One of the problems with low-unemployment is that young workers find it too easy to quit and find another job. What they do not understand is that quality employers recognize this pattern as a symptom of low resiliency and often pass on hiring them.

Photo by REUTERS/Brian Snyder

At least that used to be the case.

Many employers are getting so desperate today they ignore this symptom and hire candidates knowing they might be short-term solutions. And, of course, all this does is enable the low-resiliency job jumpers unless you add resiliency-building to your work culture.

What Can Employers Do? Resiliency is a very important quality we look for in team members. Why? Because we know everyone will encounter challenges at work and we want to know how they are going to react to it. Resilient people understand they will bump into adversity and want to fight through it and learn from it, not run from it.

I think there are three things an employer can do to help construct a resiliency-building culture. First, ask two important interview questions. Second, introduce effective coaching in first few days on the job. And, three, practice actions that help people build “grit”, a phrase coined by Angela Duckworth in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Photo by Tim Gouw

Two Interview Questions. If you are not a professional interviewer, you might not think to ask these two questions that get right to the heart of resilience –

  • Tell me about the biggest obstacle you faced, what you did, and what you learned from it?
  • Tell me about the toughest feedback you have received and what you learned from it?

The answers to these two questions give us wonderful insight into the resiliency capacity of the person. If it becomes clear they have little proven resilience-capacity, and you want to take a chance and hire them, then you should focus on coaching them in a way that helps them build this capacity.

Effective First Week Coaching. Whoever will be supervising this new hire should practice Connector Coaching and beginning on day one include objectives the new hire will need to learn to achieve and receive feedback about. When they learn to receive feedback, they are building resilience.

If you read my article No More Negative Waves, Coach you might remember that younger workers often only want feedback that “confirms” their strengths. Here is one of the steps I wrote about that can help coaches during that first week –

Before a coaching session begins you should have at least three clear objectives for yourself, the Coach. First, address how you will act in a relational way during the session. This means how you will behave to strengthen your relationship with the person (eg. they feel valued, confirmed or validated). If stumped, think back to when a motivating coach made you feel valued and confirmed – what did they do? Second, develop in advance an opening “problem framing” question that leads to an objective. And, third, develop a closing “next steps” question.

To give an example for the second and third steps let me use one from one of our business units. In this business we provide personal services to individuals with disabilities and the writing of “progress notes” is critical. A “problem framing” question could be, “Why do you think we need to write progress notes for the individuals we serve?” A follow-up question could be, “What skills do you think you need to write an effective progress note?”

A closing question could be, “What are a few things you need to do beginning this week to master this skill as soon as possible?”

You likely noticed how these questions put responsibility for development back on the person. This subtle, but important step, helps to build resilience.

Actions that Help People Build Resilience or “Grit.”  Angela Duckworth also refers to resiliency as “grit” and defines this as “having the passion and perseverance to achieve especially long-term goals.” If you missed my articles a few years ago on Duckworth called The Link Between Grit and Success here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

One of the interesting concepts I took away from Duckworth’s book is how parents and team leaders or coaches can help others develop grit. Here are four you might find helpful.

  1. Follow-through. A personal quality coaches and parents should teach and model themselves is “follow-through.” Many studies including the Personal Qualities Project conclude that children who develop a follow-through capacity are grittier and become successful team members and workers.
  2. Practice the “hard thing” rule. While Duckworth writes about this in terms of families, I think it can apply to the workplace. The “hard thing” rule means everybody in the family or on the team, including parents/supervisors, work on one specific hard thing at a time. In the family this could be music lessons, a new sport, language lessons, tougher exercise, or college classes. In the workplace it could be a stretch project. No one can quit the “hard thing” until a long trial is complete. And you cannot quit the one hard thing until you have another hard thing to replace it. Although Duckworth writes that for teenagers every hard thing should last more than a year because it helps build resiliency, follow-through, and grit, I think this also applies to the workplace.
  3. Conserve your praise. While you should encourage children and your team members, be careful not to always praise them for doing something well when the they did not. (I would guess Duckworth is not a fan of programs where all the children get trophies.) Teach the team member to try something a second or third time to make it better. The sooner you do this with very new workers, the more it becomes part of their natural behavior.
  4. Don’t be an overbearing coach. As I wrote about in the Connector Coaching article don’t be an overbearing coach, this erodes intrinsic motivation. Leave space in a team member’s schedule for learning and exploration.

In conclusion, if you are a job-jumper yourself, I suggest you explore why you are switching jobs. Perhaps you need to add resiliency-building to your list of development goals, it will make all the difference in your long-term professional development.

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By |2018-11-30T11:12:24+00:00November 30th, 2018|Human Behavior, Leadership Lessons, Learning Styles & Skills|

About the Author:

Steve Wood
Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Work Opportunities Unlimited Inc. In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients. Prior to joining the company, Steve spent 17 years in the banking industry where he was promoted to Senior Vice President and Senior Commercial Loan Officer. He consulted with entrepreneurs and managers in the areas of strategic planning and organizational development at a range of businesses throughout New England. Steve has been a member of the adjunct faculty team at Southern New Hampshire University since 1994 (SNHU). He teaches Leadership and Managing Organizational Change regularly at both the graduate and undergraduate level and periodically teaches Strategic Management, Finance, Entrepreneurship, and other management courses. He also served on the University’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee.

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