The very nature of resilience suggests that we must encounter obstacles, difficulties and issues to have a need to examine our resilience in the first place. The elite athlete must absolutely embrace injury, endure exhaustion and suffer self-doubt… it is simply a part of their journey.

Kathryn Jackson, Resilience at Work: Practical Tools for Career Success



For those of you who have been in the working world for some time, you will no doubt have experienced some pressured periods. Times when it felt like you just wanted to stop the world and get off.


Doing more with less, dealing with uncertainty and having to manage stressed people through periods of rapid change isn’t much fun. In one of my previous corporate roles, the company was restructuring (again!) and walking into a staff briefing to present yet another change to the team was rather like entering a warzone!


So, I have been interested over the last few years to witness in my coaching conversations with leaders that they are referring more and more frequently to the phrase VUCA. Originally coined by the US military to describe the turbulent and unpredictable environment in which they operate, VUCA stands for:


Living in a world that is constantly and quickly changing.


Difficult to predict how events will unfold


Having multiple factors that need to be considered


Nothing is black and white




Today, the term has been adopted by the corporate world to describe our constantly changing business environment. Change in the political world, economic uncertainty and other events outside of our control are making the workplace a stressful place to be but take VUCA down to the individual level and it continues to have an impact:


  • Not knowing if your job will still exist in a few months’ time
  • Being overlooked for a promotion after a restructure
  • Career promises being undeliverable
  • Fighting for your existing job as a result of a merger
  • Scope of your job being dramatically extended with no negotiation
  • Overwhelmed with information


Complicated circumstances fuel strong emotional responses and operating in a VUCA environment can lead to doubt, hesitation, frustration, unpredictable behaviour, resistance and speculation.


So, how can we survive and thrive in an environment where there is constant change?


The answer is by building our own resilience.


Resilience is not just the ability to bounce back after a setback. It is about absorbing the impact of the “fall”, getting back up quickly then adapting and learning to ensure you are in a stronger position than before the fall.


The first step is recognising and accepting that we cannot control everything – this means we can focus instead on the things that we can control and how we want to react to them as they arise.


The more we use our resilience, the better we get at it. People who take themselves out of their comfort zone start to become comfortable at being uncomfortable but those who play it safe and avoid challenges tend to be less able to respond effectively when things don’t go the way they hoped.


The model SCIRT was developed by Kathryn Jackson based on the learning she gained by helping in the recovery after the major earthquake in New Zealand in 2011.  The 4 key element of VUCA can easily be applied to support any individuals in the world of work.


  • Emotional Honesty: Noticing and acknowledging negative emotional impact so you can manage your emotional response.
  • Self Care: Treating yourself as a critical and valuable resource
  • Connecting: Actively building connections with people who want to help you.
  • Learning: Reviewing what you can learn that will help you to adapt.


Here are some other things to help you put your own resilience model into practice


#1 Fail well


“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” – Henry Ford


If you experience difficulties, take stock, learn and adapt. Change your approach and try something new. Failure is an opportunity to try again; it is a learning experience. It feels uncomfortable but it will pass if you don’t dwell on it for too long.


#2 Slump Time


After something happens which impacts you negatively, set yourself an amount of time to dwell on the experience and then move on. For instance, you didn’t get the promotion you thought was yours – give yourself 30 minutes slump time to be with the initial disappointment then talk it through with someone to process it.


#3 Develop your thinking


There are two types of mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, you may experience thoughts like

  • My abilities determine everything
  • I’m either good at it, or I’m not
  • When I fail, I am no good
  • I don’t like to be challenged


If you have a growth mindset, your thoughts will be more along the lines of

  • My effort and attitude determines everything
  • I can learn anything I want to
  • When I fail, I learn
  • I want to challenge myself


One exercise to help you change your mindset is to start an accomplishments file (or boasting book). Take note of all your successes – no matter how big or small. Allow yourself to be proud of what you have achieved don’t brush it off – be gracious and say “thank you” when you receive positive feedback.


You may not be perfect but parts of you will be pretty awesome!