Resources: Blog Post

November 25, 2015

Resilience – It has to start from the top

Resiliency when faced with adversity

What do we mean by “resilience”? I would describe resilient people as having an optimistic and positive outlook on life. They typically show an ability to navigate life’s crises by developing effective coping mechanisms, and they keep a balanced perspective between negative and positive emotions.

Is it really resilience that needs to be mastered to survive in today’s corporations or is the root of the problem within a corporation’s environment and culture?

Thanks to the early research and developed theories of great humanist thinkers such as Carl Rogers, Erich Fromm and Abraham Maslow, we all have the opportunity of choosing to learn how most of our barriers to personal growth and development are self-imposed. Rogers’ “self-actualization” concept revealed we have unlimited potential for growth and creativity. He proved we can absolutely learn how to increase our self-efficacy and our ability to make things happen both personally and professionally. Decades ago, he championed that everybody is capable of achieving the highest level of “human-beingness.”

SCNetwork’s August presenter, Andrew Soren, asked, “Why hasn’t this taken off in corporations already?”

(A video highlight of Andrew Soren’s SCNetwork presentation is available at the bottom of this post.)

I, too, am mystified as to what stops business leaders from choosing to fully leverage this human capacity of creativity and growth. Saul McLeod, in a 2014 article in Simply Psychology, offers a plausible answer where he cites Rogers’ own words: “For a person to ‘grow,’ they need an environment that provides them with genuineness (openness and self-disclosure), acceptance (being seen with unconditional positive regard) and empathy (being listened to and understood).”

So how do things improve if more leaders don’t stop to understand what’s going wrong with their culture and how to do better? What has to happen before more leaders understand that our very humanness means we act, work, produce and behave with our perception of the truth – and not in accordance with the truth? We live and work on partial beliefs, partial truths and sometimes function on false and invalid beliefs. Could it be possible the theory behind “self-actualization” continues to raise alarm signals in our workplaces? Could it be that the corporate world confuses positive psychology with frameworks of psychology, such as mental health or pathology?

We keep hearing leaders talk about their commitment to building a great company culture where people have a sense of connection, community and caring. Over and over, case studies report that improved productivity and innovation are the result of healthy work relationships in cultures where people care about each other and about their work.

5 habits for leaders

If the concept of “positive psychology” is too right-brained or not strategic enough for the corporate world, there are five easy habits any leader can activate:

1. Clear vision
Constantly work with a clear vision where people understand and most of all are proud of their company’s mission and reputation.

2. Encourage appreciation
Promote a culture where people feel respected and valued. Encourage them to convey their appreciation for each other’s contributions and to help them achieve their potential.

3. Share the decisions
Give people a voice in decision-making. Include, involve and encourage them to share their ideas and opinions honestly. Actively listen to others ideas and opinions without judgment and disagreement.

4. Be authentic
Be a responsible and authentic leader where you put the needs of others first before your own and encourage others to do the same.

5. Celebrate
People are the heart of your organization, celebrate them; celebrate their loyalty and commitment to excellence, innovation and personal growth.

If leaders and corporations are showing a renewed and increasing interest in leveraging positive psychology to improve workplaces, the real question is: Are they ready to change their own belief and values system?

Change has to start from the top. Are they prepared to change the way they think and the way they act?
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This commentary first appeared in Canadian HR Reporter. SCNetwork members can read the accompanying article in SCNetwork’s online library.

Image of Trish Maguire

About the Author
Trish Maguire is a commentator for SCNetwork on leadership in action and founding principal of Synergyx Solutions in Nobleton, Ont., which focuses on high-potential leadership development coaching. Trish has held senior leadership roles in HR and OD in education, manufacturing and entrepreneurial firms. She can be reached at 

Andrew Soren at SCNetwork

Ordinary Magic: Using the science of resilience to build better organizations

Filed under: behaviour, leadership, resilience, trish maguire Tagged: leadership, resilience, trish maguire
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