Positively Adapting to Change, Challenges & Setbacks

We all experience pressure, setbacks, and change at different points throughout our lives and at work. For many people these experiences can be negative, resulting in a decline in effectiveness and wellbeing both at work and at home. For some, whilst these experiences can be difficult, they emerge from them stronger, better able to cope with the demands of their career and life, and better prepared for the future. It is the ability to adapt to these situations and emerge from them that defines 'Resilience'.

Gina Marescia, a Practice Leader, Consultant & Author of Impactful Leadership: Unlock your Power CABI™, will join us at this year’s virtual Executive Research Forum 2020 on 29 September. We asked Gina a few questions about her session—how resilience relates to belonging and connection to others, and key points from her research-based resilience framework.

Resilience is a word we hear a lot these days, so much so that it may have lost some clarity around its meaning. What does resilience mean to you and why is it important?

Resilience has been a term that has been bandied around for years and I have seen many definitions. It has lost its meaning somewhat because there are so many definitions and meanings out there. My inbox has been inundated with invitations to attend sessions on resilience. I have been working with individuals and organisations for 25 years to develop their own levels of resilience. Over that time I’ve been on a quest to find the best integrated, holistic framework and working definition of resilience. I found that about 12 years ago and have been working with that ever since. Any definition of resilience needs to be research-based and it needs to consider both the wellbeing aspect and the performance piece.

Our working definition is the positive adaptation to setbacks challenges change to achieve peak performance and wellbeing. It is a trait that can be learned and is a series of attitudes and behaviours. At the forum, we will look at this research-based model and ways to use the eight factors of resilience and which strategies will work for you.

You use a holistic research-based resilience framework that has gained quite a following. Can you speak to this?

After working with a range of clients over 12 years and being a working mum, I was looking for a framework that could support individuals both professionally and personally. I was curious to find a resilience framework that people could apply to their every day, not only traumatic life events. What framework could serve us every day as well as during prolonged periods of uncertainty and setback? I went out to my associates and the organisational psychology community. I discovered this framework and started testing it and using it in Asia. I found that it worked on many levels, and for different industries and professions. It looks at your inner world and how you frame that with your own attitude, beliefs, and mindset. It also looks at what you do with that behaviourally and externally. In the session, we will cover how you can utilise any of the 8 resilience factors and then there are 3 or 4 techniques that you can use in a practical way.

With the pressures and challenges life throws our way, building resilience means identifying the factors that impact our ability to cope. What are some factors that you think are relevant to the high-stakes world of senior recruitment?

In the early part of my career, I worked as an in-house recruiter. The recruiters I know are resilient, driven, action-oriented, and want to be successful. They can sustain their energy and performance over a long period of time. But eventually, stress can get to you. In periods of stress, you should stop and say to yourself, "right now, at this moment, what would be the most appropriate, nurturing, and empowering decision I can make?" I like the question because it gives you space and permission to stop and do something different. It might be to pause and do nothing, or it may be to get on and end your ‘procrastination funk’ and make that call to a client or candidate.

We are doing so much that one day merges into the next. The other question to ask yourself each week is “What am I learning and what am I contributing this week?” This will immediately give you an instant self-belief boost. Self-belief is key to building resilience. It allows you to stop and reflect and have space to make the choice to adapt in a positive way.

Is it possible to thrive during a period of prolonged uncertainty like we are in now?

Yes, it is absolutely possible to thrive in periods of uncertainty. But there’s a catch. It is not automatic, you must put in the work. I was experiencing resilience fatigue after six months of disruption and setbacks during the protests in Hong Kong last year. I could see the COVID wave coming and I thought, ‘I’m not really prepared as I’m exhausted’. I started looking at the resilience framework for support. I am not used to just surviving, I want to thrive. In the session, I will share with you the thrive cycle. It is possible to orient back to thrive, but you must do the work and plan a path to get there. You must embrace being in survival mode and what that means for you. You then adapt to your changed circumstances and then look at how you can recover. Only then you can move to the thrive quadrant, but you must move through this journey of being gentle with yourself in these stages. We have specific techniques that can support you to navigate the thrive cycle. I know that people attending the forum want to thrive and want to be doing meaningful things in their careers.

A recent article on ‘The Business of Belonging’ in AESC’s Executive Talent magazine mentioned that belonging, the human need to connect and be part of the group around us may be our most critical need. What is the role of connection in building resilience and how has COVID-19 impacted that?

As human beings, we are social creatures. We thrive on connections and interactions with others. Many people are currently grieving connection due to the impact of COVID-19. There has been a huge loss of interaction with friends, family, clients, and the community. The resilience framework helps by looking at mindset and attitudes as well as the psychological resources to support you.

Emotional regulation and support seeking are a part of connection. To be resilient you need to be working through situations with the support of others. One of the first questions I asked when looking at resilience was, “What are the things we need to do on an individual level to be able to deal with these setbacks and changes in our lives?” But over time I realised resilience is broader than the individual. It is also about how you connect to your support network. It’s about how you frame conversations, reach out, get support, and process issues. This is critical when dealing with change. Connection is critical and so is having the courage, confidence, and ability to connect with people in different ways. Support seeking doesn’t even feature on the radar for some people. In fact, when I first did the test myself it was my lowest rated item. A big lesson for me was that when I am at my most stressed, I close off and start to try and figure it all out myself. I have now learned that I need to reach out to my support network, and it will help me more positively adapt and get back on track towards better performance and wellbeing.

An overarching theme for the AESC in 2020 is purpose. What is the link between purpose and resilience?

I love purposeful direction as a key cornerstone of resilience. It helps you see the wood for the trees and have perspective. It gives the opportunity to tap into why you do what you do. Particularly this year, COVID-19 has pushed us and demanded that we look holistically at ourselves, and at our lives. It forces us to think about what is most important and why are we doing what we are doing?

Recruiters are already familiar with ‘purpose’ because it is a key question when finding suitable candidates. You ask clients, 'why do you need this role? Why does this role exist?' You can turn this analytical approach around and use it for yourself. What is your 'why'? It is critical to see the bigger picture, particularly in the times we live in now. Planning and goal setting has turned into a week to week perspective. If you have a clear sight of what your purpose is, it will give you the energy to move forward through setbacks and change and focus on longer-term priorities. In the session will share my two favourite techniques about how to do this.

What do you hope to provide attendees from your session at our Researcher Forum?

My purpose is to be a catalyst and enable individuals and organizations to find a resilient and inclusive voice. What I want participants to get from the session is value. The value will be to provide a holistic, practical approach to looking at your own resilience. You will be able to have the language to identify where your strengths are and leverage them better. I will show you some techniques to build resilience muscles to set you up for success in the long-term. These are techniques that you can use both on a professional and personal level. I will also share what strategies senior leaders use to sustain performance over long periods of time and deal with stresses to manage their own wellbeing. We will flip the script about what you know ‘resilience’ to be. It is not about grit, gratitude, or mindfulness. I will share with you how you can apply a practical framework of resilience to make a difference in your life.

Watch the full interview