How to weather a storm

Resilience has become a buzz word in organisations today, linked with wellbeing, positive risk, agility, adaptivity and sustainability. At an individual/personal level, the imperative is being driven by a growing awareness of and concern about mental health issues, experiences, influences and impacts, including in the workplace.

At wider organisational levels, factors include navigating the Covid-19 pandemic and a seemingly relentless need for change. All in all, it can feel like a perfect storm – leaving leaders, managers, people professionals and staff alike feeling perplexed and exhausted.

Strategies for building resilience

I worked recently with a forward-thinking public sector organisation in the UK. It was and is working through a merger with two sister organisations and recognised the criticality of building resilience by preparing leaders, staff and teams psychologically, in advance of the transitions that this would entail; as well as to manage the practical change process itself effectively.

I will share some brief insights and ideas below that participants said they found most useful. We framed the experience as moving from an until-now-known reality to a not-yet-known future reality, through what sometimes may look and feel like a messy place in the middle.

  1. Scary voids. In the absence of knowing exactly what a new future may hold, some people will fill the interim void with anxiety; others with hope. It’s normal – and partly influenced by what each person has experienced in the past. Hold your nerve. Reach out if you – or others – need help.
  2. Small things are big things. In the midst of change and transition, the most insignificant of decisions and actions can take on great symbolic significance – positively or negatively. Don’t be surprised if this happens. Ask each other what small thing(s) would make the biggest positive difference – then, if possible, do it.
  3. Mind games. People, teams and organisations construct narratives that help them make sense of their experience. Pay careful attention to the stories that you and other people tell yourselves – and each other – en route. Change the narrative: change the experience.
  4. Rollercoasters. Transitions can feel like a bumpy ride, often feeling more like a ‘snakes and ladders’ game than a smooth change curve. Be patient, flexible and forgiving. One step at a time.
  5. Building blocks. Reflect and help others reflect on life-work changes that have worked out well in the past – and how. Engender resourcefulness. Inspire hope.

Building resilience through action learning

It’s at times like these that virtual action learning sets take on a new meaning. As we struggle on an individual level, with feelings of isolation, being remote from our teams, and managing significant change, the support of an action learning set; being able to talk, listen and share new challenges, is invaluable.

Action Learning Associates has been running virtual action learning sets for many years, to bring teams closer together, to collaborate and stay focused on organisational goals, and to find new solutions to challenges. With an opportunity to pause, it helps build resilience, and to create the building blocks referred to in point 5 above.

For more details of virtual action learning sets take a look at how they work, and the benefits they bring.

Nick Wright is hosting a new half day online course on 1st October – How to succeed at change leadership 

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