resilience real-time podcast: episode 01
The heart of resilience
resilience real-time podcast: episode 01
Resilience is foundational to who we are and the way that we thrive both individually and as a collective. Peta Sigley gets to the heart of what resilience is and its impact on individual well-being, sustainable high performance, business success and leadership.
Featuring: Peta Sigley
Host: Simon Cook
Production: Claire Taylor
Simon: A Springfox production. This is resilience real-time with Peta Sigley.
Hi, I am Simon Cook and welcome to the first in a series of podcasts with Springfox discussing resilience and well-being. In today’s podcast I want to get to the heart of what resilience is. With me I have Peta Sigley, Chief Knowledge Officer from Springfox. Peta has been working in this space for many years and has worked with many organisations from big corporate consulting firms to universities; from transport to finance and practically everything else in between and has been a source of invaluable support to thousands of people over the years. Peta’s academic credentials include postgraduate studies in economics and psychology, and so she is really well placed to give us some genuine insights.
Hi Peta, great to have you with me today.
Peta: Hi Simon, thank you very much for taking the time to interview me, I really appreciate it.
Simon: Now, Peta, the first question I think many people want to know right now is: what is resilience and can you really make a difference to your current resilience ability? Are you simply born with a certain level of resilience and do some have more than others?
Peta: Great question Simon and it’s such a big question. I think the very short answer to the question is yes across all of that. We are born with an innate level of resilience, but it is very much learnable, and I suppose the first step moving forward is really to try and define the concept that we’re really looking at. So it’s a really large topic and there’s lots of research around resilience out there and what we know as a field of study is increasing as people recognise its importance to the very functioning of who we are and how we thrive individually and as a society.
So, for the people I work with, often when I ask the question of them, “What is resilience?”, I’m often met with silence or, with a little bit of thought people come back to me with one or two words, that they think really defines the space. And that is bounce back, courage, strength, grit, and I would say all those words are really, really important, but what we know is in terms of resilience, it’s more than just those are individual words. What I do know is that people can tell me that they know what resilience looks like if they see it, and so this is often when we look at other individuals, and we deem them to be resilient. So I am going to throw the question back to you Simon and ask you whether you can name somebody that you think is resilient that really encapsulates the concept that we’re talking about?
Simon: Probably my idea, for me I think one of the greatest examples of resilience is Nelson Mandela, in a big – the guy spent 27 years in prison for his opposition to apartheid, and then was able to come out and not only unite South Africa but inspired the entire nation. He became the first democratically elected president in 1994 – for someone who doesn’t have that sort of resilience, would never be able to do something like that, and he’s for me the epitome of what resilience is.
Peta: Brilliant! And I am going to say to you, when I ask the question for people to provide an example of resilience, Nelson Mandela often gets presented as that very person, the very skills that we talk about. So, it’s really nice to be able to look at somebody and start to see how we might model that behaviour in terms of actions out of a podcast like this, you’d really hope that people are able to utilise the information and modelling ourselves on people who are resilient is a really good place to start.
So, in terms of a concept, “What does resilience really look like?”, we know it’s considered as a multidimensional concept, so it really talks to the bio, psycho, spiritual, social side of us. So, it’s no one area at play, but really talking to a combination of elements to make up resilience. Yeah – I think that’s really important. And I think it’s important to understand that we’re looking at all these elements in balance. In terms of a concept, we know this as homeostasis. So we’re not wanting to over-play an area or under-play an area, but looking for balance between these elements in terms of what resilience looks like.
Simon: So, are there any similarities between all these definitions that are out there? What’s the research saying?
Peta: Great question again – thanks Simon. What we know is that there are many fields of study looking at resilience. So, whether it’s around the areas of mental health, whether it’s in the area of general medicine, psychology or sociology, we do know that there are some common things that come out in terms of the definition. So, what we know is that there’s typically an event, so an adversity or a challenge, a set back, and we then have a response to that. And they’re really our coping strategies. From there, with a little bit of time there’s an opportunity to consolidate what we’ve learnt – to grow, to adapt, and that’s where resilience really starts to come to play at that point. And then we know that there is a flow on effect on well-being. So, many people define resilience as bounce back, which is really great. But that really talks to the coping strategies that we have on hand. We really need to be thinking of resilience as a broader concept – so, to know that there is more is probably really important. So if I was to give you a consolidated definition, it would be around resilience being the healthy integration, adaptation and positive functioning over time, in response to adversity or challenge.
Simon: Brilliant! That’s great. One thing I know about you Peta is that you have worked with so many people over the years, that you will have a very clear definition that we can use really practically. So, what’s your definition of resilience that we can work with?
Peta: Yes, I agree Simon. I mean it’s all very well and lovely to have a beautifully crafted statement around resilience, but what can we have as anchor points to remind us of these concepts and also facilitate some form of action. So beautifully at Springfox, we really come down to four key words, and that is bounce – bouncing back from challenge, but also bouncing forward. What have you learnt? Where are you going? How are you going to get there? We often talk about courage – reaching out and beyond one’s perceived level of skill and moving beyond what you’ve always done. So, you are really stepping outside that comfort zone. We talk about creativity. So, we’re really at the heart of problem solving, looking at new ways of doing things and importantly this concept of connection – so something bigger than self. This true sense of thriving – in summary bounce, courage, creativity and connection, is what we would say.
Simon: That’s a great definition. I have to say that I do rely on that every day. And some days more than others. But Peta, why is resilience so important?
Peta: Wow – you really do come out with the hard hitting questions Simon. Resilience – why is it important? Well, we know that it is a foundational concept around human functioning and thriving. We know that from a body of research it’s a proven pathway to well-being. And onto the concept of sustainable high performance – not peak performance, but us as individuals within organisations, society, really stepping up and able to perform at a really high level, which is fantastic. The other thing I notice is, and the research again supports this, is that resilience only really develops once we’ve had time to reflect – to really understand and glean from our experiences, that ability to move forward. And so for our listeners, I’d really like them to think about resilience in terms of that umbrella shape – the canopy of an umbrella. So we know that when there’s no exposure to stress or challenge, there’s no opportunity to grow and develop resilience. And maybe this is a concept that we talk a little bit more about, when we talk about resilience in kids. We also know that too much exposure to adversity – to trauma, actually means that I have an inability to rebound and it just is too much for me to cope with. So too much, not enough, then I’m not really playing in the space of resilience. So we do need some exposure to adversity – it is not to be avoided totally, is what I would say here.
Simon: That’s a great insight – I really loved that on a personal level. And I guess, that you know, for businesses, that if I’m a leader, have you got any insights as to what role resilience might play in business success and team leadership.
Peta: Absolutely. So we know that organisations are built by people for people, and so when people are happy and functioning well, then we are going to see those flow on effects, in terms of productivity, engagement scores, client retention, trusting leadership. So we’re really wanting that well-functioning mechanism to support our workers, our team, our staff. Within our own research studies, what we find in different countries, in different industries, different organisations, that when there is low levels of resilience, there tends to be a high stress environment, which also then reflects in low levels of trust, and we see people operating in areas where they are hyper-vigilant, waiting for the next negative thing to happen, high levels of worry, sense of overload and these really chronic symptoms of distress. When organisations invest in formal training around resilience, we actually see the opposite come to play – we see higher levels of fulfilment, higher levels of focus, better levels of creativity within the individual, within the team dynamic, and we really start to see that higher level of functioning. Interestingly enough Simon, it was a participant that really highlighted this to me. He went back in terms of feedback to his organisation, and said, well you know we do first aid training annually as a compliance requirement, and we get a lot out of that. And that’s all around what might happen – interestingly enough this course was our every day. This is the stuff we do every day. And I can’t understand why we’re not doing this every year. And I thought for the first time, this really does speak to the importance of resilience at that ground level for staff, but also for leadership and organisations. I love that – preparing for something that may happen versus something that’s happening every single day – that’s so, so true.
Simon: My next question, I think Peta, is that, that’s a really good lead into perhaps you helping us understand what the characteristics of resilience are. So, what would you say are the characteristics of resilience are?
Peta: So again, being the Chief Knowledge Officer, I always default to a body of research and published papers to draw on as well as their own research, which I think is important. There was a beautiful article written by Shastri, who outlined the characteristics of resilience, and they go to talking about how we are able to control when and how we remember events. Particularly if there’s been some sort of trauma or adversity to that event. Importantly, we’re able to integrate not only the memory of the event, but the emotions that are associated with that event. And that we can regulate our emotions and our responses when thinking about those events. We’re certainly able to control any symptoms of distress that we might feel in response to that. I think it’s important to note here, that when we talk about emotions – probably coming up later in the podcast series, that no emotion is incorrect or wrong. It is important to have all those emotions. But how we work with them is really important. In terms of other characteristics we’re looking at maintaining our level of self-esteem, and there’s really some cohesion around the event – our emotions to that, our thoughts about that, and our actions. And I really love that when we start to talk about a supply chain of resilience. That we’re able to develop secure bonds with each other and that we have some level of positive meaning, particularly post-event, something that gives us purpose and hope to move forward. I think that really nicely summarises those characteristics.
Simon: I think it really does and I can see those four words of the definition of resilience come loudly through as a result of each one of those characteristics.
So before we close, I think it really important – I’d just love to ask you the question – outside of those formal resilience training programs, and obviously they exist and they’re really helpful. What would your top tips be for someone to start their own resilience journey? What would they be looking for?
Peta: Again Simon, a really important factor here – action and being able to, what we term, operationalise a concept is so important. So the first step is understanding the concept. What is resilience? What does it mean to you? Looking at those bounce back strategies. What are your coping strategies to navigate a space? But then thinking about some of the more positive things you can do. And a really good anchor point to that or a sign post to that, is looking at those people you deem to be resilient. What are they doing? What are they putting into practice and how might you be able to model that? I think it’s important to say people like Nelson Mandela are amazing. Absolutely. But don’t forget our local heroes here. Don’t forget our own family members. Don’t forget the ability of self to operate with resilience. So it’s ok to look a little closer to home for those examples as well.
Simon: That’s really, really great advice. Peta thank you so much for your time today. I’ve certainly got a better handle on what resilience is, and the characteristics of it and a definition that I can use everyday. So I’m really looking forward to the next time you get the chance to sit down and talk about our next resilience podcast topic. Thanks very much.
Peta: Thanks Simon, I really appreciate your time.
Simon: This is a Springfox production hosted by me, Simon Cook, edited by Claire Taylor, music written composed and produced by Josh Jones. Tune in next time wherever you find your podcasts or check out our website springfox.com. Don’t forget to like and subscribe to help others find this podcast. find out more about Peta Sigley