The ability to bounce back could very well be the most critical skill of the 21st Century. With change as the only absolute certainty, both employees and employers require high-level competency in life-buoyancy skills. It is not just about staying afloat. It is more about surviving and thriving after trauma. It is called resilience, and it requires embracing the challenges of life changes as a reality to work with rather than around.

There isn't an individual or an organization that can accurately predict what will happen next in their world or in the marketplace. It has always been that way, but somehow things moved slower back even a few years ago. Five and ten year strategic plans were not only commonplace but, mandatory for a well-run business. 

Long-range planning is certainly still essential, even vital to the health of an organization. The difference now is that the accuracy quotient and time frames are necessarily shorter as workplace turbulence is greater.

What is individual and corporate resilience? What are the related competencies? How do you recognize if you have it?

For individuals, resilience is the ability to move beyond life disruptions, and to once again experience a happy life. Resilience skills are developed during a time of high stress, or when an unpleasant occurrence forces a regrouping or self-redefinition. 

Resilient people face challenges and they do not break down. They know how to soothe themselves without being victims. They make it through the mire. These individuals redefine their world and create a new and successful life. They have identified their personal and professional criteria for success. They have spent introspective time understanding who they are. They have a strong self-concept and a good self-image. They know what is important to them, and are clear about what they want out of life. They do their life's homework so that when unpleasant things happen, they are ready to respond in a productive way.

The organizational parallel is witnessed by the ongoing ability of a business to recreate itself in response to constant changes in the marketplace. These are organizations that understand what it means to build on its strengths. These are the companies that act on the premise that their employees truly are their greatest assets. They invest time, energy and money in developing their people personally and professionally. They use appreciative approaches in integrating their structures, systems, strategy and people.

Resilient companies need to employ and retain resilient individuals. It's a bottom line issue.

The skill sets involved revolve around the ability to move on after a set-back, regrouping after a defeat, learning quickly from mistakes, turning a negative into a positive, making the proverbial lemonade out of lemons.

The reality is that at any given time, something bad or sad is happening to any number of employees. More frequently now organizations are facing the fact that their employees are less productive when involved in divorce, sickness, loss of family and friends, disappointments or any number of changes in their lives. The bottom line is effected because these individuals are emotionally unavailable during the time of their trauma.

The ability to return to a redefined normal and productive life is crucial to the successful operation of an organization.

Studies indicate that there are certain essential characteristics present in resilient people.

You can ask yourself ten questions to see how resilient you are. 

Resilience is evident when you respond affirmatively to the following:

  • Can you identify ways to make good fortune out of unfortunate experiences?
  • Do you look for lessons learned from difficult situations?
  • Do you think in terms of options and creative solutions?
  • Do you appropriately and honestly laugh at yourself when you are unsuccessful at an endeavor?
  • Do you honor and handle your emotions when recovering from an unpleasant occurrence?
  • Can you express emotional pain in a constructive way?
  • Do you feel connected to others?
  • Do you seek assistance when needed?
  • Are you curious and questioning about your world?
  • Are you adept at adapting?

Organizations and individuals no longer experience the certainty that once existed in corporate America. In most cases the gold-watch banquet with its security and stability are gone. Mergers, downsizing and nontraditional work arrangements are an unpredictable, but common way of life. Coping mechanisms that promote dealing with this ambiguity is high on the list of requisite skills in the business world. Mastering resilience skills creates a competency in accepting and dealing with all this unpredictability.

Survivor and resilience techniques are not new or original concepts. Early research studies were conducted on resiliency as far back as the mid-fifties. Resilience has been a hot topic in health care for the past 15 years. There are definite signs of increased interest. New books are appearing on the shelves. Athletes and computer companies are talking more about how to recover after crashing. Organizations are engaging in resilience training. Resilience experts are in demand.

Today's environment is creating a greater awareness of the need to bounce back quickly from life's set backs and upsets. Although some individuals are genetically predisposed to face unpleasant experiences better than others, anyone who chooses can learn to develop resilience skills.

Resilience is a form of marketplace elasticity. It allows anyone or any organization involved to stretch and bend - to rebound without breaking under the most turbulent of situations.