Resilience - Identification

Resilience – Identification

In this series, I am introducing you to the twenty superpowers that leaders need to possess to create an environment for resilience. This is an environment in which individuals and teams are resilient in the face of constant change.

Individual resilience is critical when the world around us is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Resilience means we can adapt to difficult situations and not just survive but thrive. Unless we do, the stress will overwhelm us, and we will suffer physically and mentally.

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Each week we will explore one of those twenty superpowers.

Superpower – The Identifier


The Identifier identifies the signs of low resilience early and takes immediate action. When an individual shows signs of low resilience it is often a mental health issue.

It could be the result of stress, anxiety, fatigue, or other factors.

The Identifier constantly looks for signs of low resilience so that action can be taken before the situation worsens.

The Identifier looks for the following:

  • Change in behaviour – a person’s behaviour is different to their normal behaviour. This could be increased irritability, agitation or cynicism.
  • Motivation – a person who all of a sudden lacks motivation for their job whereas previously they had a sense of purpose and drive.
  • Increased mistakes or lapses in judgement – a person who you know is competent and good at their job starts making errors or poor choices.
  • Focus – reduced concentration and having trouble focusing.
  • Problem-solving – becoming overwhelmed by simple problems.
  • Sick leave – increased sick leave being taken. High rates of minor illnesses increasing. When low resilience occurs it is not uncommon to see a corresponding rise in absenteeism and sick days.
  • Tiredness, weariness, or sleepiness – signs include dropping heads, incessant yawning, and eyelids that seem to be closing.
  • Interoffice conflict – lack of collaboration between employees or simmering feuds; decreased interaction in meetings and continued unresolved conflict.
  • Planning – lack of planning for the future. More reactive behaviour only responding to daily issues than proactive behaviour anticipating issues and opportunities.
  • Productivity – a decrease in productivity for no apparent reason.
  • Morale – decreased morale. Employees look down and disengaged.
  • Language – use of defeatist language such as “I can’t” or “It won’t work”.

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Leaders have to recognize that they don’t have to have the answers to a person’s low resilience. The cause may be something over which they have no control. They have to recognize that they are not medical practitioners, psychologists or psychiatrists.

The Identifier, having identified low resilience, reaches out to the person and asks “Are you ok?”

R U OK? is an Australian non-profit suicide prevention organisation, founded by advertiser Gavin Larkin in 2009. It revolves around the slogan “R U OK?”, and advocates people to have meaningful conversations with others that could save lives.

The R U OK website (link in the Links section) has amazing resources – many available to download – that can assist in (a) identification of low resilience and (b) knowing what to do. The following four steps are from the R U OK website.[1]

  1. Ask R U OK?
  • Be relaxed, friendly and concerned in your approach.
  • Help them open up by asking questions like “How are you going?” or “What’s been happening?”
  • Mention specific things that have made you concerned for them, like “You seem less chatty than usual. How are you going?”
  • If they don’t want to talk, don’t criticize them.
  • Tell them you’re still concerned about changes in their behaviour and you care about them.
  • Avoid confrontation.

You could say: “Please call me if you ever want to chat” or “Is   there someone else you’d rather talk to?”

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  1. Listen with an open mind
  • Take what they say seriously and don’t interrupt or rush the conversation.
  • Don’t judge their experiences or reactions but acknowledge that things seem tough for them.
  • If they need time to think, sit patiently with the silence.
  • Encourage them to explain: “How are you feeling about that?” or “How long have you felt that way?”
  • Show that you’ve listened by repeating back what you’ve heard (in your own words) and ask if you have understood them properly.
  1. Encourage action
  • Ask: “What have you done in the past to manage similar situations?”
  • Ask: “How would you like me to support you?”
  • Ask: “What’s something you can do for yourself right now? Something that’s enjoyable or relaxing?”

You could say: “When I was going through a difficult time, I tried this… You might find it useful      too.”

If they’ve been feeling really down for more than 2 weeks, encourage them to see a health professional.  You could say, “It might be useful to link in with someone who can support you. I’m happy to assist you to find the right person to talk to.”

Be positive about the role of professionals in getting through tough times.

  1. Check-in
  • Pop a reminder in your diary to call them in a couple of weeks. If they’re really struggling, follow up with them sooner.
  • You could say: “I’ve been thinking of you and wanted to know how you’ve been going since we last chatted.”
  • Ask if they’ve found a better way to manage the situation. If they haven’t done anything, don’t judge them. They might just need someone to listen to them for the moment.
  • Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference.

The conversation may also inform The Identifier of actions they can take to prevent low resilience in the workplace.



You can read more in Karen’s Leadership and Resilience series, here

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