When companies think about operational resilience, the focus is typically on ensuring the business has the right policies and procedures in place. But there is a layer that often gets overlooked—the resilience of the people who work in the business. That was the topic of the inaugural Women in Risk and Control webinar: Resiliency and maximising your personal potential.

“You can have the most wonderful systems and processes, but if you don’t have resilient people who are executing them, you don’t have a chance,” says Sonja Jackman, Chief Control Officer for EMEA at BNY Mellon and a member of Acin’s Women in Risk and Control Leadership Team.

Personal resilience is not something that is innate, it is something that builds up over time like a muscle, says fellow leadership team member Bukola Adisa, founder and CEO of Career Masterclass, an online career development platform.

“You do need resilience to go the long haul,” she says. “Career progression and success is not linear. I’ve had periods where I’ve had to go backwards and draw on every ounce of resilience that I had to be able to fudge through. Resilience isn’t a destination, it’s not something you attain, it’s something that you grow—the more you do it, the better you become.”

But even the most resilient of people can get worn down and need sufficient respite. For Rosie Warin, CEO of Kin&Co, a culture and behaviour change consultancy, this means businesses that want to attract and retain the next generation of talent need to create an environment where employees can be open about how they are feeling. If they are having a bad day, they need to know they can seek support from their manager and co-workers.

This ability to be open and ask for help when needed is critical, because every time your resilience is diminished, it can take a long time to get back to the same level that you were before, says Adisa.

“Don’t persevere under the burden of the strong woman—it is a punishing and very damaging myth,” she says. “We can get into this performative mindset to just keep going when sometimes it is actually ok to stop and say you can’t today.”

Warin says it is important to learn to say no and not always feel obliged to say yes at work, particularly if you already have too much on your plate.

“It doesn’t mean you’re not being a good employee or good worker. There is strength and maturity and professionalism in saying no and managing your own resilience,” she says.

Jackman likens this mentality to the instructions you get on airplanes if there is a loss in cabin pressure.

“Put your own mask on first,” she says. “You can’t be resilient if you don’t look after yourself. Be kind to yourself, be open and share the load. The more we can share the load, the better we can perform.”

But what if you work for a manager that is aware that your resilience is low and doesn’t take any action to resolve it? Adisa says it is best to avoid escalating with HR unless all other possible remedies have been exhausted. Instead, try to make your manager understand with facts and evidence explaining why your resilience is strained, and if that doesn’t work, perhaps find another ally on your team who can help support your concerns and move the conversation along.

This is also why a healthy culture is important for firms to drive the right behaviour across their organisation.

“If you can harness it effectively, it’s a very strategic driver for growth,” says Warin. “It’s not a fluffy nice-to-have, it’s something that will transform your business for the better.”

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