Overcoming Adversity to Build Resilience

We all face various challenges, obstacles, and difficulties both inside and outside the office throughout our lives. Over the last twelve months, the arrival of a global pandemic has made it especially difficult to find the right balance in our lives or regain any sense of stability. However, the biggest lesson for organizations and their employees is the importance of building resilience and how to respond to inevitable adversity on the road ahead.

Now more than ever, organizations are focused on bouncing back and being stronger than they were in a pre-pandemic world. How successful they will be on this journey will depend on how they build the resilience of those they lead throughout the entire organization. In my new book, The Art of Caring Leadership, I talk about the importance of helping those you lead bounce back from their challenges. When you embed resilience in your teams, they will feel inspired to do the meaningful work that drives your organization forward. 

In episode 85 of my podcast, I speak with Cynthia Grant who exemplifies resilience. She attributes her career path in mental health to her turbulent childhood. She shares with me, “There was substance use, mental illness, domestic violence, and a lot of neglect of responsibilities by my parents, so much to the point that the Department of Human Services ultimately removed my brother and me from home.”

However, it was this adversity that enabled Cynthia to find her calling. Her story also highlights how resilience is often developed outside the workplace. It was carrying her strength and toughness into her professional life that helped her realize how applicable those qualities are in a variety of roles. Cynthia didn’t allow her past to define who she is, but it did inspire her outlook on life and work.

As someone who has endured my fair share of adversity as a child, I have experienced first-hand how rejection helped me develop the skill of resilience. I also share in my TEDx talk the importance of reframing and moving on. But it’s not all about you and your story. I don’t think anyone can claim that they have never had some form of adversity in their life. We all need to help guide others through the landmines of life too.

After a year of remote working, many employees will feel disconnected and isolated. They could be going through a difficult period in their life, but the idea of having a remote conversation with their manager or boss could fill them with dread. I believe that it’s a leader’s responsibility to help them recalibrate their thinking and show them that you care.

In another episode of my podcast, Shawnté Cox Holland, head of culture and engagement at Vanguard, describes how to build adversity-withstanding trust: “It’s important to allow people to get to know you better, to be humble and vulnerable with your team and to be human, so that people realize that people will make mistakes, and that’s OK. What matters is how we recover from them, how we come together as a team to work on something.” 

I liken building resilience with building muscle. In order to build muscle, we do strength training which tears the tissue before it builds and forms that muscle. That’s how resilience works. We must encounter some adversity or obstacle until we can build resilience muscle.

Helping others build their resilience by overcoming adversity is just one of many examples of how leaders can change the experiences of those they lead. You can explore many other aspects of caring leadership in my new book, which is now available for pre-order.

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