Rhino resilience: why do some tough cookies withstand adversity at work while others crumble?

I would define resilience as the ability to cope effectively with stress, pressure and fear. Those who possess that rare quality are confident in the face of adversity, are adaptable in finding creative solutions and recover quickly from disappointment and betrayal. Others who lack resilience are less fortunate as they often crumble when they are given bad news or when they make a mistake.

If you were to stop and consider the most successful leaders within your firm, you would probably find that they are optimistic, have high self-esteem and possess an aura of indestructability. They know that they are strong, self-sufficient and confident and they cope well with organisational change, incessant rivalry from their competitors and impossibly tight deadlines. They understand that business difficulties often arise from a broad range of factors which are sometimes outside of their control: loss of a significant client, sudden departures of key staff and underinvestment in the business and, instead of sinking under the pressure, they rise to the challenge. This isn’t to say they are perfect – they are human and make mistakes and bad decisions but they do not let these get in their way. They find a way to take it in their stride and move on, learning from their mistakes and always finding something positive to take away.

If, on the other hand, you now think of an ineffective leader in your workplace, you may see someone who procrastinates, is scared of failure and who does not have the capacity to take risks. They lack clarity about their role, they avoid confrontation and they drown in a sea of bureaucracy.

The most important question to ask then is this…is it possible to build resilience in the same way that we can build other key skills? Of course we learn so much from experience and if we are faced with failure, we can draw on the hidden strength and courage that we did not know we had to avoid anxiety and depression, to bounce back and be ready to move on. However, we must practise positivity, we must learn to forgive ourselves when we do not meet our own exacting goals and we must allow ourselves some time off to rest and recuperate. Most importantly, we must remember that asking for help in challenging times is a sign of strength and not of weakness so building a tight network of support around you is vital in developing the skin of a rhino-resilience…