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Overcoming adversity and being resilient are all words which are frequently used in our workplaces today. Many leaders contact Think Organisation asking for training or coaching to help themselves, or their teams, learn how to be more resilient. So, it got us thinking . . .

What do organisations really need to know about adversity and resilience to help them be more successful?

Adversity is a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune. It is something which is based on perception. Perception is the way in which an individual will see, hear or become aware of something through their own senses. Perception is how an individual understands, regards or interprets a situation, behaviour, object or anything they may meet in this world. Everyone has different perceptions so what is adversity for one person, may be mundane for another. Time, experience and life impacts our perception.

For one person, overcoming adversity maybe something like being able to get up from the sofa and walk to the shop. For someone else, overcoming adversity may be being able to jump out of a moving plane at 30,000 feet. Another person may find walking into a room of people they don’t know overcoming adversity. A different person may find having a shower for the first time in four years the most extreme form of adversity they have ever overcome. Whereas, another person may overcome adversity by being brave enough to continue posting on social media, despite negative backlash. It may be that another person finds picking themselves up after they have lost someone they love overcoming adversity. All of these statements are examples of extreme adversity which someone has shared about how they have overcome.

How do we overcome adversity?

Being able to bounce back, and overcome adversity is called resilience. Resilience is multi-faceted and is never constant. Googling ‘resilience leads to swathes of training courses claiming to ‘teach you how to focus on the better parts of your life to adapt to tough events’. The challenge is that this theoretical training can often intensify issues, especially if not done by a professional (e.g. Psychologist, Counsellor). Imagine reading a book on how to ride a bike, then being expected to ride a bike straight away. This is part of the challenge. Resilience is not just something you can read about to increase it. In fact, often we see people taking a dip in resilience levels once support is introduced. Resilience needs to be cultivated, managed and grown because it is a multi-faceted complex concept reliant on many internal and external factors.

It is generally agreed that everyone has a finite capacity for resilience. A person’s competence, confidence, connections, character, contributions, coping strategies and locus of control can all influence their ability to overcome adversity. Numerous research studies have shown the ability to overcome adversity leads to better health, mental wellbeing and life satisfaction for people (Psychology Today, 2020). It is important to note we are talking about adversity, not extreme events which can result in trauma.

Overcoming adversity has the following benefits

Individuals and Adversity

During a time of adversity it is important to be in the moment, being kind to yourself and trusting your instincts to tell you what you need. Often people go through stages of shock, emotion, rationalisation, and struggle to gain their thoughts. However, as the adversity subsides, or when you are ready start to think about:

Adversity in Teams

At a team level it is important to talk to others as businesses can go through adversity and everyone will have a different perspective. What one team member may find exciting, another may find worrying or someone else might find terrifying. Understanding your team members through psychometrics can help speed up this process, and develop deeper understanding between members enhancing the team’s ability to deal with adversity.

Questions to discuss as a team:

Organisational Adversity

How does our organisation define and perceive adversity, and how does this perception influence our approach to overcoming challenges?

What specific strategies or resources has our organisation utilised in the past to navigate through adversity, and how effective were they?

In what ways can our organisation foster resilience across teams, empowering employees to leverage our collective strengths to better prepare for and respond to future adversities?

Leaders Need to be able to Coach

In today’s dynamic business landscape, the ability to navigate adversity is essential for organisational success. Understanding and effectively addressing challenges can mean the difference between thriving and merely surviving. Here’s some valuable advice for organisations seeking to enhance their resilience and overcome adversity:

1. Perception Matters: Recognise that adversity is subjective and can vary greatly among individuals. What one person perceives as a significant challenge may not hold the same weight for another. Embrace diverse perspectives within your organisation and consider how different perceptions of adversity may influence your approach to problem-solving and resilience-building.

2. Proactive Planning: Prepare for adversity before it strikes. Develop robust crisis management protocols, establish clear communication channels, and identify key stakeholders who can provide support during challenging times. Proactive planning allows organisations to anticipate potential challenges and respond effectively when adversity arises.

3. Learn from Experience: Reflect on past experiences with adversity and leverage them as learning opportunities. Evaluate the effectiveness of strategies and resources employed in previous challenges, and identify areas for improvement. By learning from experience, organisations can refine their approach to resilience-building and enhance their ability to overcome future obstacles.

4. Foster a Resilient Culture: Cultivate a culture of resilience within your organisation. Encourage open communication, trust, and collaboration among team members. Invest in training and development initiatives that equip employees with the skills and resources needed to cope with adversity. By fostering a resilient culture, organisations can empower their teams to navigate challenges with confidence and adaptability.

5. Leverage Collective Strengths: Recognise that resilience is not just an individual attribute but also a collective strength. Leverage the diverse talents and perspectives within your organisation to develop innovative solutions to complex challenges. Encourage cross-functional collaboration and knowledge-sharing to harness the collective strengths of your team.

Navigating adversity is a fundamental aspect of organisational success. By embracing diverse perspectives, proactively planning for challenges, learning from experience, fostering a resilient culture, and leveraging collective strengths, organisations can enhance their resilience and overcome adversity with confidence.

If you would like support coaching your team through adversity please reach out and book a free 30-minute consultation with Think Organisation.

Think Performance. Think Excellence. Think Impact.

*All statements about overcoming adversity are based on personal experiences or experience shared by others e.g Jack Nolan.

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