Written By Jim Hornickel, Director, Training & Development, Bold New Directions

Every human being and, therefore, every company team member from CEO to line staff has personal strengths and weaknesses. Each individual’s multi-leveled contributions are directly impacted positively or negatively by the degree to which they are thriving (resilient) or not. And that individual and collective state of thriving results in higher or lower morale, increased or decreased productivity, and a healthier or unhealthy fiscal bottom line. Therefore… Resilience = Morale = Productivity = Profitability.

Resilience is at the very foundation of an organization’s success. So what is resilience? Merriam Webster defines it as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” The critical word here is “easily.” The “why” behind training people to greater resilience is to increase the ease (and speed) with which team members at all levels deal with and move beyond stress factors.

In a moment, we’ll discover how greater resilience helps one bounce back more quickly and easily from the demands of professional and personal life. But as a former manager-leader of more than 500 people for 25 years, and as a professional trainer and coach, I also need to make an additional argument in support of resilience training. Most of the hundreds of organizations I’ve been privileged to work within or in support of place the greatest training focus first on hard and then, perhaps, soft skills. What I wish I knew more clearly back in my management years is that if the team members are not strong in all ways… mind, body, and spirit, their hard skills will not be fully fueled; their performance will suffer.

The challenge is to change the business training model. In this era, ever more scientific evidence supports the fact that to be fully effective, employees need greater soft skills to complement and enhance their hard skills. Again, becoming more resilient is the soft skill at the very foundation of all other work activity.

Before we discover some specific areas that can be used in training to produce greater resilience, a last point of clarification needs to be made. We agree that work life and personal life need to have some separation. It is not an organization’s responsibility to manage a team member’s life outside the work place. But it is true that an employee’s personal life impacts how he or she performs at work. The benefit of training employees on how to be more resilient is that it addresses the person’s mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual state. An individual who is unhealthy in any of these life realms surely will bring that unhealthiness to work. The saying, “What we do anywhere, we do everywhere,” informs us that taking the entire person into training consideration will produce a more whole, healthy, and, therefore, productive employee.

While growing resilience is a complex subject, at Bold New Directions in Learning, we have partnered over the years with Harvard Medical School’s Mind-Body Institute to find the most powerful gateways for training. After using a preprogram assessment, the following seven pillars encompassed in the acronym S.U.P.P.O.R.T. serve well to introduce and grow key areas contributing to the ability to thrive: Stress Hardiness, Understanding, Purpose & Meaning, Perseverance, Optimism, Resourcefulness, and Team. The post-program assessment confirms the learning achieved.
Let’s see how each of the seven pillars work.

  1. Stress Hardiness: This is a person’s characteristic that enables them to stay healthy in stressful situations. It includes the ability to influence the situation and having a positive view of change. We take participants through individual, partner, and group exercises. Within these, we review the company’s challenges, assesses personal and professional stressors, and inventory skills and characteristics for successfully dealing with challenging situations.
  2. Understanding (Self, Others and the Organization): Workshop participants gain more information and insights about how the brain works regarding the thinking and feelings that guide actions, and, therefore, results. We uncover the challenges of working with differing behavioral styles. We train how to bridge the gaps. And we discuss why that practice leads to greater resilience. The final major portion of this section shows how growing one’s emotional intelligence reduces stress.
  3. Purpose & Meaning: Through our training workshops, of the thousands of people we’ve asked, “What is your life purpose?” only a handful have been able to answer. It makes sense that when we get bounced around in life, we are much stronger in getting back on track if we know what the track is. Employees clear about their life purpose can have their careers and then jobs clearly more in sync. When we are in sync, we thrive more fully.
  4. Perseverance: Staying the course is hard to do in times of adversity. It is helpful to have a variety of tools and techniques as allies on the journey of professional and personal life. As the program progresses, participants continue to work individually, with partners and in small groups to build more capabilities for greater perseverance.
  5. Optimism: Do your employees see the glass as half empty? Half full? Overflowing? Learned optimism is a powerful addition to the toolkit. But to become more optimistic, one must learn how to shape one’s own attitude intentionally and at will. We take trainees through a deeply empowering exercise where, for the first time in many participants’ lives, they clearly comprehend that they do have choice in how they respond to every situation life throws at them. Taking charge of one’s own destiny builds amazing resilience.
  6. Resourcefulness: We bring to light the importance of being resourceful. Participants look into their own lives to assess levels of their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual resources. When these banks are low, so is one’s resilience. When the reserves are high, we can ride out the storms. Attendees then declare action plans for building up their weaker areas.
  7. Team: The entire workshop is devoted to each individual in attendance. But in real life, most people work in one type of team or another. When a group of people has established their new individual capabilities for building resilience, bringing that strength into the team’s dynamic and culture takes the organization to the next levels of strength and success.

In summary, in order for an organization to significantly surpass its current level of success, every individual at every level within the organization must be able to focus more of their entire self into the effort. Hard skills, therefore, must be deeply supported by soft skills. And the foundational set of soft skills to fuel every organizational activity, task, and goal is embodied in engaging, interactive, and transformational resilience training.

About The Author

Resilience specialist Jim Hornickel is the director of Training & Development at Bold New Directions. Along with Bold New Directions in Learning Co-Founder Suzanne Guthrie, he has partnered with Harvard Business School’s Mind-Body Institute to strengthen their Resilience At Work and Thriving in Times of Change transformational training workshops delivered worldwide. Hornickel’s professional experience includes 25 years as a manager-leader in several industries; life, leadership, and relationship coaching; and authoring “Managing From The Inside Out (16 Insights For Building Positive Relationships With Staff)”; www.managingfromtheinsideout.com and www.Amazon.com. For more information, visit www.resiliencetraininginstitute.com/home/ and http://www.boldnewdirections.com

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