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Emotional Resilience

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When growing a small organization, such as a technology start-up, the first few hires are extremely critical. Yet, among many attributes which must be identified during the intervew process, emotional resilience is often overlooked.

Dark Knight Rises

Resilience is originated from the Latin word resilio, to spring back. In psychology, emotional resilience is defined as the ability of a person to adapt in the face of tragedy, adversity, and other difficult situations. In a fast-paced working environment, resilience becomes a differentiating factor. A lack thereof could easily spell the death of the organization while having a slightly more of it would catapult the organization to be ahead of its competitor.

Why is that the case? A tech start-up is operating in a high-risk mode. Mistakes are made all the time. The objective is not to avoid mistakes (otherwise, it immediately enters a comfort zone) but to recover from the mistake as best as possible. Strategies must be swiftly tailored to the new challenge, tactics must be enthusiastically tweaked when the opportunity presents itself.

The organization’s resilience is defined by the ability of the individuals to be adaptive. After the backup disaster last week, there is not much time to grieve as every single person needs to ensure that it will not happen again. When the revenue projection is not met for the quarter, every one needs to buckle up and focus on the next quarter immediately. Other things are not going well? Well, rise everytime you fall. And rise quickly!

When lots of extremely passionate folks are working in a close quarter, frictions are bound to happen from time to time. There is no need be in a bad mood for a whole week just because someone forgets to say Good morning. Just as there is zero benefit to be the one who often holds a grudge after every little incident.

To build a resilient organization, it is paramount to ensure that the candidates to be hired exhibit this specific attribute. The interview process can not exclude any assessment of emotional resilience. This can be done in many ways. In the style of behavioral interview, it helps to ask the candidates of the past work situations where resilience was important. In some cases, it is also useful to present a different perspective on a subject, create enough spark, and encourage the candidate to discuss this particular contrarian view. After all, you know more about the characteristics of a person not from the way they treat their friends, but from the way they treat their enemies.

There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne.

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