Today's post comes to us from our newest board member, author, journalist and speaker Ivonne Vargas Hernández.

Alejandro and Verónica, two Mexican graduates from Hult Business School at Manchester University, were fired from their companies seven months ago, as a consequence of the economic impact due to the pandemic. Both asked themselves, What happened? They were sad, apathetic, and anxious after losing a significant paycheck.

For Alejandro, this state of mind was temporary. After one month, he told himself: “It’s not you, it’s the economy, the situation in Mexico and many countries. I am good at what I do and someone will need my skills.” He turned to his
contact network, has submitted ten projects as an independent consultant and two of them have been approved.

Meanwhile, Verónica has suffered several anxiety attacks. She can't let go of the idea that the job market is unfair because it demands so much with so little return or loyalty.

Alejandro and Verónica (whom I interviewed) are on different ends of a spectrum of how we react to difficulty. In Alejandro's case, there was a quick recovery after a short crisis. He used what he had lived through as fuel to take his experience and training and work independently. But for Verónica, the crisis led to long-term distrust and disillusionment with the job market.

Though they had similar training, were about the same age, and in similar positions, Alejandro and Verónica reacted completely differently.

This brings us to a concept we've all heard a lot about: resilience. Focusing on how to embrace learnings to move forward from a trauma and having an attitude focused in wellness, is resilience, says Ilona Boniwell, head of the Positive Psychology Master at Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom, and with whom I had the opportunity to chat as part of my training in this psychology discipline, at the “Instituto de las Ciencias de la Felicidad (Happiness Sciences Institute)” (TecMIlenio) in México.

Not Just Surviving but Adapting
Boniwell, also a teacher of positive management at the Hec Business School in France, writes about how the duality of resilience is often ignored. This means that we try to develop this skill with the idea of getting out of a crisis, as best as we can, not with the idea of transforming our lives over a longer period of time.

As a matter of fact, only between 35% and 65% of people have the capacity to change after adversity, according to the American Psychological Association*.

Making the Jump to Positive Psychology
I think it's fair to say that there is not a person that in one way or another hasn’t been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. From the tragic loss of life around the world to people's lives being upended and disrupted. Mexico alone has lost more than 12 million jobs while Latin America as a whole has lost at least 34 million according to a report by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

What I see at this point is that most companies and people have gone through the first phase of resilience, which consists of working together in matters of health, incorporating new models for work, and solving operational problems.

What comes next is reinventing oneself and for that it is important to identify sustainable actions that can be applied over and over again to change patterns of behavior and lead to real and lasting change.

From Theory to Practice
One example of moving these ideas from theory to practice is with my own work team: We chose to apply a tool from positive psychology to create an “emotional toolbox”. We asked all our colleagues to drop ideas about what could help us feel better after a crisis or improve our state of mind into a virtual mailbox. This call for new ideas helped us figure out several new ways to help people rediscover their strengths. One example was creating a "graffiti wall", a technique used to solve problems by writing and drawing ideas on a mural.

Some other suggestions are:

As we come out of this time of extreme stress and anxiety and move into whatever the next phase of "new normal" is, those workers and organizations who have demonstrated resilience will have a better chance at succeeding.

What events in your life have helped you develop resiliency? How do you think resilience has helped you succeed? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section!

*Positive Psychology: Theory, Research and Applications, Boniwell, (230-238 pp)

Today’s post comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

Like so many other people this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience: the ability to recover from difficult experiences and setbacks, to adapt, move forward and even grow from whatever difficult experience we have lived through or overcome. This has been a year in which we have all dealt with a lot more stress and anxiety than usual.

The New York Times has done a wonderful series of articles this year on resilience and “What we can learn during troubled times from history and personal experiences.” One of my favorite articles in the series was Eilene Zimmerman’s piece, “What Makes Some People More Resilient Than Others?” which includes a section on how to build resilience based on interviews with “large numbers of highly resilient individuals — those who have experienced a great deal of adversity and have come through it successfully.” These interviews show that highly resilient people share the following 7 characteristics:

  1. They have a positive, realistic outlook. They don’t dwell on negative information and instead look for opportunities in bleak situations, striving to find the positive within the negative.
  2. They have a moral compass. Highly resilient people have a solid sense of what they consider right and wrong, and it tends to guide their decisions.
  3. They have a belief in something greater than themselves. This is often found through religious or spiritual practices. The community support that comes from being part of a religion also enhances resilience.
  4. They are altruistic; they have a concern for others and a degree of selflessness. They are often dedicated to causes they find meaningful and that give them a sense of purpose.
  5. They accept what they cannot change and focus energy on what they can change. Dr. Southwick (professor emeritus of psychiatry, PTSD and Resilience at Yale University School of Medicine) says resilient people reappraise a difficult situation and look for meaningful opportunities within it.
  6. They have a mission, a meaning, a purpose. Feeling committed to a meaningful mission in life gives them courage and strength.
  7. They have a social support system, and they support others. “Very few resilient people,” said Dr. Southwick, “go it alone.”

As I think about this list of characteristics of resilient individuals, it occurs to me that many of these same qualities would apply to teams and organizations as well – not just in a global pandemic, though that was certainly the case this year, but anytime really.

Having both a positive and realistic outlook (#1) is critical. A team or a leader who dwells on negative information rather than striving to find the positive is a classic toxic boss or co-worker. When times are tough, we need to pull together and lift each other up. Hiding from the truth of the situation or making oneself believe a rosier version of the truth isn’t the answer, but neither is marinating in negativity and futilely wishing things were different. The key is to see things as they are (often with the help of multiple perspectives) and then look for opportunities to fix problems or make the best of something.

I think this characteristic of focusing on the positive goes hand-in-hand with #5 on the list: accepting what we cannot change and focusing energy where we can make an impact. As a previous boss of mine used to say, “We can do anything, but we can’t do everything.” You, as a leader, must focus yourself, your team and your organization on applying your efforts and talents where they can make the most difference and progress and let the rest – whether it’s priorities you just can’t get to or circumstances simply out of your control- go.

I’d group numbers 2, 3, 4 and 6 together under the heading of connecting our work as a team or organization to something larger than ourselves. Not many of us work best in isolation, a cog in the wheel of a giant machine whose purpose we don’t really understand. Making sure that your team knows what you are working towards and why it’s important is critical. If everyone is working together towards a shared and worthy goal, bumps in the road aren’t going to stop you. It’s incredible to think of all the teams who have shifted to completely remote work during these times seamlessly and have continued marching towards their goals. Just as impressive are the folks, like our healthcare and other essential workers who have continued showing up for work in uncertain and dangerous times. When we’re connected to or inspired by something larger than ourselves, we show up.

Lastly, and in my book maybe most importantly, #7 – having a support system and not going it alone. We humans are social creatures, and we thrive on connection with others. Having a team where you know you have each other’s backs, where you can reach out and ask for help if you need it, is a critical aspect of having a resilient team and organization. A dysfunctional team filled with grudges and backbiting isn’t going to get far. It’s the team that supports each other, celebrates the successes no matter how small, works through the failures and learns from them – recognizing the negative, but focusing more on the positive – that will have the most success – and the most fun.

As we start the last month in the calendar of the unprecedented year that was 2020, take some time to reflect on your own resilience as well as that of your team and organization. Have you become more resilient this year? I hope so. Building that resilience in a difficult time like the one we are in now only makes you stronger and better able to handle future challenges.

This post is submitted by Alanna Fincke and Linda Natansohn from Kronos partner meQuilibrium. They help organizations become more successful by developing resilient employees. In addition to this article, you can learn more about their approach in this podcast I did with their CEO Jan Bruce a few months ago.

Your employees are your business. They greet and serve your customers, they open and close the shop, they handle the money, they build your products, they work alongside you to grow the business. Each night they leave, and each morning you hope they come back.

You’ve got to ensure that your employees are happy. Otherwise, they’ll look elsewhere, call in sick more often. So, what are the driving motivators for employees to call out or change jobs—and what can you do to reduce absence and turnover?

Burnout, depression and anxiety, disengagement, absenteeism, and turnover are all at all-time highs. Why? Because we live in an era of rapid transformation and uncertainty. In the world, at work, in our home lives. And it’s hard on us. It’s hard on organizations, too, directly hitting KPIs and the bottom line. For a company of 10,000 employees, the costs are approaching $70M per year.

So, what do we do—as humans and as organizations?

While we cannot change the world around us, we can change the way we respond, adapt, and arm ourselves to tackle challenges and setbacks and show up in life.

This ability is called resilience. And it is a key capacity needed to not just survive, but thrive in the world we live in today. Resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back from challenge, recover from stress, and move forward and thrive. It not only gets to the root cause behind the big people issues, such as absence and turnover, but it can also prevent them from happening in the first place. A 2016 Harvard Business Review survey identified the ability to adapt as the most important skill for companies undergoing a digital transformation—more important than technical knowledge, communication skills or even customer-focused problem-solving.

The science is clear: Resilient people aren’t luckier—they build cognitive and behavioral skills that keep them afloat while others may sink. Best of all, resilience can be learned and meQuilibrium’s cloud-based solution delivers this at scale. Below are the seven proven factors of resilience:

 1. Emotion Regulation: The ability to control one’s emotions and maintain calm under adversity. It’s easy to understand how the skills of Emotion Regulation can be essential to people who face customers all day and how that impacts Net Promoter Score and other measures of customer satisfaction.

2. Impulse Control: The capacity to moderate your behavior when you’re experiencing challenges so you don’t burn bridges. Ever pressed “send” in a moment of anger on an email you immediately regretted?

3. Causal Analysis: Being able to look at all the causes of a particular problem and work out what you can control and what you can’t, so you can funnel energy into what you can change and forgive what you can’t.  

4. Self-Efficacy: A belief in yourself that you are competent and reliable. Or the belief that you can solve problems and succeed. This is critical and so essential as it impacts how people tackle change and setbacks—or not—and ask for help when needed.

5. Realistic Optimism: The ability to be optimistic to the extent that your reality allows without getting blindsided. Employees with this skill balance the ability to see opportunity while realistically assessing what could go wrong or deter success.

6. Empathy: Understanding what motivates other people, what they think and feel, and being able to put yourself in their shoes. It’s critical especially for leaders and managers who need to build a culture of trust.

7. Reaching Out: A willingness and ability to take on new opportunities even in the face of change or adversity. That’s agility and adaptability at its core. 

Would you like to learn more about resilience?

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