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Fostering Resilience in the Digital Age

Sunday, May 19, 2019

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence. It is to act with yesterday’s logic.” —Peter F. Drucker

Peter F. Drucker, known as “the founder of modern management,” was an Austrian-born American management consultant whose writings and philosophies changed the leadership game tenfold. The accomplished author of 39 books understood early the importance of breeding resilience in employees.

Serving as a consultant to some of America’s largest corporations, Drucker helped to re-orient business initiatives for success. He ushered in a shift of mentality: from a top-down, corporate greed-inspired approach to a revolution of knowledge workers—in other words, the realization that employees are vital to their companies.

Stress Is Expensive

While vastly different from the world Drucker was operating in, the digital age brings about similar problems for today’s employees. The constant change and uncertainty in the workplace has led to an increase in employees reporting feelings of change fatigue, a lack of clarity, an insufficient understanding of how to perform effectively, and an inability to disconnect from work.

Researchers at Harvard and Stanford universities have found that workplace stress has cost U.S. companies $200 billion in healthcare costs. Furthermore, we estimate that job stress has become a major contributor at around 70 percent of precipitous stock price decline with a cost of $300 billion–$1.5 trillion in lost revenue.

A Call for Resilient Workers

How do we combat these feelings of anxiety and uncertainty stemming from the workplace? Introducing wellness initiatives, like extended PTO or fitness reimbursements, are a great start, but they are not standalone solutions.

What we need to focus on is breeding resilience in our employees—the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties . . . the ability to fail yet still keep moving toward success. A resilient leader can make all the difference, especially in a world of ambiguity and uncertainty.

How Can We Do Better?

Through our research and employee surveys, we’ve identified three key leadership practices that empower organizations to build resilient workplaces, thereby reducing employee stress and increasing organizational performance.


Adopt a team-centric approach.
Shift the focus of responsibility from a single leader or corporate center to the team itself. A 2018 quantitative investigation we conducted into the success and failure of 54 behavior change initiatives at large enterprises in the United States and Australia found that a team-defined, peer-enforced approach dramatically increased the likelihood of success over other approaches.

Change can be scary, especially when someone feels that they are acting alone. An employee is less likely to take their allotted PTO if the entire team isn’t acting with them. Taking a day off often results in fear of a flooded inbox, letting down co-workers, and missing a “can’t-miss” meeting. Team members should encourage each other to prioritize self-care and take advantage of new workplace benefits.

Dynamically establish clarity.
Match expectations with the pace of change. This might seem paradoxical but it’s imperative for your team to thrive.

Conditions shift rapidly, which means that expectations and plans must shift as well if they are going to remain relevant. The key to establishing clarity in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world is not communicating faster but communicating the right things at the right time.

Setting up weekly team meetings or one-on-ones will help create a forum for discussion. While things may change, it’s important for leaders to communicate expectations and confirm that each team member understands what’s expected of them.


Leverage stress.
When we talk about stress, we’re typically speaking of destructive stress—the kind that breeds anxiety and negativity. The key to being a great leader is having the ability to turn that destructive stress into productive stress.

Productive stress motivates the discovery of solutions to problems, creativity, and innovation. Resilient organizations transform destructive stress into productive stress and use it as fuel for adaptation and, in the process, eliminate or dramatically reduce the cause of the stress and its impact. Here’s how leaders can do that:

  • Pause and determine how to lead. When confronted with unexpected issues, managers typically leap into action. It’s important to take a pause here, consult the team, and ease the heightened sense of stress that comes with the unforeseen.
  • Identify root causes. Solving a problem goes further than understanding the consequences; we want to understand the root of the issue. If those aren’t addressed, they will come back.
  • Experiment with solutions. We may not always correctly identify our issues or solutions the first time—and that’s OK. Encouraging your team to experiment and form new hypotheses is essential.

Leadership Development for All

At AchieveForum our vision is to democratize access to the best resources so that every person can lead successfully in today’s constantly changing world. Organizations need resources they can tailor to their needs regardless of their ability to pay, so we’re embracing an open-source model for leadership development content by making the core components of our newest, best leadership journeys available for free and keeping that content fresh. We also will make available at no cost our groundbreaking application that drives sustained behavior change through fun, immersive experiences and environment changes to all organizations who want to create a resilient workplace.


Come visit us at ATD and receive one of all six of our Universal Access learning journeys, no strings attached, and sign up to receive our free Leading in a Gender Balanced Culture application when it’s released later this year. We look forward to meeting you!

About the Author

At AchieveForum, Dave Brazel serves as the chief revenue officer, responsible for driving commercial success globally. A sales leader with more than 20 years’ experience in the leadership development field, Dave has worked with sales professionals at every stage of career development with an emphasis on mentoring and coaching new account executives. Many great leaders have helped to shape Dave’s understanding of leadership—particularly D. J. DePree (founder of Herman Miller). Dave earned a Master’s degree in Theology from Western Theological Seminary in Michigan and a B.A. in Humanities (with a minor in Philosophy) from Hope College (also in Michigan).

1 Comment
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This article is awesome. Recommended to all. I came across a guy who was speaking of something similar. Said something about implementing it through a software called peopleHum. Suggest you check it out
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