Using resilience skills to cope in uncertain times

Learning resilience skills helps people cope with uncertainty and ambiguityThese are two of the aspects of VUCA, which stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. 

When you are able to be resilient in uncertain and ambiguous times it provides you with the ability to succeed in the midst of a high pressured, fast moving and continuously changing environment

'Resilience is the human capacity to deal with, overcome, learn from or even be transformed by adversity’. (Edith Grotberg)

It applies to everyone at the moment!

At some level everyone I know is facing uncertainty right now in one way or another.  The shenanigans with Brexit is having a ripple effect and winding its way into the fabric of how people and organisations think and act.  Central government changes are creating major challenges for all three sectors above and beyond this.  Most people in today's workforce would agree that change is constant and stressful, and that on top of this, there is the VUCA environment to cope with.

A short article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) some years back highlighted that VUCA could be dismissed as the latest trendy ‘catch-all’ statement because 'of course it’s crazy out there’. However, the four aspects VUCA stands for are distinct and require different thoughts and responses that have depth.  And the fact is, if you pay attention and think about each of these aspects, you’ll be able to formulate actions and ideas with a more purposeful mindset - something a resilient person learns to do - in tough and uncertain times.  For me, therefore, VUCA is a framework to help make sense of the constantly changing challenges brought on by politics, economics, society and the environment, and as a consequence, learning resilience skills is part of helping deal with this. 

The key to unlocking how, is to shift the mindset.  Individually and collectively we need to move away from an approach based around problem solving and planning aimed at reducing uncertainty, to a situation where progress is made by actively engaging with uncertainty

Get used to being uncomfortable

A key action for everyone in needing to live and work in the VUCA world is to get used to being uncomfortable and resist the temptation to cling on to outdated, inadequate processes and behaviours.  This shift requires some different skills and capabilities.  For leadership it's agility.  For employees, learning resilience skills is something everyone can and should do. 

Resilient people have the right qualities to do this.  They -

•         Can turn bad into success, learn from it and change

•         Can let go of old internal structures of thinking & behaving and create new ones

•         Are able to “bounce forwards”

•         Have the attitude & skill set that enables them to cope efficiently

•         Can be tested and come through

•         Have a true view of reality and interpret set backs well – focus on what is in their control and options for taking action

•         Understand and live with the fact no one has a fully controlled life and the one person we do control is ourselves

At work take the time to work on embracing VUCA challenges together

1.     Resilient people can work and live with uncertainty by using their resilience skills together. One of the aspects of resilience is asking for support and being able to talk through things.  Don’t do things on your own and don’t ‘suffer in silence’.  That means taking responsibility for improving your own resilience as well as supporting others.

2.     Information can be in short supply or doesn’t exist in a VUCA environment but coping with this is to focus on what the outcome is (direction of travel) and what is in our control, and then what options are available right now for taking action.  There is no mileage in blaming management or complaining about lack of latest information, as in this environment it doesn’t exist.  Resilient workers understand this.

3.     You only need to know the first step.  We don’t start things, or don’t know where or how to begin because we can’t get our minds round the WHOLE thing. We don’t take the first step because we can’t figure out the tenth or twentieth one.  You only need to know the first step.

4.     Plan, do, review.  Learning together and changing things as you go along, accepting this is fluid and not fixed, helps everyone’s resilience.  Resilience is about learning and overcoming things to bounce forwards.

5.     Deal with and acknowledge stress and anxiety.  Help and support everyone through training and occupational health support.  Make sure managers are trained to manage stress well.  Make it easy and ok to communicate and talk about VUCA and the impact it is having and empower people to take positive steps, even if they are small ones, that help them become better with uncertainty and ambiguity.  Help people use a challenge response rather than a reaction response.

I facilitate half day VUCA workshops for managers so get in touch if you'd like to discuss this further.