LifeXchange

Resilience Theory: 3 Ways to Develop People to Face Any Challenge

3 powerful tools for creating more resilient people and teams

Why some people succeed where others fail. The power to change behaviour. And teams that rally behind you in a crisis. For years, psychologists have been studying people to try and pinpoint what makes some of us better at bouncing back and persevering in the face of adversity and crisis. In other words, what makes us more resilient. 

And the culmination of that work is what we today call resilience theory. It’s a way of understanding the biology, psychology and social aspects behind what enables people to get back up and try again, no matter the odds.

And, if you haven’t figured it out yet, this is exactly what experts say the world needs more of today. In our homes, in our communities and in every company on the planet. We need to be creating more resilient people. And these are some ideas on how to do that:

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WHAT IS RESILIENCE THEORY?

First, we need to know what resilience means. In her 2014 work on resilience in leadership, Dr Janet Ledesma describes resilience as “the ability to bounce back from adversity, frustration, and misfortune”, citing Dr RR Greene’s 2002 study on holocaust survivors that suggests the word resilience “originates from the Latin word resiliens, which refers to the pliant or elastic quality of a substance”.

So, it’s almost like “being like water”. Is there a rock in your way? Flow around it, no stress, no breakdowns. You can almost imagine resilience as being related to one of nature’s most powerful rules: Following the path of least resistance.

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Problem is, we humans aren’t quite wired that way. If you look at how your brain works you’ll see how dependent our psychological development is on our environment, our upbringing, our cultures and circumstances. Not all of us have an equal opportunity to learn to be as resilient as water. But in a 2002 paper, organisational behaviour specialist Dr Fred Luthans described resilience as a “developable capacity to rebound or bounce back from adversity”.

And he said “developable”, as in you can learn resilience or develop it in others. And that is what resilience theory is all about – it’s seeing how some people become more resilient so that we can teach and grow it in others. And it’s used all over society today, from nursing to social work, interventions to education. Plus: There’s a lot of evidence that says it could be the key to unlocking real performance in your business.

3 EXAMPLES OF RESILIENCE THEORY YOU CAN USE TODAY

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1. UNDERSTANDING HOW RESILIENCE FORMS

One of the pioneers in this field in the mid-1900s was German-American psychologist Erik Erikson. He laid the groundwork by developing a model of how humans develop psychosocially (how our psychology develops in society). And it’s absolutely fascinating. 

Erikson’s model breaks human development up into 7 cycles or stages, from birth to death. And at each stage, we’re challenged with a “crisis” or “decision” to make about ourselves and the world. And the outcome of each decision – how we respond to that crisis – will either build or break down our resilience as a person.

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He talks about things like trust, independence, autonomy, developing skills etc. seeing each of those as mental hurdle we must conquer.

Now, interestingly, you can almost take those same 7 stages and apply it to any relationship between people or teams. When you take on a new employee, for example, it’s almost as if the same 7 stages occur from when they first start. And how you develop the relationship along the way affects how resilient the relationship might be. See more on Erikson’s Theory.

2. LEARNING FROM NATIVE TRIBES

Another awesome theory comes from studying resilience among Native American tribes. Now, if you don’t know, the few remaining Native American societies and cultures in the Americas are one the whole fraught with extreme social issues. From widespread substance abuse to poverty, criminality to a refusal of education. It’s almost as if a large part of the society acts like a “defeated nation”.

Yet, despite this, there are some golden and shining examples of individuals and small tribes within this society that manage to overcome all these challenges and achieve amazing things. One such person, a Dr Martin Brokenleg of the Lakota Tribe, studied this phenomenon at length and came up with a theory about how it works.

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He and his associates break resilience down into four interdependent components we can all learn from tremendously. Discover the Circle of Courage.

3. A RESILIENCE THEORY SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR BUSINESS

Building on all of these, Dr Cobus Oosthuizen (PhD Human Behaviour) and his team at LifeXchange Solutions, who research human behaviour in business specifically and helps organisations manage change and achieve exponential growth, developed a resilience theory that works extremely well for companies.

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LifeXchange takes what we know about resilience development and ties it directly to some of the most exciting new frontiers in business – increasing profits through social capital, boosting employee performance through engagement, upping performance and enabling incredible new growth just by changing how you approach the people in your company.

If you haven’t discovered it yet, see how to exponentially grow your business using the Human Development Cycle.

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

Richard Branson famously said: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

And the more we learn about how humans actually think and work, the more we see the truth in this every day. That’s why we at LifeXchange Solutions have devoted ourselves to understanding what drives human behaviour through neuroscience (see neuromanagement), psychology and sociology (see understanding company culture). And we specialise in showing companies how to use that to drive their business growth.

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So if you’re looking sustainable and evidence-based new ways of growing your business, please feel free to contact us.


BONUS: WHO DEVELOPED RESILIENCE THEORY?

Resilience theory wasn’t really developed by a single person. Dr Norman Garmezy was one of the first to use the word resilience in the 1900s in his pioneering work on stress, competence and childhood development. And a few years before him, developmental psychologist Erik Erikson laid some of the groundwork for the ideas of resilience in his work on psychosocial development.

Since then, there have been countless great researchers that have carried on the work. In South Africa specifically, the likes of Professor Adrian van Breda has been doing remarkable work on resilience since the 1990s.

LifeXchange Solutions has learned from and built upon the lessons of the frontrunners, incorporating a lot of the understanding of human behaviour into virtually all our organisational solutions.

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