The modern workplace is a fast-paced environment. Things like changes to new technologies, responding to competitors, or recession-proofing businesses are playing a more significant role in the workplace than ever before.
Most of the time, the key to success in businesses is having an element of dynamism, responding quickly and effectively in a rapidly changing world.
But, we’re all only human and the reality is that responding – rather than reacting – to workplace challenges like the ones people face today is a skill set of its own.
We all know the feeling of pressures mounting. The worry, the loss of sleep, the constant panic. Whilst some stress is normal and, in fact, healthy, when stress becomes panic, it is inhibitive to progress and productivity.
Panic triggers a chemical reaction in our brains – our amygdala takes over, causing our limbic system (responsible for emotion) to shut off our prefrontal cortex (the home of our rationale, logic and reason). When a company is full of people in panic mode, their thinking is not logical and rational but highly emotional. Naturally continuous decisions made under stress can mean results and the bottom line are significantly impeded.
So as both the external and internal pressures of a fast-moving workplace mount, how do we create an adaptable workforce? How do we create teams that don’t become overwhelmed with increasing pressures and disruptions? How can we train people to be resilient in the face of adversity and get them excited to tackle new challenges?
Nurturing Mental Resilience in the Workplace
Building resilience in your teams is fundamental in getting them equipped to deal with mounting disruptions and pressure. But many people have a misconception of what it means to be resilient.
Most people think being resilient is the ability not to be affected by the change.
‘It’s no problem.’
‘I am going to be fine’
‘I’m not going to let this impact me’
These are common phrases you will hear a lot in the office when dealing with problems. People think of resilience as putting on a suit of armour, becoming impenetrable, and not letting anything affect you. This is not what true resilience is.
Resilience is understanding that there is a problem and that you are affected. It’s about knowing this and having space and time to bounce back, adjust, and be creative in ways you can learn from it.
Remember these? They could take a thousand hits, go down, and bounce back every single time. Now that is true resilience.
It’s not about being a robot, it’s not about being knocked and never moving, never absorbing what happened, that’s just robotic. It’s not at all part of the human experience. Why do we feel we have to deal with the pressures and disruptions robotically?
To bounce back positively to adversity, take a step back from the problem and reconfigure it. Let your prefrontal cortex come back, self-soothe, and self-regulate. Create some space to clear your mind and allow creative problem solving to come into place.
Ask questions to problems like:
- If that’s no longer possible, what becomes possible?
- What do we need to change or move to make this possible?
- What can be learned from this situation?
- How can we benefit from stepping back and not reacting in the moment?
By doing this, you can start to instil in your teams an ability to bounce back from problems much more effectively as they learn to be more adaptable.
Let’s look more at the idea of adaptability.
The Fourth Workforce Revolution
Many of the big hitters in management and business consulting, like McKinsey, agree that adaptability is one of the future’s core capabilities.
It’s also one of the twelve competencies within Daniel Goleman’s Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI), which we use when working with our clients. So it’s widely accepted as being crucial when dealing with disruptions and pressures in the workforce. And this will only become more important in the coming years as our workforce moves into a new historical phase.
So what does that mean for the future? Will augmentation and machine learning dominate it? No-one can say for sure; all we do know is that if we have to learn rapidly, adaptability will become essential to everyone.
We have now entered what the UN is calling ’Industry 4.0’, the world’s fourth workforce revolution. The first of these began almost 7,000 years ago with the agricultural revolution. We then left the fields for the factories and the factories for offices.
And with each age, the time of transition has massively decreased. The world is changing at a much faster rate than ever before. Look at the world ten years ago, it was a very different place. And ten years from now the difference will be even bigger!
Now we are entering a time where information and knowledge are our primary commodities, and our close relationship with technology is integral.
70% of Transformations Fail
Steering our mindset to become adaptable and resilient to change is something we should all be looking to do. However, it’s not always that easy because the main problem with change isn’t the change itself, but our human response to it.
According to McKinsey, around 70% of all transformations fail. If we look a little closer at this, we know that 62% of successful business changes have invested in mindset. On the other hand, we also know that of those who have failed, only 8% have invested in mindset training.
So what does that tell you? Well, firstly, it confirms that change isn’t the problem. The problem, in most cases, is people’s mental agility when handling change and its complications.
The problem is the human tendency to resist change because it breeds uncertainty.
Our Brains Don’t Like Change
During uncertainty, hesitation is rife, and our animal instincts of survival kick in. Thousands of years ago, a moment of hesitation would have meant getting killed by a predator, and we still have that reptilian part of our brain today, which puts us in survival mode when changes happen. So our brains don’t like change at all.
The good news? We can overcome this.
We can bring new neural pathways into our brain to override that fear and resistance and learn to embrace it rather than run from it. Again, this is why it is so fundamentally important for today’s workforce to work on mental resilience.
So yes, we would like to have a happy workforce, we would like to have skilled workforces, but we absolutely need adaptable resilient workforces. Without being adaptable, we will never remain relevant in the market and recession-proof our businesses in times of crisis.
So start working with your teams today, build up their resilience and keep them adaptable for the challenges ahead. If you can, you will stand a great chance of thriving in a rapidly changing world.
To find out more about how we can build up yours and your team members’ adaptability, feel free to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org