How to build resilience in your people.

The old adage ‘tough times never last tough people do’ has indeed been put to the test during 2020 perhaps in a manner quite unlike ever before. Covid 19 has tested our individual and collective strength and until we get either a vaccine, a cure, or herd immunity, we will need to find ways to deal with the business of living.

Possibly, our employees, middle management, and front liners have struggled to cope with the daily changing circumstances and uncertainty even more than we have. The pressure to deliver results, the uncertainty of job losses, and the fear of contracting the virus while slowly returning to normal each contribute to the stress. As business leaders, we need to understand how our people are facing these adverse times and find ways to support them.

The R factor

The one factor that is emerging as significant in dealing with tough times is resilience. Best defined by psychologists as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress, resilience is often considered to be an inborn trait. However, research now shows that resilience is a skill set that can be learned and taught and can involve deep personal growth.

Belief system                                      

Albert Ellis theorized in his Rational Emotive Therapy that our belief systems play a role in formulating the consequences of an adverse event. Simply expressed, A stands for adverse events, B stands for belief, and C stands for consequences. The key factor is ‘belief’. Depending on the belief, the event can be taken as positive and a challenge or as devastating and the end of the road. As a result, the emotional reactions triggered off, create a chain of thoughts and consequences. This can be seen as playing out in individuals, organizations, and even nations.

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A good example of resilience is Michael Jordan who famously stated “ I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Another good example is Japan which was devastated at the end of World War II[1]. All the large cities (with the exception of Kyoto), the industries, and the transportation networks were severely damaged. But the devastating Japanese economy rose quickly from the ashes of World War II. The key to recovery was the boom in exports of cars, electronics, and other products, which grew far more rapidly than imports. By 1956, real per capita GDP had overtaken the pre-war 1940 level.

I believe in both cases the belief system had a major role to play in success.

Resilience training in organizations

The 2020 Global Resilience Report [2] of the Resilience Institute reveals that resilience training had a significant impact on the overall well-being of the participants. The study showed that the 115 entrepreneurs who participated in resilience training showed a greater connection and fulfillment, vitality, self-awareness, and emotional control and mastery over stress. There was also a significant reduction in confusion and overload, vulnerable behavior, anxiety, and depression. This has exciting implications for workforces and L and D teams.

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How to build resilience in an organization:

A good model for resilience training is to focus on the 6 core dimensions:

1.    Vision entails being moved by a sense of purpose, a focus on the big picture, and an ability to look to the future. This empowers people to bounce back from adversity as well as widens the thinking perspective.

2.    Critical thinking gives employees the ability not to be overwhelmed by their beliefs but to examine assumptions critically. This then helps them to view the situation objectively and in perspective, thus making the adverse event a problem that needs solving.

3.   Emotional intelligence or the ability to be self-aware as well as aware of other’s emotions. It also involves focusing on things that are within our control rather than focusing on things that are not in our control, giving us a sense of power to act.

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4.    Health and well-being are vital especially in times of stress. Regular exercise boosts our memory, thinking, and improves resilience while reducing stress. Healthy eating, yoga, engaging in positive self-talk, having realistic expectations also help to build resilience.

5.   Spiritual well-being is the degree to which a person can connect with a higher power or God concept. Spiritual exercises relax the mind and soul, stabilize the body and positive thoughts help productivity and optimism.

6.    Collaboration involves communicating with others and engaging in projects, meetings, and discussions that help to bond and creating a connection. Moreover, it contributes to the sharing of knowledge which in turn generates better ideas, widens thinking, and improves behavior


Fostering a resilient workforce is a necessary part of long-term business success. If employees are not resilient, they cannot effectively cope with stress and difficult situations and the company will suffer from a lack of concentration, poor service, and low employee engagement.

As organizations now look at post-Covid times, they need to focus on building resilience in their people. The resilient organization has leaders and teams who are emotionally, physically, and spiritually centered. We need to develop the capacity to deal with adversity and change our belief systems thereby changing the consequences to positive outcomes.