Organizational Resilience: How Do We Get There?

The Foundations of Resiliency: Part 5

Conclusion – Tying it All Together

Organizational resilience can be described through four lenses.

Hope: A clear and positive vision of the future and the belief we have what it takes to get us there. Hope is the most powerfully emotional part of resilience.

Self-Efficacy: Agency, or the belief that we are the agents and authors of our own stories. It is the most ‘internal’ of the elements, and probably the most difficult to teach.

Coping: Mostly experienced as a ‘personal’ element, but organizations that encourage reflection and learning, can contribute significantly to our coping abilities.

Competence: Directly related to self-efficacy. But where self-efficacy is something we bring forward from as early as childhood, competence is more affected by more current external forces. Training plays a role, as does perceived competence as something assigned to us by others based on our performance. Perceived competence usually creates a positive feedback loop.

How Do We Get There?

As leaders how do we tie these four foundational elements together to create a more resilient organization?

  1. Positive, visionary leadership – Communicating a positive vision of the future is a function of great leadership. The ability to communicate a vision that motivates us through successes and failures, is the greatest gift of those who would lead us. Whether your organization is in the weeds or sailing under blue skies, a leader can sustain us by communicating (and living) a positive vision of the future.
  2. The right people on the team – Hire the right people, both for their competence, and for that sense of agency that is the close partner of accountability.
  3. Strong internal values – Articulate, communicate, and live a clear set of values. Write a mission that communicates ‘organizational agency’. Demonstrate moral leadership by walking the talk, especially in dealing with toxic behaviours and failures to take responsibility.
  4. A learning environment – Build and maintain an environment that encourages risk taking and challenging the status quo. Organizations that shoot the messenger, and punish people for risking and failing, become rigid and brittle. Celebrate the courage of people risking enough to fail. Psychological safety through celebration.
  5. Ongoing reinforcing feedback – There is nothing that encourages coping skills, competence, and self-efficacy like reinforcing feedback. Communicate to team members what is needed, and recognize right effort as well as success This builds the tough, resilient core and the emotional reserves to swing again when at first things don’t work out.
  6. Supporting systems  – People rarely fail; it is systems that usually fail people. Set up your people to succeed by standardizing processes, becoming data-informed in your management, and developing a communication framework that values transparency and inclusion.

Dump the Empty Slogan

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

… written by someone who knows nothing of the human animal.

Without resilience, what does not kill us does NOT make us stronger: We don’t bounce; we crater. When organizations are resilient, they have the hopefulness, self-efficacy, coping skills and levels of competence for the emotional and operational ‘bounce’ that resiliency gives.

In good times resilient organizations are rapidly learning, rapidly evolving communities. In hard times they learn from failure, and bounce back higher.

The rest of the Organizational Resilience series

About the Author

Clemens Rettich

I am an organizational consultant and educator with over 20 years of experience in supporting the improvement of organizations and organizational management across North America. I work at the intersection of people, systems, and change with a human-culture-first mindset that values joy, innovation, and collaboration. As a teaching professor at the University of Victoria's Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, I teach in the areas of leadership and organizational behaviour. In my work I explore the nature of the human organization in a post-colonial, post-technocratic society. I hold an MBA (Leadership and Organizations), and an undergraduate degree in music (Musicology, Performance). My areas of practice include management and leadership, organizational behaviour, process improvement, organizational change, and talent development and training.
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