The term “resilience” (or “resiliency”) crops up often these days; it’s a trait that is in high demand as people cope with stress from pandemics and natural disasters, economic roller-coasters, and employment demands such as taking on extra work in organizations that are short-staffed. Everyone needs it, including—or especially—leaders.

How can L&D pros design resources that foster resilience in workers at all levels, with a special focus on leadership development resources?

Resilience is …

Life throws challenges at everyone, whether at home, school or work; with families, friends, bosses, or employees. Resilience is the ability to cope with challenges, face and address them, and keep moving forward. People and organizations that are resilient bounce back from adversity and grow stronger—rather than giving up, failing, or disappearing.

Being resilient doesn’t mean that a person doesn’t face or feel stress, grief, or other emotional responses to challenges and setbacks, but it means they have the tools and behaviors that enable them to cope with adverse events and the emotions those events bring.

Resilience is a skill set that people and organizations can develop, hone, and grow.

Resilience reveals true leaders

It’s easy to lead during calm times, when things are going well personally and professionally, the company is doing well, and your team is peopled by rock stars who constantly top their own performance. It’s what happens when the company is going through a tough transition or a bad year, when there’s high turnover or customers are dissatisfied, that reveals the strong leaders—because they are resilient and effective as they calmly lead their teams through the turbulence.

How can learning leaders foster resilience?

Learning leaders and L&D teams can foster resilience in employees and leaders as part of their professional development programs. First, though, they need to understand the elements and skills that enable people to become resilient. Then, they can build elements into training and collaboration tools that help employees and teams develop or  sharpen those skills.

Encourage broad connections

Workers who are connected to teammates and colleagues across the organization know where they can turn for support and guidance. They also are more likely to feel belonging and know that they make a valued and valuable contribution.

Learning leaders can emphasize collaboration within and across teams and teach workers and leaders how and why to use collaboration tools, whether virtually or on site, to encourage networking and social contact, in addition to strictly-work communications.

Reduce stress

Providing employees with ways to reduce stress at work can improve their resilience. Simulations and immersive training can enable workers to prepare for and practice potentially stressful situations and conversations. This is one way to help them feel less anxious about encountering irate customers, safety disasters, or other challenging situations.

Addressing stress is another approach: Some workplaces offer wellness training or exercise classes or facilities to help employees de-stress; others seek ways to offer greater flexibility and autonomy to workers.

Consider various perspectives

Teaching people to cope with deadline pressure or stressful changes might require coaching or training that encourages them to consider varied perspectives on a situation or envision a range or possible outcomes; empathy and anti-bias training can be helpful in broadening perspectives of employees and leaders at all levels. These initiatives can enhance collaboration and connections among colleagues while also making it easier for workers to adapt to changes in their work environment.

Set goals

Managers deploy a variety of goal-setting models which can provide positive motivation—or serve as a source of stress for employees. Challenge project and stretch goals are important, but may need to be broken into smaller, more immediately achievable components. Setting realistic goals and acknowledging progress toward those goals is a way to reduce stress, motivate employees, and build resilience as workers see their accomplishments.

Teach leaders and managers how to set and track goals with employees—and how to recognize and mark progress. Make sure to build in guidance breaking down ambitious goals and measuring incremental success when training current and potential leaders.

Set and enforce boundaries

An always-on, high-demand work environment escalates stress and erodes resilience. Workers need to be able to set boundaries and disengage. Leadership training should emphasize the need for leaders to set the example—not sending email over the weekend for example, or contacting employees who are on vacation—and encouraging employees to take time off.

Teaching leaders essential management skills should include things like when and how to call and run meetings, how to clearly communicate expectations around job specifics as well as around expectations—when employees are expected to be at work or reachable, for example—and how to model desired behaviors and foster a culture that rewards high performance without demanding 24x7 responsiveness.

Build your resilience with Learning Leadership peers

Shifting learning culture, building a leadership pipeline, or adopting new training strategies can be an uphill climb. Explore these and other challenges and issues with other learning leaders in the Learning Leaders Alliance. Share what works, and hone your skills, and increase your resilience by learning from others as you navigate today’s ever-changing workplace.

The Learning Guild’s Learning Leaders Alliance offers a vendor-neutral global community for learning leaders who want to stay ahead of the curve and for aspiring leaders seeking to build their skill sets. The Alliance Membership package includes access to monthly networking and learning opportunities, exclusive digital events, and content curated for today’s modern learning leader, as well as opportunities to attend in-person learning leadership events held around the globe. Join today!