John Bennett/ January 5, 2021/ Change, Organization Development

Without a doubt, 2020 was the most challenging year for most of us. We witnessed a global health pandemic resulting in quarantines, hospitalizations, health resource shortages, deaths, record-speed development and deployment of vaccines, polarizing elections, racial injustices, economic highs and lows, unemployment rise, businesses shuttered, education systems pivoting to provide remote teaching and learning … I could go on, and on. And, we had a light shined on our history of racial injustice and inequality which led some communities to remove symbols of white supremacy, companies to change policies, and individuals to LISTEN, gain awareness and adjust behaviors. There is still so much more work to do in this area. As my friend, Ruth King, says, “Mindful of Race – Not There Yet!”. As I reflect on 2020 and consider what may be gained, resilience comes to mind. It will serve us in 2021 and beyond.

The events of 2020 were extremely disruptive. Resilience is the ability to experience disruption with minimal effect and rapid recovery. This recovery does not mean returning to the way things were before the disruption. This recovery is about transformation — new perspectives, capabilities, relationships, ways of doing things. The disruption results in learning and growth at the individual, group, organization, and broader collective levels. Building resilience results in equipping, enabling, and empowering for the next disruption; the next big change. The speed, complexity, and volume of change are increasing. We need to prepare ourselves, teams, organizations, and communities for change. It would be naive to believe the disruption of 2020 ended on December 31. We need to develop resilience.

Here are 6 steps you can take to build resilience:

  1. Take a long-term view. Look at events and circumstances from a longer-term, broader perspective. What may seem like a big event or disruption in the short-term takes on a different meaning if you consider the long-term implications.
  2. Reframe. Seek other points of view and different perspectives. While the impacts of disruption are personal, consider how others view the situation. Others may be facing bigger challenges, less well-equipped, or have more impacts than you do. This is a case of “the grass on the other side of the fence may not be as green”.
  3. Empower. Disruption and change are disorienting. And, at times they can be paralyzing. Consider what you can do; not what you can’t doReclaim your power. Recognize what you have control and influence over as well as what is outside your control. Leverage what you can control. 
  4. Serve others. Find others who can use your help. I teach at Queens University of Charlotte. The university’s motto expresses this well: Non ministrari sed ministrare (Not to be served, but to serve). Finding ways to assist and support others helps to reframe your perspective and gives you purpose while using your strengths. 
  5. Equip. Your current knowledge, skills, and abilities got you to this point. Consider what you can develop and how you can grow from your experiences. What new capabilities can you develop as a result of your experiences? What capabilities can you enhance? Learn a new computer program to help you with your work or support your child who is learning remotely, read a book about something of interest, or develop new ways to establishing and expanding your professional network in the virtual environment. 
  6. Support. Rarely (especially these days) are we alone. Look at your support systems to help you. Contact a friend or professional colleague to get another perspective about a project or decision. Tell someone what you need, and ask for their help. Don’t isolate yourself. Times of disruption and change are opportunities to rely on and collaborate with others.

I’d like to know how you experienced the disruptions of 2020. What are you doing to exercise resilience? What will you do to continue to build your resilience? Please share in the comments below.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels


© 2021, John L. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.

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1 Comment

  1. Yoga, meditation, and trying to practice mindfulness in everything I do. Being of service, taking time to be grateful, and calling in the calvary when needed.

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