We all know that too much stress is not only detrimental to our physical health but also inhibits our performance. Stress reduces our creative thinking, limits our focus, interferes with our ability to make decisions, and obstructs communication – that’s why a highly stressed out individual is always going to find him or herself on the fast-track to low morale and burnout!
However, in the age of stress management training, it’s often overlooked that some amounts of stress can actually act as a catalyst for great learning – rather, a certain degree of stress can enhance performance and enable an individual to produce their greatest work and see them enjoy a sense of deep fulfilment.
In fact, data research collected on graduate students identified that their biggest career concern was taking a role with no opportunity to develop and progress, and research shows that this sense of challenge is essential.
So, while we can give people the tools to reset after a bumpy road or adapt to new challenges, we must work on building true resilience so that we can not only bounce back, but grow as a result of every challenge.
Actively working on building resilience will help us as a collective to stay motivated, engaged, and perform in a long-term and sustainable way – and as a result, build a more positive and stronger workforce.
Building emotional resilience in the workplace
How do we navigate this fine line between motivating a persevering spirit, promoting growth, and supporting our teams to look after their wellbeing? Here is a simple evidence-based way of starting this process of improving and supporting your own resilience.
In 2010, research collated by Gallup – a group set to help leaders and organisations solve their most pressing problems – highlighted that building on people’s strengths in the workplace, rather than trying to eliminate their weaknesses, led to a 12.5% rise in productivity, a 14.9% reduction in staff turnover, and overall increase in profitability by 8.9%. (1)
This evidence has been replicated in countries around the world with some studies showing up to a 50% increase in staff retention. An in-depth analysis of this work shows that not only is building on strengths the most effective route to enhancing performance and promoting commitment, but it also reduces stress, subsequently enhancing health and happiness and building more resilient organisations.
With that in mind, it may surprise you to know that only 33% of individuals are aware of their key personal strengths or how to use them effectively and very few organisations are doing anything to address this.
How to improve resilience, morale, and job satisfaction
If you are looking to motivate new recruits, boost resilience, build a more positive workplace culture, and/or encourage team-building, here are some strategies that can help:
1. Have one-on-one time
Make time to have a one-to-one with your new team members and help them to identify their strengths. It’s important to acknowledge that strengths are not the same as skills, which are learnt, rather are the qualities that an individual uses in any given situation.
For example, an individual may have a strength of compassion or humour which they use when selling, another team member may have a love of learning or curiosity, enabling them to be innovative and solve problems. Character strengths are the aspect of us that comes to light when we are at our best – they come to us naturally and when we use them we are energised, motivated, and committed to whatever we are doing.
2. Together create a top 5 list
When you have identified the individual strengths of your team members, compile a list of their top 5. Now help them to identify times when these will be useful in the context of their role and times when these might be less appropriate to use. For those times when these qualities will not be useful, or may even inhibit performance, which other strengths could they use to counteract that?
For example, an individual who is curious can be an asset to a team. However, at times, perhaps when a deadline is approaching, we need all our team to focus on ‘doing’ more than analysing or asking questions. In those moments, the team member may be able to draw on their strength of taking perspective and ‘zooming out’ to see the bigger picture. This may enable them to focus while still using one of their key personal strengths.
3. Encourage self-awareness
To conclude this conversation, discuss which strengths they could be using more. You may want to explain that when we use our ‘character strengths’ as well as our skills, we show the best part of who we are. We learn more and get more fulfilment from our work and our lives.
Encourage them to focus on being more aware of their strengths and suggest that they take a moment each week to consider which strengths they have used, how these have impacted their work, their ability to collaborate, and their overall wellbeing.
As you work through this process, it’s important to adopt an attitude of ‘coaching’ – letting them do the thinking and talking without directing them. Ask powerful questions to inspire them to reflect on their strengths and the contexts in which these can be most beneficial. This process enables individuals to gain deeper awareness, transforming thought into positive action.
In all industries, from PR to construction, building resilience in the workplace continues to be an ever more challenging task. However, a team who know their own as well as their colleagues’ strengths, can work together more effectively. This knowledge can drive morale, commitment, sustainable performance, and build stronger companies. It all starts with a conversation.