Article · 5 minute read

What I Learned from a Lecture on Resilience

By Hannah Mullaney 9th December 2022

I was at an event recently where I attended a lecture on resilience, given by Professor Steve Peters, author of ‘Chimp Paradox’ and ‘Path through the Jungle’. I had read neither book but spent the rest of the day being told how fantastic they were by everyone I met and, as a result,  now have a copy of the latter awaiting collection at my local bookshop. I’ll let you know how I go with it.

Steve – a Consultant Psychiatrist as well as author – took us on a whistle stop tour of resilience, the rules of the mind and mind management. There were a number of things he said that really resonated with me and the work we do in the talent development space:

  1. Almost everyone experiences ‘Imposter Syndrome’

  2. Recognize your uniqueness

  3. It’s important to want to change

  4. Mind dysfunction is just us not knowing the rules

  5. Fear of failure isn’t a thing
Almost everyone experiences ‘Imposter Syndrome’

The stat that was quoted was actually 80%; if you don’t experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in your life, you are statistically abnormal. That idea in itself is quite reassuring.

Professor Peters also highlighted that Imposter Syndrome can be a good thing, giving us the chance to check in and evaluate our plan, and make tweaks if something isn’t working.  Those who never experience Imposter Syndrome aren’t given the chance to question whether the direction in which they’re going is right and, if not, make corrections before it’s too late.

I have had many coaching sessions, with leaders and aspiring leaders alike, where individuals have shared their experiences of Imposter Syndrome. They always seem reassured that they aren’t the first to have admitted to it and often acknowledge that it does push them to be better. Next time though, I’m going to quote the 80% figure and get more specific in terms of coaching actions and plan evaluation.

First coined by Pauline Clance PhD, a clinician at Oberlin College in 1985, ‘Imposter Syndrome’ refers to feelings of doubt in one’s own abilities and worries that they are unqualified or undeserving, or will be ‘found out’ by their peers or mentors.

Recognize your uniqueness

Professor Peters explained that whilst we’re all made up in a similar sort of way, we are all unique, and nowhere is this truer than in the mind. He talked about the power of being able to understand your own uniqueness and using this knowledge to your advantage when dealing with life’s tricky situations.

We are essentially in the business of helping people understand what makes them unique at work and I have a lot of conversations with individuals on this when walking through their Wave profiles. My colleagues have always enjoyed the way I describe Wave’s facet ranges to people. My line is “The beauty of the human race is that we’re all a little bit different … and this highlights a point of uniqueness for you.”

Wave’s  ability to differentiate points of uniqueness with the nuance it does is unbeaten and so I talk about it a lot. In fact, Wave is the only personality questionnaire that is able to report at this level of detail. It is a really powerful aid, helping people understand what makes them tick and what specifically they should leverage for maximum impact. My advice here… if you are coaching leaders and really want to peel back the onion, use Wave (and yes, I know I’m biased).


It's important to want to change

This idea isn’t new, but it is worth reminding ourselves of just how critical individual motivation can be in development. I have, unfortunately, been involved in the occasional developmental intervention that has been put upon someone. Sometimes this is a 360 assessment, administered in an attempt to manage problematic behavior (which rarely achieves the desired outcome). Sometimes, it is a good old-fashioned development program that people have been told they’ve been put on, rather than invited to apply to. Regardless of the situation, you can pretty much guarantee that in those cases behavioral change doesn’t happen.

When talent and HR teams are thinking about development, the first question they should be considering is ‘How do we ensure the motivation to change is there?’  In the example above, the 360 shouldn’t be run until the individual themselves has accepted that there is a problem and wants to do something about it; any development program should invite people to apply, rather than tap them on the shoulder and tell them they’re on. This not only helps ensure you focus on developing people who want to be developed, but also does wonders from a D, E & I perspective. You can read more on this here.

Mind dysfunction is just us not knowing the rules

Professor Peters made an important distinction between mind dysfunction and mind malfunction. The latter is where something is not working properly, whilst the former is where everything is in working order but not being used properly, usually because of a lack of knowledge around rules of use. He talked about this within the context of responding to, and dealing with, emotions but I think it is a useful way for us to think about ourselves more generally.

The roles of talent and HR teams include helping organizations understand their people, helping their people understand themselves and helping managers understand their teams. When organizations, managers or people lack knowledge of the rules of behavior at work, dysfunction can occur – whether that be at the individual, team or organizational level.

The first step to avoiding this dysfunction is to better help everyone learn the rules – effectively helping them understand themselves and each other better. Tools such as Wave are really valuable here. There are loads of different Wave outputs that can help in different circumstances but two jump out as the most potentially powerful:

  • Our Building Resilient Agility tool can specifically help individuals understand the rules when it comes to responding to change and remaining effective during it. It provides guidance for the behaviors to leverage and build strength in this area. Read more about Building Resilient agility here.

  • Our Work Roles tool can be used to help people understand their work styles at an individual level, directly with others and as part of a group. Read more about Work Roles here.
Fear of failure isn’t a thing

You can’t be scared of failure – you can only be scared of the consequences of failure. For example, it isn’t the fear of failing an exam, it is what the result means moving forward.

And, as Professor Peters pointed out, it is possible to develop plans for the consequences of failure, which suddenly makes it all a lot more manageable.

A short, but rather profound point and one I will be remembering to bring up in the coaching and developmental conversations I have. Particularly with people who see themselves as perfectionists or are high achievers that struggle with the idea of not succeeding.  

When it comes to resilience, this lecture gave me reassurance. Reassurance that feeling unsure and to question is good; that not being exactly like someone else who has been successful means you have your own unique way to bring value; that the key to all of this was wanting to change and having the opportunity to understand yourself better to do so….and it just so happens I am very familiar with a treasure chest of tools that can do just that.   

About the Author
Hannah Mullaney 

Hannah is Client Solutions Director at Saville Assessment and has a wealth of experience, providing both hiring and development assessment solutions to a wide range of clients, across a full spectrum of industries. 

You can connect with Hannah on LinkedIn here

Hannah Mullaney Profile Picture

Building Resilient Agility

Powered by Wave®, our Resilient Agility report can help you identify and develop individuals who are more likely to be effective during times of change and uncertainty.