the change.

David Yesford

“David Yesford, Senior Vice President of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc., brings along over 30 years of expertise in developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions across the globe. He is an active member of the Wilson Learning Global Executive Board, with current responsibility at a global level.

Mr. Yesford is the contributing author of Win-Win Selling, Versatile Selling, The Social Styles Handbook, The Sales Training Book 2, and several other books. He has been published in numerous business publications throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, and he is also a frequent speaker at international conferences and summits.”