How to Spot Resilience

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Quite a few books have been written about resilience, including bestsellers such as Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth; Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg; and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, all providing readers with insights on how to deal with adversity, bounce back from life-changing events, and use failure to improve oneself.

These resources are vital for recognizing resilience in one’s self, but how do you spot grit in others? Resilient people are essential members of an integrated team, regardless of whether they play a leading or supporting role. Their resolve is what keeps everyone else going. Their focused energy mitigates chaos. Without them, negativity can overtake positivity.

How can you identify those individuals with grit and acknowledge their role as essential members of the team? Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who introduce calm when things get calamitous; resilient individuals who have helped pull my projects and client relationships back from the brink of disaster. Their example has taught me to steel myself during hard times.

From my experience, here are the characteristics of resilient team members:

Glass half empty to a glass overflowing

We all have an inner cynic who’s staunchly realistic and shares an unfiltered view on bad situations. Those displaying resilience seem to silence that inner cynic and reframe the worst situations, asking others to focus their attention on the tasks at hand and redirecting dissent to productive efforts. They help others understand that problems lead to opportunities –a “let’s make lemonade out of lemons” sort of thing.

Additionally, resilient individuals have a knack for utilizing humor to break through the dark clouds and shed light on a situation. A study by Stanford psychologists demonstrated that individuals who used jokes to cope with negative images saw increases in positive emotions and decreases in negative emotions. The article asserts that “The findings support the idea that humor exerts its psychological effect by forcing a change of perspective.” Similarly, resilient individuals often use humor to help others reframe their perspective and encourage positive emotions.

Progressive wins

Resilient individuals rework the goal. Instead of measuring progress toward the perfect end result, they build out and celebrate progressive wins. They find ways to break up the work and take the time to acknowledge small moves toward a larger goal. For example, the team may only be 30% complete toward a goal, but that 30% is solid output, and they have a proactive plan toward the remaining 70%.

In a Harvard Business Review article entitled The Power of Small Wins, authors Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer introduce the idea of the progress principle. “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. If a person is motivated and happy at the end of the workday, it’s a good bet that he or she made some progress. If the person drags out of the office disengaged and joyless, a setback is most likely to blame.” The role of the resilient team member is one of encouragement and building a sense of continual progress toward a weighty challenge. By defining progressive wins and specifying what incremental progress looks like, they help others end their day with a sense of accomplishment.

Effortless direction

Regardless of their role or level of seniority on the team, resilient members have the self-confidence that stimulates a direct approach to team management. All the pretense surrounding political pecking order or company titles fades away as they take control and constructively direct the teams toward success. This doesn’t mean they are overly aggressive or totally ignore the complexities of office interpersonal relationships. It means that they know what needs to be done and are comfortable sharing their opinions toward positive action.

This effortless direction requires composure and a fearless mindset. In the Forbes article 7 Ways Leaders Maintain Their Composure in Difficult Times, Glenn Llopis notes that leaders during difficult times speak with conviction, confidence and authority, projecting a sense to others that everything is under control. Their confidence instils confidence in others.

These are just a few qualities that can be used to identify resilient individuals. You may find that other resilient qualities are more pervasive in your company or industry. That said, once you have found team members who embody resilience, appreciate them, nurture their growth and take the time to learn their secrets. We all have the ability to become more resilient and, in turn, impart that knowledge to others.

Jordan Bainer

Associate Business Director at Mirum Minneapolis
Jordan is a senior account lead at Mirum with a strong background in business strategy and communication planning. Throughout his career, he’s partnered with Fortune 500 companies to tackle big marketing challenges. In his spare time, he performs improv comedy, attempts to be a writer and drives his wife and daughter crazy.
Jordan Bainer

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