How to Incorporate Resilience into Your Organization’s DNA

We’re all familiar with the concept of resilience as it applies to our own ability to bounce back from adversities we encounter. It’s a hot topic right now – leading scholars and scientists are exploring what makes individuals resilient and how that resilience correlates with our future success/failure. I especially love this TED talk from Victor Rios about strategies educators can use to show how resilience can drive success with “at risk” students.

I really love the application of this idea to the business world, where organizational resilience is also a hot topic of conversation (here are three great articles that explain the concept further):

So how can you help your organization become resilient? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Shift your mindset about change. In her book Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life my colleague, Patti Johnson, makes the point about how the mentality that “change happens to us” can get in our way. Shifting that mindset to one that embraces the idea that we can and must drive change ourselves is essential. This mindset shift can help employees go from feeling powerless to feeling empowered to influence it.
  2. Start a conversation with executives and managers – the real leaders who can drive change within your organization – about the certainty of more change. We live in a VUCA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) and the only constant is change. Both incremental and large-scale change are necessary for businesses to thrive. How much is this conversation built-in at all levels of your organization? Start the conversation with your leaders and ask them to begin the conversation with their teams as well.
  3. Measure and reward your early adopters and innovators. Identify your subject matter experts and high potentials and put them on projects that stretch and test them. Recognize and reward them for stepping outside of their comfort zone to create a new product, redesign an outdated process or challenge the status quo.
  4. Take risks and reward experimentation. Let your employees identify obstacles, challenges and ideas and give them some leeway to experiment with an idea. Make sure they don’t feel like they must have all the answers and are open to being able to learn as a key takeaway.
  5. Hire resilient talent. Find leaders who have an appetite for learning from past mistakes and have experienced both success and failure along the way. Train your hiring managers to listen for the insights/wisdom they’ve gained from both to assess how resilient they are.

Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults. You can reach her at or on Twitter @sbPResults.