Resilient Organizations? What Does That Look Like?

Recently, the concept of resiliency has come up in my life a number of times, in a variety of different situations, so it appears that this is something I am supposed to pay attention to! So what is resiliency? There are lots of definitions out there so paraphrasing them, I would say that resiliency is the ability to overcome adversity and to bounce back from challenging situations. Last night, I was at a networking event and the speaker was Charmaine Hammond who spoke on building resilient and inspired teams. Charmaine’s message was focused on the importance of “bouncing forward” verses just bouncing back after challenging times.  Sitting at my table was a woman who had completed a PhD on the resiliency of children from 9 war torn areas of Africa. She was consistently amazed at how happy kids from these areas were and yet they came from such challenge circumstances. Talk about resiliency! And this week, in my most recent e-newsletter, I posted an event about Resilient Leadership being hosted by the BC Career Development Association on September 23 & 24, 2011. This is a perfect course for managers and supervisors who are leading through challenging times.

This got me to thinking…as individuals we go through difficult times and can show resiliency but what creates a resilient organization?

There are difficult and challenging times in career development organizations all over BC right now. The Career Development industry in BC is under the strain of a full scale shift in how business is to be done, both now and in the future. Generally speaking, the career development industry is a resilient industry.  The government programs that traditionally fund the industry have always forced organizations to change on a dime and to do more with less. This is nothing new, and yet there seems to be something more significant this time. The transformation is bigger, the pressure on leaders is stronger and the ante has been raised on the resiliency factors required. The industry has to “transform” and organizations in the industry have to provide services in a way that many are either not prepared for or are just not willing to do.  And for others, this is just another change that they will rise to the challenge of and meet head on. So what makes for a resilient organization during this challenging time? What resiliency factors are at play?

In 2005 when I worked for WorkStreams Employment Society and we had to close the Society down due to a loss of funding, we were a very resilient bunch! We focused our energies on doing a great job in areas we did have control over, most specifically client service, and we supported each other by sharing the load. When one person was particularly down, another person would be particularly optimistic or hopeful to balance things. During that very difficult time, one thing that made the biggest difference to our resiliency was that we, each and every one of us, made a conscious choice to be in our profession, or not. We weren’t the victims; we were the players and we were choosing whether or not to play in the game. The key factors in us as individuals? Flexibility, empowerment of choice, adaptability, hope, optimism and ultimately, a belief in our value as individuals.  Is this much different for organizations?

Based on my experience, it is no different.  In times of transformation, a certain kind of organization does well.  Organizations that thrive are engaged in the adversity and the challenge from a position of strength. They are actively participating, they are flexing and adapting and they are always looking for new and interesting ways to address challenges. They are leading the pack in how they are responding to challenges and adversity. They have an unwavering sense of hope and optimism. They are pro-active and they empower their teams to be the best they can be, despite the challenging environment. Most importantly, they hold firm to their belief in their value in their people and in their organizations.

We all know organizations are made up of people and people in organizations look to their leaders for their direction. This time of transformation, transition and change in the career development industry is a time for leaders to have the most personal resilience and to lead others to do the same. It is a time for leaders to reach out and support each other and to build their skills where they need to. It is a time to celebrate what has been achieved and be proud of the difference you make in communities. Doing all of this will build your organizational and personal resiliency.

So, what about you? Do you lead a resilient organization? What techniques do you employ to build your resiliency? I would love to hear your thoughts!