Data: Employees Need More Resilience

Leadership IQ recently conducted a study involving over 30,000 employees. And among the many questions we asked was "When I really make a mistake, I immediately start looking for another chance to try again." 

You can see from the chart below that there's a lot of room for improvement on this issue... 

We also asked another question, relevant to this topic: My leader encourages and recognizes suggestions for improvement.
I’m highlighting these two questions because we found an interesting statistical link between them. Look at the scatterplot of these questions below:

You can see the fairly strong linear relationship between these two questions. Essentially, the higher employees rated their leader for encouraging suggestions for improvement, the more likely employees were to bounce back after making a mistake. (For the statistically-minded, encouraging suggestions significantly predicted resilience, b=.2, p<.0001).

I know that some will think it’s odd that those two variables are related. After all, one variable is about open-minded leaders and the other is about resilient employees.

Well, think about what it means to have a leader who encourages and recognizes suggestions for improvement. First, this has to be a leader that employees can talk with openly. Open door, open conversations, open arms, etc. If that openness spills over to employees, which it will, they’ll feel more comfortable admitting mistakes. And if employees can admit mistakes without fear of reprisal, they’re probably much more willing to try again.

Second, if a leader is open to suggestions for improvement, it means they’re open to changing things. When things are changed, there’s a tacit admission that there’s a better way (or that the old way was somehow broken). Since the word ‘broken’ is close to ‘mistake, this is similar to saying ‘I don’t totally freak out when mistakes are made.’ And if the leader doesn’t freak out, then employees probably won’t either.

I could keep dissecting this, but you get the point. Leaders who encourage and recognize suggestions for improvement are displaying their own kind of resilience. After all, bouncing back after a mistake requires openly admitting the mistake, changing behavior and then trying again. And when a leader models resilience, employees are more likely to reflect that same behavior.

Resilience seems like a trait that should be innate or immutable. But the research is pretty clear that resilience can be learned.
Posted by Mark Murphy on 25 August, 2015 Employee Engagement, Research | 0 comments
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