The five most common myths around resilience learning

I've talked before about how resilience can be viewed as a buzzword, particularly when brought into a workplace context. The pandemic only served to increase the frequency with which leaders, HR teams and managers spoke about the resilience of their employees. But in my conversations with them in recent years, I have found many myths or misinterpretations about what learning and development for employee resilience is or should be, and how to create opportunities for providing resilience toolkits.

So, this blog explores and debunks the five most common myths we've seen out there!

1. “Resilience interventions are about training people who aren’t resilient enough.”

This is a common misconception when it comes to resilience interventions. Yes, there are definitely times in our life when we feel more resilient or less, and we may even find we feel more resilient in some environments or situations than others (e.g. at work, at home). But fundamentally, being resilience is a natural part of being human.

Rather than being designed or procured from a 'deficit' perspective, resilience workshops, coaching or online learning solutions should:

  • Give you dedicated time and space to reflect on the challenges you've overcome,
  • Help you consider the skills, tools and strategies you've used to navigate them,
  • Provide an opportunity to reflect on what you've learnt about yourself as as result of these difficult experiences,
  • Consider any additional ways of thinking, feeling and responding you'd like to use the next time you experience challenge, change or setbacks, and,
  • Identify the workplace conditions and resources you need to sustain resilience moving forward.

Not seeing you as something to be fixed, but as someone who is learning and growing through this beautiful and chaotic thing we call life!

2. “Resilience interventions place all the responsibility for resilience on the individual, without addressing the role of the employer.”

Another misconception about resilience coaching, workshops or other learning solutions is that they focus solely on giving individuals more tools to better absorb stress, challenge and difficulty. And that they don't deal with the organisational situations and conditions that are actually creating excessive stress and challenge for people.

Any responsible resilience intervention should focus on 4 key areas:

  • Organisation - strategy, culture and operational environment
  • Leaders - expectations and behaviours
  • Teams - demands, resources and ways of working
  • Individuals - resilience skills, tools and strategies

In the early stages of our discussions with clients, we're always assessing their willingness for us to effect change across all of these levels. If they only want us to focus on 4/Individuals, we consider very carefully whether we should work with them. And we've often walked away because we refuse to be part of a 'compliance' or 'lip service' exercise or - worse - any organisation's desire to essentially ask their people to absorb more, without taking any responsibility for the demands they're throwing at them!

3. "Resilience interventions assume that one size fits all."

This is absolutely not true. We are each unique human beings with our individual experiences of life and work. And we all have our own ways of dealing with stress, challenges or setbacks - based on our past experiences, physiology, personality, mindset, emotional responses and strengths. And the reuse of practices that have served us well in the past.

Your journey is individual to you. And whether you're participating in resilience coaching, a workshop or a course, it should be flexible enough to enable you to reflect on:

  • The specific challenges you've overcome personally and professionally,
  • The strategies, tools and behaviours that have supported you in coping, adapting and responding to them,
  • The situations and contexts you recognise as areas in which you'd like to boost your resilience, and give you the opportunity to select and apply:
  • Tools and strategies that feel most relevant and resonate with you - giving you a smorgasbord....Rather than a prescribed text-book methodology!

4. “Leaders invest in resilience interventions purely to manage burn-out.”

In my experience working with organisations to deliver resilience coaching, workshops and courses, no leader has ever told me that they're investing the money as a way of fixing the burnout issue. In all fairness, I'm not disputing that some leaders are motivated by that intention. Maybe we've not experienced it because we've walked away if we've smelled a whiff of that intention from their HR or L&D teams.

But, here are some of the reasons we HAVE been given:

"Our people have been through a lot during the pandemic - we want to find ways to support them."

"There's going to be a lot of organisational change in the coming months and we know this will be stressful for people. So we'd like to be proactive in putting our people in the best position to navigate it."

"We never know when the next incident or crisis will come and we want to prepare our people so that they have tools and strategies they can use when it does."

"We see resilience as a core part of our people's ability to perform at their best - with all the industry challenges coming at us from outside the organisation, we need them to be agile."

"We want to support our people through the cost of living crisis."

The best leaders we have worked with recognise that resilience interventions are only one piece of the jigsaw.

They know there need to be other proactive and reactive strategies, in relation to wellbeing, change management, crisis management or learning and development.

5. “Resilience interventions are essentially just wellbeing interventions”.

Wellbeing is our ability to feel good and function well. And let's face it - you've probably noticed that you do feel better able to deal with stressful or challenging situations when you're feeling well mentally, physically and emotionally. So, wellbeing is absolutely a foundation for resilience.

But resilience interventions shouldn't just focus on giving you wellbeing tools and strategies. A core part of resilience is about how we learn to navigate the natural duality of life: the good vs the bad, the success vs the failure, the opportunity vs the challenge.

So, it's also about understanding the stories we tend to tell ourselves:

  • About ourselves
  • About the situations we face day in and day out
  • About the world around us
  • About the people around us
  • And, about our ability to cope, adapt and learn

Learning how to i) widen our interpretations, ii) draw new meaning and perspectives from our experiences, and iii) challenge our thinking to create turning points for small and large actions.

These were the skills that many of us relied on during the pandemic, and strengthening them truly underpins the best resilience interventions.

Want to know more?

So there you have it! The five most common myths around resilience learning and development debunked! If you're interested in exploring resilience and other Positive Working strategies, talk to us. We'd be delighted to explore a tailored approach designed for your people, your leaders, and your organisation.