This is the sixth and final blog in the series about the building blocks of personal resilience of staff needed to ensure that your organisational change sticks and benefits are realised.

The previous blog outlined the first four principles, and this blog covers the remaining three.

5. Be realistically optimistic: this concerns understanding the story one tells oneself about one’s life, and the choice one makes as to how to explain and make sense of our experiences of life. In this way, the stories that we tell ourselves mould and ultimately define who we are. Fortunately, optimism is a learnable skill.

6. Persevere by being open-minded and flexible: dealing with adversity requires sufficient perseverance on the one hand not to give up too easily, but on the other hand not to be so fixated on driving for action that it creates a blinkered approach.

Creative problem-solving in the face of adversity requires being open-minded and flexible, which enables considering different views and even changing direction. This is best achieved with creative rather than tense energy, and an optimistic rather than a pessimistic attitude.

7. Reach out to others: reaching out involves both reaching out to offer help and assistance, as well as ask for help and assistance. The roles we adopt of parent, committee member and manager often legitimise and facilitate offering help to others. This is in contrast with asking for help for ourselves which is commonly experienced as more difficult. Being in an organisational hierarchy can make this even more difficult, particularly if there are fears about how the request for help will be interpreted.

Nevertheless for whatever reason, both in and outside of organisations, people often delay asking for help longer than in retrospect they feel they should have.


In conclusion, resilience is more than just recovering or bouncing back from tough times. Our research found that successful coping with adversity results in enhanced resilience which in turn enables better coping with future adversity. The research showed that resilience is multidimensional and involves insights; thoughts, feelings and actions – indeed a way of positive living and even thriving which importantly can be learnt and enhanced.

Preparing staff for any large scale change such as new ways of working or to deal with adversity in the form of mergers and retrenchments by assisting them to develop their personal resilience, will result in their being more receptive to the change and better able to cope with the inevitable disruptions. This can be achieved by training using the framework of the resilience building blocks.

From this perspective, resilience is needed as much in the senior levels of the organisation as in the lower levels. Our experience is that personal resilience training is extremely well-received and staff report that it has a lasting impact over time.

The benefit to the organisation is enhanced project take-up assurance, less resistance, and quicker benefit realisation. The benefit to the staff is a life skill which enables them to cope better at work and at home.Isn’t that a double benefit worth creating?


1 Brooks, R and Goldstein, S (2004) The power of resilience: achieving balance, confidence and personal strength in your life, New York, McGraw-Hill

2 Fredrickson, B L (2001) The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, American Psychologist: Special Issue, 56, 218–226.

3 Hamel, G and Valikangas, L (2003) Quest for Resilience, Harvard Business Review, September

4 Maddi, S R and Khoshaba, DM (2005) Resilience at work: how to succeed no matter what life throws at you, New York: AMACOM

5 Meichenbaum, D (2005) Understanding resilience in children and adults: implications for prevention and interventions, Paper delivered to the Melissa Institute Ninth Annual Conference on Resilience.

6 Reivich, K and Shatte, A (2002) The Resilience Factor: 7 Essential Skills for Overcoming Life’s Inevitable Obstacles, New York: Broadway Books

7 Patterson, JL and Kelleher, P (2005) Resilient School Leaders: Strategies for Turning Adversity Into Achievement ASCD

8 Richardson, G E (2002) The metatheory of resilience and resiliency, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, (3), 307 – 321

9 Siebert, A (2005) The resiliency advantage: master change, thrive under pressure, and bounce back from setbacks, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler

10 Tugade MM and Fredrickson BL, 2004 Resilient individuals use positive emotions to bounce back from negative emotional experiences, Journal of psychology and social psychology, 2004, Vol 86, No 2, 320-333.

This series of blogs was based in part on an earlier article by the same author:
Warner, R (2007) Staying the course: building personal resilience for successful organisational change Convergence Vol 8, No 2, 20-23