What Resilience Means To Me /Guest Feature/ by Dianne Stephens

Updated: Oct 24


Resilience is nothing new


It has been around since the beginning of mankind.

The strong desire to be resilient in order to survive is as inherent in humans, as it always has been within nature. The principals are the same: adapt, evolve and pursue ‘successful’ ways to thrive within the environment around us.

What is new however, is that resilience in the workplace has catapulted into the forefront of readers worldwide.


For example - The World Economic Forum listed ‘resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility’ as one of the Top 10 work skills for 2025: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/10/top-10-work-skills-of-tomorrow-how-long-it-takes-to-learn-them/

Learning and Development from findcourses.com are citing resilience as the ‘#1 or #2 must-have important skill in the workplace’: https://www.findcourses.com/prof-dev/l-d-articles/resilience-the-power-skill-of-the-2021-workplace-20292


Resilience to me, is the art of staying aware, observing the changes that are happening and then making adjustments to navigate our way through the challenges. Resilience is not a ‘one and done’ type of activity. Rather, it’s a series of continual adjustments in response to simple questions like ‘what do we do next, what can we do better’ or perhaps even ‘what process should we stop doing?’ The answers to those questions will differ from organization to organization.

If Business Continuity Management (BCM) is the beating heart of an organization, then Resilience must surely be the breath, remaining organs, brain and central nervous system! With all its macro and micro influences, resilience is the ‘whole bang shootee’ of a successful organization.

Risk and resilience professionals are strong partners working together to help ensure adequate response and availability of resources where feasible. Being aware of the risks facilitates the proactive development of plans within an organization’s own risk appetite. There is no beginning or end to resilience, it is an ongoing cycle.


The evolution of the Chief Resilience Officer

Organizational Resilience should be a strategic initiative at the highest level of any company. In the near future I anticipate that several organizations will add the role of Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) to their executive leadership team. The CRO role would receive and process information from every corner of the organization to help support key objectives and continual innovation. The scope of a Chief Resilience Officer would reach far beyond typical functions of Business Continuity (BC) and Crisis Management (CM). His/her responsibilities extend into multiple networks and should not be siloed or done haphazardly. There needs to be a clear sense of vision, objectives and company identity. To be done well, the role of a CRO will require a certain panache and insight. In addition to their innate ability, knowledge and experience, there are a few key traits that make an outstanding resilience leader:

  • Visionary

  • Rapid assimilator of facts

  • Compassionate

  • High emotional intelligence

  • Clarity of thought under pressure

  • Articulate communicator (vertically and horizontally)

  • Heathy sense of humor

  • Strong collaborator and ally

  • Effective decision maker

  • Empowerment of others (setting ego aside)

  • Optimistic and appreciative

  • Innovative

  • Desire to captain the ship with a strong, but with fair hand

There are more characteristics, however, the skillsets above demonstrate the rare blend of attributes our CRO’s will need! Throw in a dash of diversity and tenacity and we begin to paint a clearer picture of the ideal CRO. While keeping financial health always in the forefront, a senior resilience role includes the ability to expand and contract efforts in line with ever-changing global and local concerns. Keeping an organization healthy and buoyant will include developing expertise within teams and empowering them to make decisions. With a strong team surrounding them it will be possible for a CRO to achieve the healthy work life balance which is essential to a robust company eco system.

In order to successfully navigate a situation, the CRO position must have eyes and ears on the broad spectrum of active threats. They need to have a solid understanding of the different resilience disciplines (IM, CM, CC, BC, ITSM, ITDR, EM etc.) and be able to pivot easily between them. They will also need to evaluate the effectiveness of their strategic, enterprise and tactical leaders. While data plays a big part in situational awareness, data alone is not going to surpass human instinct and the drive to survive.


Resilience is here to stay and is a viable profession for the next generation

A career in resilience is here to stay. I’ve noticed within the workplace that resilience professionals are gathering increased respect and becoming more assertively sought after. Within networking groups, local chapters and organizations, the enthusiasm of resilience professionals is on the rise! It’s becoming more common for resilience professionals to collaborate in an informal atmosphere where a delightful exchange takes place between peers. Either specific to an industry or resilience discipline, people are coming together to share thoughts, ideas and insights. This new space of forums, think tanks and information sharing is taking our profession to a whole new level.

The past few decades have produced many pioneers of the resilience profession, yet there is so much more to come. In many ways the BC and DR disciplines have almost reached the limit of their ability to reinvent themselves as a profession (strong words.. I know!). Whereas the extent and reach of resilience is just beginning to scratch the surface. Resilience is in its thriving infancy. A career in resilience is a very good place for a young practitioner to be. Yes, we are hearing a great deal of concern about the outgoing generation and how they have all this experience that ‘must be handed on’. However I have faith that the next generation is well equipped, and may be possibly even more agile and responsive. On one hand those events that the outgoing generation experienced were unique, and definitely helped build strong muscle memory. While on the other hand, substantial advancement in technology now eradicates some of challenges posed during past crises. Some of those limitations simply no longer exist.


Personal Resilience Traits

Personal resilience takes a deeper dive into the mindset and essence of survival:

  • To be a survivor, we have to learn to adapt

  • To flourish, we have to grow consistently and stay flexible

  • To be successful means doing what needs to be done in all kinds of environments. This includes:

  • Staying astute and looking out for potential threats

  • Being cooperative during group efforts

  • Being willing to see things from another’s perspective

  • Keeping calm when everything else seems in disarray

  • Focusing on the problem, clear headed

  • Having the foresight to anticipate things before they happen

  • Being resourceful, making the most of what is available

  • Developing the all-encompassing ‘eyes on everything’ mentality

  • Staying positive

While having some inherent resilience capabilities is helpful, I do believe that additional resilience skills and attributes can be learned along the way. Whether that happens by means of experience or taking advantage of some of the training opportunities that are available.

Leadership are still exploring the importance of expanded resilience roles and what that means to a thriving company culture. As this awareness and understanding develops, the demand for strategic CRO’s will increase. Outgoing resilience practitioners will be generous with their skillsets to help foster in the next generation. Dealing with the fall out, impact and response activities will come as naturally to them, as it did to more seasoned practitioners. Preparing for the unexpected and continuing to rise in the face of adversity is part of our nature. Resilience is here to stay.

 

About Dianne Stephens

Dianne Stephens is described as an enthusiastic and experienced Resiliency professional. During the past 20+ years, she has been responsible for almost all disciplines within the Resiliency umbrella. Her career has spanned multiple industries (Insurance, Electric utilities, Mortgage banking, Business process outsourcing, Travel reservation systems, Apartment leasing systems, and Commercial banking). Her current responsibilities are managing, supporting, and implementing the Enterprise Resilience Crisis and Incident Management programs. Dianne has been responsible for the BCM spectrum across many global regions, including Canada. She is an active member of BCI, ACP, and DRI.










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