How to Be Resilient

Thursday 05 March 2020
Resilience is a skill you should start thinking about now
Person climbing a career ladder

Resilience is the ability to bounce back, and it’s something all future leaders need in their career – from the moment they’re starting out.

When new challenges are thrown your way, there is always a chance that you might fail. Many people fear failure, but resilient people embrace it. If you can pick yourself up after a failure at work, learn from it and try again, you’ll set yourself apart from others. Resilience will be needed throughout your studies and career, and it’s particularly important in times of change.

“The best leaders know that failure is often the price of success,” says Jo Owen, author of Management Book of the Year category winner Myths of Leadership. “The difference between failure and success is as simple as giving up. Don’t give up. Resilience is the product of four other mindsets: belief in your mission, reaching out for support, staying positive and retaining a sense of agency.”

One resilience framework commonly used in business comes from Diane Coutu describes resilience as having three parts to it:

Facing Down Reality

First, you must be realistic about working life. Optimism is only beneficial when it doesn’t cloud your view. Resilient people have realistic views of the things that matter.

“Business is unpredictable. It’s organic; anything can happen,” says resilience coach Rebecca Howard, the co-founder of Shinymind. “That is a really important thing to hold in your head. Just because you’ve got a problem, doesn’t mean you haven’t managed well or you’ve lost control.”

The Search for Meaning

This is the ability to draw lessons from difficult moments. If you can find a lesson in difficult moments, it will make situations more manageable. Resilient people create meaning for themselves and others.

“You need to embrace failure as learning... that can mean the difference between giving up and getting back up and forging ahead,” says Howard.” I always think of Thomas Edison and his quest to invent the lightbulb. When people told him that he failed, he said: ‘I haven’t failed; I’ve discovered a thousand methods that didn’t work.’”

Ritualised Ingenuity

This unusual phrase means the ability to make do with whatever is at hand and to find a solution to a problem without obvious tools or materials.

“Resilient people are curious,” says Howard. They see failure as an opportunity to improve, rather than a badge of defeat.”

How You Can Build Resilience

Matt Carr CMgr FCMI has always put himself into situations where he is unsure whether he will succeed or fail. By doing that throughout his career, it has helped him to build up a lot of resilience.

“There’s nothing worse than being in a job where you’re just treading the boards. You’ve got to pick something that’s exciting and is going to make a difference. I’ve worked in lots of different sectors, and when you walk into a new company, you’ve got no idea what’s happening. You need to learn quickly, and you’ve got to keep going. If you stop and accept that you’ve lost, then you have lost. And you’ve failed your team as well. You’ve got to keep moving and learning from it, and then you can win.”

Another way to build resilience, particularly early in your career, is through support and mentors. When barrister and CMI Bouncing Back case study Charlotte Proudman found herself receiving media criticism in 2015, she called on her mentors to help her through it.

“I leaned on mentors – people that I knew through professional networks who had been there throughout most of my career and in their own walks of life, had experienced something similar to myself – who could guide me through this period of turbulence.”

As a CMI member you can access lots of resources to build your resilience, including mentoring, events, webinars and online resources. Visit the Knowledge Bank for a full list of online resources, Bouncing Back for more information about resilience, and the CMI events page for information on upcoming courses and webinars.

Not a member of CMI? Join today to get access to ManagementDirect and many other membership benefits.

Image: Shutterstock