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A wise firms builds healthy resilience among its employees, says Jodie Gibbens

As business leaders, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to build a workforce of healthily resilient individuals who reflect, recharge, learn and bounce back stronger from both bad and good experiences. But if we enlarge the lens to focus on the corporate system itself, what does it mean for a company to have healthy resilience? How do businesses bounce

back stronger and wiser from adversity? And how can they nurture a purposeful and resilient emotional culture? Perhaps we can apply what we know to be the five pillars of personal healthy resilience to a company: that is to say, Purpose, Attitude, Understanding of Self,

Support and Energy.


In 1970, the economist Milton Friedman put forward the highly influential theory that a company has a primary responsibility to maximise returns to shareholders, while employees are motivated by self-interest to maximise their utility in the pursuit of money, status and power. But Friedman’s doctrine increasingly lacks relevance in today’s business world. Companies are being held to account to deliver on a purpose that serves not only clients,

customers and consumers, but also communities and the planet. Employees have a growing expectation to fulfil their potential through work that is aligned with their values and gives them a sense of purpose of their own. This is particularly true of Millennials and Gen Z. I predict that we will see the purpose revolution unfold in the coming decade, as companies pause to reflect on their higher why and help their employees to find their own sense of sustainable success.


All companies need a culture that supports high engagement in order to enable high performance. This kind of entrepreneurial growth mind set (collaborate, try, fail, learn, succeed) thrives in smaller, more agile businesses, while larger companies tend to be hindered by bureaucracy, legacy systems and bad behaviours. A culture of trust is necessary for workers to take the smart risks that are critical for sustainable success. The challenge is to encourage this while also evolving new strategies, systems and processes. Too often, we see good intentions around developing an entrepreneurial mindset without tough choices being made to enable the systems and processes to deliver on it.

Understanding of self

The workforce of the future will be expected to offer maximum agility amidst unprecedented disruption, instability and transformation. In this uncertain world, soft skills such as self awareness, empathy, courageous conversations and open-minded thinking will be crucial. However, self-reflection and the sharing of insights, feelings and needs do not always come easily and can be difficult to embed in a company culture. Every company needs to take particular care to listen to its workforce – and that means both formal and informal feedback.


The paradox of the world we live and work in is that, while we are more connected than ever before, communication skills are on the wane. And yet it’s connections between people that create increased commitment to the company. That means companies need to embrace courageous communication, connectivity that is authentic (no matter what the medium) and purpose-driven collaboration in order to create high-trust, high-support networks that transcend the bureaucracy of pre-alignment meetings, mindless conference calls and over-reporting. The happier, well-supported workforce will be engaged in higher trust relationships that deliver efficiency, innovation and impact.


Without question, one of the biggest challenges of an organisation is how to

maintain engagement, motivation and energy: how to get people off the hamster

wheel to pause and breathe, to reflect, enjoy, recognise, learn and celebrate.

Teams can regain control by learning to better manage their energy accounts.

Focusing on purpose, attitude, understanding and support, as detailed above, can create

the kind of sustainable behavioural change that will impact individual engagement

and energy as well as cultural momentum.

And that’s healthy resilience. It’s not about struggling on regardless of how we are functioning or feeling, but about recognising the ways we can recharge and learning how to apply them. This is true for both the individual and the organisation. Making the space to lead in a company is the single most important thing we can prioritise. People are amazing when you

give them the space to thrive.

Jodie Gibbens is the founder of Aesara Partners, international specialists in executive coaching and consulting to enable leadership, team and cultural transformation.

British Airways March Article Resilience
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