Sustaining success through personal and organisational resilience

Posted in: AUA Conference, Bath AUA News, Members

Author: Lex Kaby

I feel prepared and positive. I am excited and ready learn, ready to listen and ready to network. I arrive for my first session and my head starts to feel clouded and dizzy. ‘The fluorescent lighting and recycled air being pumped through the air conditioning units must be causing this’, I hear you cry. But no, the sudden heaviness surrounding my eyelids informs me that in fact, I am ill. A rush of anxiety seems to slowly creep around my body as I imagine how the next few days will play out now that I am ill and there is nothing I can do.

And this is how my first AUA annual conference began....

So, the first session came and went in a blur of paracetamol and tissues. The second session came and went whilst I slept in the hotel room, trying desperately to repair my snotty self. I think it is definitely safe to say that my highly anticipated trip to Manchester, so far was not going as I had hoped and imagined. Although if you find yourself full of flu and in need of somewhere to sleep off hot and cold sweats, I can recommend the Malmaison Hotel!

I can’t say that I remember an awful lot from the first day or the majority of the second, however, luckily for me (and for the sake of this blog) session 305 presented by John Ryan and Jan Shine, managed to bring me out of my mental slump and into a place of positivity and with maybe even a touch of pride. With the session being titled ‘Sustaining Success through Personal Resilience’, it would seem fate also had a hand.

Now, I will admit I had originally chosen this session for purely selfish reasons - to boost my personal resilience within my work life and career. However I was surprised to find that after five minutes of the session starting, I began to realise that I couldn’t help but apply these ideas to my immediate office setting and my working team.

John and Jan began by explaining that resilience is now recognised as an important factor in the workplace, especially in turbulent times. It operates at two levels – the individual and the organisational. Unexpectedly, and possibly due to my fluey symptoms bringing on a feeling of dependency and vulnerability, it was the organisational resilience that resonated with me throughout this session.

It occurred to me that within the work setting, successful personal resilience is often a product of your support system and therefore, your work team. It was noted that organisational resilience looks at how well the organisation can weather the storm or adapt to the challenges it faces. Also that personal resilience is a product of a person’s personality (how many times can I put “person” in one sentence?) in combination with environmental factors such as family, peers and social environment. I started to think – If an organisation has a good resilience framework, it can provide its members with a strong foundation to build their own personal resilience upon.

As strange as it sounds, I often think about the fact that many of us can spend 8 hours a day with our co-workers and team members and can often communicate with them even more than our families and significant others. It seems odd to me then, that the importance of team and organisational resilience is often overlooked and instead a focus is held on personal resilience.

A time to reflect – then came the opportunity in the session to really pin point a time in which we had felt that we needed to be resilient. I thought back blankly, wracking my spacey and moderately fuzzy brain. Bingo- an office merge. I stumbled on the most obvious and significant need for resilience that I have experienced at work. Two perfectly happy and well-established teams were asked to merge. At the beginning of the merge, we reacted as typical humans, anxious about change and slightly disgruntled by the ’new comers’ on both sides which, as you can imagine, led to an unhappy, and possibly even slightly dysfunctional office at times. However, in my opinion, through the framework offered by the organisational resilience we were able to build our personal resilience in to a cohesive team that is  even stronger than before.

Resilience Framework:

Whilst thinking about this office merge, the challenges that we faced and consequently our ability to bounce back, I felt a sense of pride. If, as a team, we were not as resilient as we were, we would not have been able to see each other’s strengths and learn to understand each other’s quirks. I have found a further importance in working relationships and team resilience since attending this session and can now see how we much we have benefitted from it.


So I will stop babbling on now, and leave you with this:

‘To be successful in resilience - We need to create space and train ourselves to apply reason even in highly challenging and stressful situations, avoiding the urge to scream and shout or take evasive action. Resilience is about bouncing back – but it is also about personal growth, developing a greater sense of purpose or strength in overcoming adversity.’ (John and Jan).


By Lex Kaby, Faculty of Engineering & Design

Posted in: AUA Conference, Bath AUA News, Members


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