How to develop resiliency

  • Published
  • By Maj. Wisteria Joseph
  • 71st Mission Support Squadron commander
In late March, I had the great fortune to meet Dr. Al Siebert, author of The Resiliency Advantage, at a leadership seminar in Oklahoma City. Doctor Siebert is internationally recognized for his research into the inner nature of highly resilient survivors. His research also peers into the public sector to determine how public service members continue to do what they do every day.

The seminar centered on leadership skills for developing workforce resiliency, which I found to be interesting and confirmed a lot of my previous leadership training. This training was also very timely because it provided good reminders to help me in my job to prepare Vance AFB for the personnel challenges imposed by Personnel Services Delivery, National Security Personnel System, PBD 720 reductions, Force Shaping, Reductions in Force and the impending A1 Transformation which merges manpower and personnel with the services career field.

According to Doctor Siebert, "highly resilient people know how to bounce back and find a way to have things turn out well. They thrive in constant change because they are flexible, agile, creative, synergistic and learn from experience." Resilient people know how to gain strength from adversity. Dr. Siebert also noted that there are five levels of resiliency, just like Maslow's hierarchy of needs,

At Level 1 you need to be able to maintain your emotional stability, health and well-being. This is key to sustaining healthy and energy. A key attribute of resilient people is that they tend to be healthy and rarely have sick days. So instead of teaching "stress management" maybe it is time to incorporate self-reliance. To my amazement, Doctor Siebert is over 70 years of age, yet walks, travels and enjoys life like a man many years junior to his biological age. In my opinion, one good thing about the military lifestyle is that it keeps its members young. Our fitness test, along with our need to maintain a deployable ready posture, drives us to keep physically healthy.

Level 2 is where problem solving skills are integrated. By focusing outward on the challenges you face, you are able to deal better with problems emotionally. So instead of taking things personally, step back, look at problems objectively and you will be amazed at how much of the emotion is removed from the problem itself.

Level 3 turns you inward toward the roots of resiliency. This is the time when you are able to develop a strong inner self through self-esteem, self-confidence and a positive self-concept.

There are 10 key attributes and skills found in resilient people. The 10 attributes and skills are to be playful and have childlike curiosity, to learn from life experiences, to adapt quickly, have a solid self-esteem and self-confidence, have good friendships, loving relationships, express feelings honestly, expect things to work out well, read others with empathy, use intuition, and defend yourself well. By building on these 10 key attributes, you develop resiliency skills at Level 4.

At the top of the triangle is Level 5, where you can exercise your talent for serendipity. At this high level you are able to learn good lessons from bad experiences. When you can clearly look back on anything bad that has happened in your life and learn something from it, you incorporate the highest most level of resiliency. The struggle to bounce back and recover from setbacks can lead to developing strengths and abilities that you didn't even know were possible.

As military members and employees of a military service, each of us deals with adversity constantly. There is no doubt that today's Air Force is more dynamic and going through more change than most people care to encounter. When faced with adversity and change, your mind can create either barriers or bridges to a better future. Resiliency cannot be taught, only learned. However, by using some of the tools Doctor Siebert has revealed, we can further develop our resilient workforce to embrace and learn from the ever revolving door of changes in our military because resiliency gives you a competitive advantage while sustaining your health and happiness.