Some people are born with thicker skins but that doesn’t mean mental toughness can’t be taught, says one top Canadian exec.
The pace of change is faster than ever before and organizations can’t survive without resilient employees who have the ability to bounce back – but what about those who aren’t so agile?
Ernie Philip is an SVP at Xerox Canada – he says employers shouldn’t write off any workers who aren’t immediately resilient. Instead, they should focus on teaching the trait to their staff.
“While some people seem to be born with thicker skins, for most of us resilience is a skill that we need to learn and practise,” says Toronto-based Philip.
According to Philip, resilience has the power to take employees further than IQ, education or experience alone and is applicable across all roles and all lines of business in every industry around the world – yet many businesses still fail to focus on the issue.
Philip says that, in order for workers to grow in times of adversity rather than struggle, employers must support them to build their own mental toughness.
“This requires recognizing their emotional response to failure is based solely on their own beliefs about what it means to fail,” he explains.
“If they believe failure means not getting something right on the first try, they’ll stop trying. Being mentally tough means you know this moment is temporary and you have the emotional sophistication to shake off negative thoughts and try again.”
Next, employees must be able to recognize their unique strengths as well as how they contribute to a project or organization.
“This helps give employees the confidence to innovate and push forward, even after temporary setbacks,” says Philip.
The last step is about changing the way leaders communicate and respond to colleagues or employees.
“Responding in an active and constructive way versus a passive or dismissive way will help them become more resilient,” says Philip. “Think about the manager that merely says, ‘Good work,’ in a performance review versus the one that praises specific achievements, their value and a worker’s personal growth.
“Employees of the second type of manager will rebound much quicker from a set back because they have an active and engaged relationship and can see their value.”
Empowering employees to become more resilient not only helps the business but also stands to improve their own health and wellbeing.
“Studies have shown that resilient people are happier and have higher life-satisfaction,” says Philip. “In the workplace, resilient people experience less stress and are able to grow in their careers from what they have learned from their challenges or setbacks. They take less time off, are more productive and can adapt more quickly to change.”