Scroll Top

Bouncing Forward: Building Resilience in an Uncertain World

Bouncing Forward Building Resilience in an Uncertain World_Catherine Ducharme_Smart Savvy +Associates
Resilience is our ability to adapt and/or bounce forward after being metaphorically bent, stretched, compressed, or pulled. 

It is not the most intellectual or the strongest of species that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.

~ Charles Darwin

Indulge me. Remember the action figure, Stretch Armstrong? He was called the unbreakable toy. Made of latex rubber and gelled corn syrup, you could stretch him out of proportion, but he’d always return to his original position. While yes, Stretch was just a toy, he also embodies the definition of resilience.

According to Psychology Today, the definition of resilience is, ” … the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties … drain their resolve, highly resilient people find a way to change course, emotionally heal, and continue moving toward their goals.”

Resilience is our ability to adapt and/or bounce forward after being metaphorically bent, stretched, compressed, or pulled. (I say bounce forward because any experience changes us, and we never really go back to the place we once were). And, with the astonishing speed of change we’ve recently experienced, it’s safe to say that we are all being stretched.

The sweeping changes in the work world require more from us as leaders and team members. More flexibility and adaptability. More self-management, self-reliance, and self-motivation. And more productivity and focus as we scramble to keep our organizations operating.

Our new reality requires a level of resilience that this generation hasn’t seen before.

How are Top Leaders Building Resilience?

Two weeks ago, Smart Savvy facilitated a discussion with some of Vancouver’s most prominent Senior Communications leaders. Representing a broad range of backgrounds and organizations, our goal was to connect with these leaders and collaborate on the topic of building resilience. Our discussion revolved around three central questions:

  1. How is resilience showing up in your teams (or not)?
  2. What’s the one game-changing thing that you’re doing differently?
  3. How are you building your resilience while balancing your own needs?

Here are their top tips and insights for cultivating resilient teams.

1. Set Boundaries and Let Go

During our discussion, leaders indicated that for them to show up for their team, they need to increase personal resilience. To do this, they needed to get clear on two things: setting boundaries and letting go.

In other words, they need to balance their own needs while also letting go of expectations and processes that no longer serve the team or organization. The leaders we spoke to are tackling this challenge in a few ways:

  • Letting go of previous production standards.
  • Not letting perfection get in the way of progress (sometimes good enough is good enough).
  • Embracing real moments (like when kids or animals wander into home offices during zoom calls).
  • Getting clear on personal values and understanding how they guide decision making.
  • Establishing strong boundaries for work and rest. Being okay with saying ‘no’.
  • Choosing the type of energy and personalities they allow in, and which they defer/deny.
  • Letting go of control and/or firmly held beliefs and instead, opening themselves up to new opportunities.

In a sustained crisis like this, our response needs to be more aligned with a marathon than a sprint.

  • How are you training for your marathon?
  • What action can you take to balance work and self-care?
  • What do you need to let go of in order to lead strong in this brave new world?

2. Model and Encourage Adaptability

One of the most effective ways leaders have increased team resilience is by demonstrating it themselves.

Because of how quickly leaders have had to adapt to today’s work world requirements, they’ve each incorporated new levels of communication. Whether they’ve leveled up frequency, transparency, authenticity, or all of the above, the way they’re communicating with their teams is more direct, consistent, and real. And it’s building massive trust.

As employees begin to lean into this trust, leaders are watching them flourish. Teammates are utilizing their personal strengths and going above and beyond the job description to collaborate and contribute in new and innovative ways. They are working more collaboratively and cross-functionally than ever before.

Leaders who take time to recognize and encourage this type of growth are seeing tremendous results — most notably, increased levels of individual and team resiliency.

Of course, not everybody adapts to change well. And for some, the change requirements and personal circumstances have been more challenging than for others. As you increase resilience on your team, we invite you to consider these questions:

  • How can you empower team members who are showing increased resilience?
  • How can you build confidence and capability with team members who are struggling?

3. Get Personal

Across the board, the leaders we talked to recognize that resilience includes strengthening their relationships with their teams. One way they do this is by taking the time to authentically check in (not just checkup).

Checking in helps build trust, and it also helps humanize conversations and keep the lines of communication open.

Here are a few ways leaders use curiosity to personalize meetings and level up resiliency:

  • Leading Headline: Invite team members to share their top “headline”. What’s one thing they’re excited about and how would they share it as a headline?
  • Get the GIST: In this conversation starter, team members share one thing they are grateful for, one intention they have, any support they might need, and a true statement about themselves or their work. Or you can change the “T” to an “F” (GIFT) and invite them to share a fear or frustration.
  • #MotivationalMinute: On our daily team calls at Smart Savvy, each of us takes turns providing a #MotivationalMinute. In this way, we each have the opportunity to inspire and motivate our team. We also bring in special guests for the #MotivationalMinute who share fresh perspectives and insights.
  • Hobbies and Activities: Ask open-ended questions to find out what people are up to in their downtime. Questions like:
  • What’s your go-to show on Netflix?
  • What’s your top reading recommendation?
  • Who’s tried a new recipe recently and how did it go?
  • Teammate Tours: Ask a team member to give a tour of their home workspace.

As you develop ways to personalize your meetings, consider these questions:

  • How can humanizing your meetings help your team increase their capacity for resiliency?
  • What personal touch can you add to your meetings to build trust and deepen team relationships?

Closing Thoughts

One of the most effective ways to build resiliency is to hold your people capable. Capable of adapting, figuring it out, solving issues, and getting through it with a few well-timed questions from you. Now more than ever, we need our teams to be resilient, independent, and self-sufficient.

Subscribe for Original Leadership Content

This information will never be shared with third-party companies

Name (First and Last)


Grow Your Leadership

Thank you for subscribing!

Read and Download our REFERENCE SHEET!