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Building resilience in ever changing times

Leading a charity with education at the core, 2021 kicked off with an all-team meeting and a session entitled ‘Building resilience in ever changing times.’ The session had been planned a couple of months before – less than 8 hours later, Lockdown 3.0 was upon us and schools were closed again. Our resilience muscles were about to be tested again.

At that session we were joined by author Cathy Madavan, helping us think through some of the principles outlined in her book, Irrespressible. As we have navigated the last couple of months, I find myself returning repeatedly to some of the concepts Cathy helped us think through, including ‘Do the next right thing,’ ‘Fill up your tank’ and ‘Build your tribe.’

The re-opening of schools for all children

Now at the start of March we are once again planning for the re-opening of schools on Monday and a return to face to face delivery. I am struck afresh by the incredible resilience of the whole team at SFE. Undaunted we have once again, adapted and transformed delivery, innovated, and worked through obstacles, ensuring courses and consultancy are delivered and music education continues in homes and schools across the City and beyond.

Cultivating resilience

Along the way, I have been digging a little deeper into the subject of resilience. In January we considered that conventionally pre Covid, resilience has often been described as ‘an ability to bounce back from setbacks’ - almost like an internal resolve or internal grit. We explored the fact that instead it can be cultivated and nurtured, as circumstances (yes Covid-19, but also the myriad of other challenges which are thrown at us) develop. This view is explored in an article in Harvard Business Review (HBR), The Secret to Building Resilience (1), in which the importance of developing strong relationships and networks is highlighted. Those relationships and connections can help us step back and see the bigger picture and unravel the complexities of a situation. As advocated by the authors, ‘resilience is a team sport.’ The networks need not be limited to the professional arena but may come from all works of life: sport, faith, charity work, or the myriad of opportunities to connect over Zoom!

Of course, the challenge with the pandemic is that the challenges have been continuous – and whatever someone is coping with in the work environment, there will be so much more going on behind the scenes, much of which may be hidden. We will all find different strategies to cope – personally, I have found sticking to a pre work morning routine (involving exercise and quiet time) so much more important than pre pandemic … as well as a new-found interest in plants/nature and trying the occasional on-line painting tutorial (alongside regular virtual catch ups with friends, and lots and lots of walks!).

Reverse culture shock

The re-opening of schools' marks stage 1 in the roadmap … we cannot be sure of the exact timings but at least we can be reassured that there may be a way out of restrictions over the next few months. As we emerge from Lockdown 3.0 there is effectively a UK wide change management project underway. Many have worked at home for a full year, whilst restrictions have varied along the way. Simon Barrington helpfully explores the possibility of reverse culture shock in his article on LinkedIn (2). Any of us who have been to cultures experiencing extreme poverty will recognise reverse culture shock. Whilst it is something I am familiar with from travels to some of the poorer African countries and Brazil, I never thought it could be a reality from staying in the UK. Simon’s article reminds us that as the next few weeks and months unfold, we will all react differently – and so paying attention to the individual has never been more important.

(1) The Secret to Building Resilience, Rob Cross, Karen Dillon and Danna Greenberg, Harvard Business Review, Jan 2021

(2) Why you need to be ready for Reverse Culture Shock as we exit lockdown, Simon Barrington, 8 February 2021


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