Whilst resilience training was made popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot to be said for building resilience training into workplace wellness activities where the likelihood of systemic adoption is more likely.
When we take concepts of high performance from team sport and apply them in the workplace with a program we see the clear benefits, that being, people perform better. As in team sports, sharing a common purpose, having role clarity, skill development, trust and being able to manage conflict all have a massive overlap with wellbeing.
We see time and time again that many components of high performance and wellbeing are interrelated, particularly in the workplace. Therefore, they shouldn’t be seen as separate. Performance certainly shouldn’t be seen as taboo in the wellbeing conversation and wellbeing should not be positioned at the expense of performance. They’re actually symbiotic and can flourish if handled in the right way.
If however performance is driven through constant external motivation such as increased targets, KPIs and financial rewards performance can become the opposite to wellbeing.
It is well documented that human performance, individual and groups, is most effectively driven through intrinsic motivation. But in the conversations around wellness, wellbeing, grit and resilience have, in more recent times, become ‘buzzwordy’ (which, ironically, isn’t a word but you get the idea).
This is especially true with the term ‘resilience’. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic there has been an explosion of ‘Resilience Training’ programs. But here’s the thing, that’s an incredibly reactive response, a ‘band-aid’ you could say.
It’s not to say that the training itself is bad, that;s not the point. Businesses around the world are putting their people through workshops to teach them how to better handle hardships, how to use a catastrophe scale to show that the tough customer call wasn’t as bad as having your leg bitten off by a shark. It makes sense, but it’s often very reactive.
As we refer to in Chapter 2 of the Everyday Athletes book, helping people connect to a bigger purpose and find increased meaning in what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis will deliver far better long-term results. This is due to a Self-determination Theory (SDT) which is a macro theory of human motivation and personality that concerns people’s fundamental growth bias and intrinsic psychological needs.
It’s concerned with the motivation behind choices people make without external influence or interference. It’s very real and many stand-out global companies have understood this and have created a culture of community that is self-sustaining.
Think about it, once each individual’s intrinsic psychological needs are met, they become part of a community that supports them to feel better and perform better; they become invested. So by helping them connect with the people around them (colleagues) and have a shared common purpose between them, you foster the element of community. Part of this involves giving them a choice in the way they do things (within reason of course), help them be able to make the choice that’s authentic to them and not the choice that they think they should be making. Do those things and resilience levels are proactively high and thereby lessens the need for a reactive response to a pandemic.
One of the subject matter experts that featured in the Everyday Athletes book is a guy called Ross Hastings. He’s a psychologist who keeps himself on the cutting edge of Coaching Psychology and Positive Psychology to pursue his passion for exploring human potential. He likes to use the following analogy to make this point.
“Okay, scenario number one; Let’s say you’re driving along the Hume Highway from Melbourne to Sydney in Australia. You can relax, listen to your music or have a conversation with the person next to you, all the while simply looking at the horizon.
Imagine there’s a barrier coming up ahead; ou check your review mirror, indicate, move around it and you carry on.
So what? Think about it. You know where you’re going. You’re going to Sydney. You know that there’s XX kilometres to go and where the service station is if you need to get fuel or use the loo.
You can see all these things coming up. It’s relaxed, peaceful and calm.
Now, let’s consider scenario number two. You jump in your car to drive to Sydney and just stare at the end of your bonnet the whole way. How would that journey be different?
It would be highly reactive.
You’d only see barriers at the last minute. All you could do is slam on the brakes, accelerate again, maybe swerve to the left or the right. You’d have no idea when you’ve got to stop for fuel, how long is left because you can’t see the signs; you’re simply focussed on the end of your bonnet.
The reality is that’s what most people do on a day-to-day basis in the workplace. Just focussed on the end of the bonnet…
It’s no wonder the demand for resilience training programmes surged during the pandemic. Most employees turn up every day and feel like they’re hitting their head against the wall, but they don’t know why.
Clearly define what your sun is, your ever present. That’s your purpose, it never changes (and if it changes, you’re probably in a new organisation). That’s what we call the aspirational level or if you want to use the term, its purpose
Next, you have your horizon, and the gap in your horizon. So, that’s, ”What do you aspire to achieve in your industry as a business?”.
It should be really inspirational but is barely ever present in many businesses. You may shift it slightly but it’s usually pretty stable. And if you’re a large organisation in multiple industries, say a Virgin, you’ll probably have a few different gaps in the horizon. What you/they aspire to achieve in different industries.
Next is your mission, your strategic layer is the road that you’re taking to get towards your horizon. Obviously, you’ve got your short, mid and long term strategies, but they’re all about, if you know what your sun is, where you’re hitting the horizon. If you have barriers up ahead, you can innovate and plan new roads around them. But you see them coming from afar and you plan for them.
And then, lastly, your car is your way of bringing your values. So how are you going to drive along the journey? What are the rules of the road and how well will you follow them?
So, here’s the thing. A progressive leadership team will clearly communicate the picture of the organisational alignment so that the individuals within it can look up from their bonnet. They can know where they’re going. When they face hardship on a day-to-day basis in their job, they understand what the purpose of it all is and can reframe it in that context.
For them to know that they’re progressing along with the people around them is encouraging and motivating. And they understand better that what they’re doing today is going to serve them and the team tomorrow.
And it’s that versus driving along staring at the end of that bonnet; on edge, not knowing why they’re doing it, not having a reason, not having a purpose.”
Now that may be a long way of saying that resilience should be a proactive thing but, helping people see the bigger picture, the bigger narrative and to connect what they do on a day-to-day basis is crucial.
So let’s say an individual has a few crappy days in a row where they don’t feel like they’re making progress. For example, they spend three days working on a spreadsheet that manages to become corrupt and they have to start over… There’s servitude in that longer journey, and it’s not perceived as catastrophic anymore, it has context when balanced against the bigger picture.
So you see, organisations don’t need to spend millions on resilience programmes to help people deal with the devastating experience of driving along, staring at the end of your bonnet. Instead, solutions such as the Wellness Warriors Program help people learn these elements, learn how to look for a bigger purpose, learn how to take accountability, to find connections between their own values and that of the organisation.
It will help them to seek the answers to questions of their organisation about where they are going, what they’re trying to achieve in that industry, about why they are doing what they’re doing? And this is hugely beneficial for both the individual and the teams they operate within.
Employers can empower their people by getting them to ask all of these questions and seek out all this information. Doing so means that they can paint their journey’s narrative in collaboration with the business, if it doesn’t already exist.
And this inherently breeds resilience, let’s call it ‘Proactive Resilience’. People will be much more gritty, resilient and happier. And the Wellness Warriors Program helps to foster this within the individuals and their respective teams.
Let’s say that one of the weekly fitness Challenges is for each participant to do 50 skips with their jump rope. Let’s say they trip at 38 and have to start again. With the learning the program offers any participating individual is much more likely to laugh it off and just start again (rather than spitting the dummy).
Because they have a clear purpose, clear goals and it’s a shared experience with the people around them. It’s all laid out for them in the program along with setting the intention of each fitness challenge. In the reflection round they can share the learnings as a group, laugh about it and advance.
Think about it… Even if a participant was frustrated because they tripped on their jump rope, it didn’t stop them from moving forward and completing the challenge. And they’d probably feel really great about it along with a sense of accomplishment together with their teammates.
The program asks them to then reflect on challenges you face in the workplace on a day-to-day basis. Do they take the same approach mentality? Do they overcome those work related challenges in the same way?
We’re providing a really important piece of learning about resilience. But let’s call it Proactive Resilience.
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