Resilience in the Workplace: How do we flourish amidst challenge, change, and complexity?

By Dr. Taryn Stejskal, Ph.D.

Dr. Taryn Stejskal, Ph.D. Photo by- Kseniya Berson

I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Taryn Stejskal for a previous article. The response was extensive, so I have asked her to share her ‘tips’ with my readers each month.

Taryn Stejskal, Ph.D., is the former head of executive development at Nike and founder of Resilience Leadership, a forum for leaders* to enhance resilience, recognize their potential, and live into their life’s purpose. She is the author of the copyrighted and empirically-based “The Five Practices of Particularly Resilient People”, which is expected to be published in 2021. Dr. Taryn is also an avid global traveler and the mother to two sons.

Dr. Taryn’s Tips for August:

Challenge, Change, and Complexity

Challenge is placed in our path, not to make us falter, but to form us. Change is one of the few constants. We live in an age when humans are exposed to the greatest volume and complexity of information. The workplace is no different. We are hard-pressed not to open a news app or see an update from LinkedIn’s daily rundown that doesn’t signal a merger, reorganization, or realignment of business.

Indeed, both the level of change, and the speed of change can be exhausting, wreaking havoc on engagement, and many times, leading to reduced productivity, even burnout.

From Fried to Flourishing

When we feel that the change, challenge, and complexity in our companies is piling up, how can we regain a sense of control, choice, or even comfort?

In these moments, resilience becomes a force multiplier to transform adversity into advantage.

Here are three ways to combat challenge, change, and complexity that provide a roadmap to resilience.


Control the Controllables. The surest recipe of exhaustion and burnout is to be a control freak. How many times have we worried over a delayed flight or pounded our fist (literally or figuratively) on the dashboard over traffic? What’s fascinating is that we spend over 2/3 of our time and energy focused on aspects of our lives that we cannot control, and only 1/3 of our time energy on elements of our lives that are within our span of control.

“You can’t turn the wind, so turn the sail.” — African proverb

Can you imagine how much powerful and productive, not to mention less stressed out we’d be if we redirected even some of our energy toward the experiences we can control?

(As a reminder) here’s what you can always control:

· Attitude and internal dialogue

· Language and the words you choose

· Actions and behavior

· Manners and courtesy

· Effort

Beyond that, much of what happens to all of us is outside of our control. So, let’s embrace our limitations. Allow yourself to let go of what you cannot impact, and instead, refocus our energy on the areas we can actually impact.


Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable. As a culture, we are largely uncomfortable being uncomfortable.

As my friend Ari Kushner says, “There is discomfort sitting with our own discomfort.”

In an age when we have access to the quick fix, allowing ourselves to engage in the emotional processes that change, challenge, and complexity introduce into our lives can seem at odds with our experience.

The key is to cultivate empathy, both for ourselves and for others. When I feel afraid or vulnerable or disconnected, it’s easy to go into protection mode where I am in the right, and everyone else is the enemy. Instead of diving into the death spiral of devaluing the experience of those around us, this is the best time to inflate our empathy by:

· Remembering that each person has a story, their set of stressors and successes; and

· Assume positive intent. Recognize that most of us are trying our very best.

At times of discomfort, to the extent that you can, embrace these feelings. Name them, journal about them, talk with family and friends about your experience. Trials always teach us something about ourselves. No pain is wasted. No experience is without learning.

Surround yourself with people who will allow you to journey well through this uncomfortable time. Who will get comfortable with your discomfort and allow you to express your authentic experience?


Create Brave Spaces, Not Safe Spaces. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that safety and security are fundamental human needs. I don’t discount Maslow. I also know there are precious few places where we are truly, fundamentally, without question, safe. Rather than prioritizing safety, focus on bravery. Lead with candor by telling the truth with grace. Keith Ferrazzi and his research team at Ferrazzi Greenlight found that teams with higher levels of candor outperformed teams with lower degrees of candor. It’s okay to feel vulnerable at moments of change, challenge, and complexity. Complete and utter safety is not only honest, but it’s also not the point.

“Faith and fear both demand you believe in something you cannot see. You choose!” — Bob Proctor



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