Snap Out of It! (Part 2)
Last month I wrote to you about resilience, the personal quality that helps people snap back in the face of unanticipated setbacks.
Resilience is increasingly finding its way onto the list of necessary competencies for senior executives – not surprising in this age of unrelenting doom and gloom. But there’s another aspect to resilience that warrants consideration – let’s call it workforce resilience. The job for leaders in that domain is building and managing the ability of their employees as a whole (“the workforce”) to recover quickly from change or adversity.
Just as individuals can become captives of their moods and emotions, so can groups of people. Mood is contagious, and prolonged periods of anxiety, fear, or uncertainty can be emotionally debilitating to the group as well as to the individuals who comprise it. Performance and productivity obviously suffer, impaired by workers’ apathy, lack of enthusiasm, and emotional exhaustion.
Daniel Goleman, in his 1998 book Working with Emotional Intelligence, devotes a couple of chapters to the emotional intelligence of organizations that expose some major gaps in the way leaders typically understand the emotional life of the workforce. One of those gaps, he writes, involves optimism – which he defines as resilience in the face of setbacks. Five years
later, it’s not clear that much progress in understanding workforce resilience – and more importantly, in successfully managing it – has been made. At the same time, there has been a huge shift in economic realities in the workplace, creating even greater insecurity.
But here’s a surprise: a recently-completed study by a major management and HR consulting firm found that employees are proving to be more resilient in the face of this protracted economic
downturn than anyone had anticipated. The study found that the overwhelming majority of people remain committed to their jobs and to helping their companies succeed, countering the widespread view that they have “checked out” from their jobs. Still, the study points out that one out of every five employees is disengaged, meaning that they have checked out. That’s a significant number, and cause for concern.
What makes for the difference? The employees surveyed for the study indicated that keeping them engaged depends on their companies meeting workers’ needs for strong leadership, advancement and development opportunities, and a sense of control over the work and the work environment. These factors appear to weigh more heavily than pay and benefits, even in this tight job market.
And, interestingly enough, these findings appear to echo what we
know about what builds resilience in individuals. A capacity to confront reality and deal with it, to find meaning and purpose in work and life, and to improvise in the face of rapid change are all strong determinants of resilience, along with a strong sense of self and a belief in the possibility for authorship of one’s own life. All these abilities have their clear counterparts in the emotional life of organizations.
As a leader, it’s pretty clear you can’t afford to be complacent if you want to build engagement, commitment, and resilience in your workforce. While employees may be taking a pragmatic view of the current economic situation, realizing that their own near-term future is tied to their current employer’s success, their level of engagement could drop under different economic circumstances.
Just as you are working to strengthen your own mental, physical,
emotional, and spiritual resilience over the long term, you’ll have to focus on strengthening employee engagement by paying sustained attention to what matters most: good work, and a good environment in which to do it.
Next month: Part 3 -- Organizational Resilience
Learn more about how executive coaching can help you build resilience in yourself and your workforce. Visit our website and call or email us for a sample coaching session.
By the year 2010, more than half of American wage earners will spend more than two days a week working outside the office. Today, 28 million people "telework" under formal company policies--a leap from 4 million in 1990--and millions more work informally out of the office one or more days a week.
Between 1979 and 1999, the number of women earning four-year
college degrees jumped 44 percent, from 444,000 to 640,000. At the same time, the number of men receiving four-year degrees is declining--from 532,000 in 1993 to about half a million in 1999.
Only 9 percent of girls anticipate a career in business, even though 97 percent of girls expect to work to help support themselves or their families. Also, while nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of teen girls rank "helping others" as extremely or very important, only a
third (33 percent) believe businesses do good things for communities.
Coined by e-learning pioneer Marc Prensky, the term digital natives defines the generation that has grown up using computer technology all their lives – as opposed to the baby boomers, who
constitute the generation Prensky calls digital immigrants.
Toxic Emotions at Work: How Compassionate Managers Handle Pain And Conflict, by Peter Frost. What I like about it: While recognizing that “toxicity” is a normal byproduct of organizational life, the author offers managers and leaders concrete information about how they can alleviate it individually, and also work to handle it or prevent it at a systemic level.
Executive Coach, Strategy Consultant
Principal, Bloomfield Associates
Why CEOs Fail: The 11 Behaviors That Can Derail Your Climb to the Top and How to Manage Them, by David L Dolitch and Peter C. Cairo. What I like about it: The book identifies problematic behaviors that can derail the career of
the CEO and provides action steps to eliminate them. Its straightforward style provides a good manual for CEOs and other managers who desire to work well with others and seeks a better understanding of their behavior.
Michael P. Holder
Leadership & Life Coach
301-989-0475 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Beth Bloomfield and Frank Ball are teaming up to present a one-day master coaching class on Thursday August 21 at Georgetown University’s Center for Professional Development (CPD). “Designing Effective Activities and Practices for Your Leadership Coaching Clients” is intended for practicing coaches who are graduates of ICF-accredited training programs. Information about registration is available by calling Angela Sanders at 202-687-7000.