During times of high-pressure, resilience is the key decider in whether you crumble or thrive. But what actually is ‘resilience’? Matthew Preston-Jones takes us through the fundamentals of resilience and why it’s one of the most valuable skills you’ll ever develop.
What is personal resilience?
Generally, personal resilience describes the ability to handle pressure, bounce back following adversity, and maintain high levels of performance over sustained periods of time. Or maybe put more simply, consistently performing at your best in the face of pressure. At Lane4 we talk about resilience in two parts; proactive and reactive resilience.
Proactive resilience refers to your ability to draw from your ‘pool’ of resilience to be able to deal with day-to-day pressures. A healthy lifestyle involving a good diet, ample sleep and plenty of exercise can contribute to your pool of resilience. On the other hand, reactive resilience is all about noticing your pressure responses ‘in the moment’ and applying your tried and tested coping strategies.
Personally, I would say I’ve had some fairly mixed experiences of when I’ve needed to perform under pressure. I generally consider myself a resilient person who is able to maintain a high level of performance under pressure, however this hasn’t always been the case!
I can recall a few experiences of experiencing the ‘yips’ when competing in sport, and just losing any sense of composure. Similarly, when giving a big presentation or sitting an exam, I remember nerves and anxiety often taking over. On reflection, I think these experiences were crucial for the strategies I have in place now for managing pressure. By acknowledging how my stress response was having a negative impact, I was able to pinpoint what the source of this pressure was (often generated internally!) and therefore put the strategies in place that can nip it in the bud.
Why would I want to be resilient?
High levels of resilience bring with it a range of benefits, for both the individual and an organisation. People with high resilience have been found to:
Have improved psychological wellbeing1
Demonstrate greater commitment to their work2
Recover quicker from major life setbacks3
Control their emotions and respond to stress positively4
Take on more projects and thrive across different environments5
The secret to achieving these benefits lies in learning how to harness pressure and use it to your advantage. This isn’t created overnight; this is where dedication and practise come into their own
How do I become more resilient?
There are a few things that may be considered characteristic of someone with a high level of resilience. Often a high level of drive and self-belief will provide a solid foundation from which someone can stretch themselves and maintain performance under high pressure. Drive and self-belief may come naturally to some more than others, but through reflection, practise and some useful tools, they can absolutely be developed.
Our Belief Wall is a tool that I use regularly to reflect on my own success. What are one or two key skills and values you’ve demonstrated as an individual? What do you feel most proud of? The more you can recognise these achievements and personal qualities, the more you start to believe in yourself for the future. In the fast-paced world of work, it’s amazing how quickly we forget about the good things we’ve done.
In addition, self-awareness is important for reflecting on high pressure situations and understanding what can be done to manage similar situations more effectively in the future. A learning and performance mindset is crucial for bouncing back, thriving on challenge and remaining dedicated despite the pressures.
Personally, I’ve found it hugely beneficial to keep a record of things that have gone well throughout the course of the last few months or even year. In times of pressure, I find it useful to refer back to the times when I’ve overcome high pressure, and even thrived under it. More often than not, this gives me the confidence that I can come out the other side having delivered a good piece of work.
How can I promote resilience in my team?
We know that a big part of enhancing and maintaining personal resilience is creating the right kind of performance environment to operate in. This is where leaders and managers come in. There are a number of things that may help create the right environment for your people:
Support and challenge: No surprise here but providing a balanced yet stimulating and challenging workload to people is important. Not only should it be challenging, but this should be balanced with the right level of support to prevent stress and burnout.
Control and empowerment: Having little control is stressful for people. Having a sense of control is empowering and long been considered an integral source of motivation. For example, giving team members the freedom to choose how they achieve personal or team goals, rather than telling them exactly how to do it.
Regular feedback: Whether motivational or developmental, feedback can hugely benefit someone’s resilience. When delivered well and in a timely manner, it can provide a confidence boost and a source of reinforcement that people can overcome any pressures coming their way!
What is the difference between personal resilience and organisational resilience?
It’s a good question, many people often think that having a workforce of resilient employees makes a resilient organisation, which isn’t how it works. For an organisation to be high performing, they need to be resilient at both an organisational and individual level, but these two things are actually quite different and achieved in very different ways.
Whilst personal resilience is the ability to handle pressure and bounce back following adversity, organisational resilience is more about strategy, culture and taking a proactive stance in ensuring the organisation can change before the cost of not changing becomes too great.
You can find out more about organisational resilience in our white paper here
If you’ve enjoyed this blog and would like to know more about raising the bar on your own personal resilience, you might want to read our white paper Personal resilience: Stress and thriving for tips on identifying your own triggers to stress and how to overcome them.
1Tugade, M. M., Fredrickson, B. L., & Feldman Barrett, L. (2004). Psychological resilience and positive emotional granularity: Examining the benefits of positive emotions on coping and health. Journal of personality, 72(6), 1161-1190.
2Youssef, C. M., & Luthans, F. (2007). Positive organizational behavior in the workplace: The impact of hope, optimism, and resilience. Journal of management, 33(5), 774-800.
3Lepore, S. J., & Revenson, T. A. (2006). Resilience and Posttraumatic Growth: Recovery, Resistance, and Reconfiguration.
4Tugade, M. M., Fredrickson, B. L., & Feldman Barrett, L. (2004). Psychological resilience and positive emotional granularity: Examining the benefits of positive emotions on coping and health. Journal of personality, 72(6), 1161-1190.
5Bonnici, C., & Cassar, V. (2017). The Implications of Contextual Realities on Career Development: The Specific Case of University Research Managers and Administrators in Small Island States. Journal of Career Development, 0894845317709352.