10 Critical Behaviors That Improve Resiliency

Posted by Joe Folkman, Leadership Development on July 31, 2020

People who are more resilient are less likely to give up when they experience failure. They are willing to take more risks to succeed. They are more persistent and optimistic about their chances of success.  


They generally work with more energy and passion and are more interested in finding new innovative approaches. They are also more likely to volunteer and sign up for a difficult assignment. They have higher levels of personal engagement, along with more confidence. Every organization wants more resilient employees.


For several years, we have been measuring resilience and confidence and have noticed a significant decline since the COVID-19 pandemic. The combination of uncertainty and lack of control have increased anxiety and stress. Stress and anxiety, along with uncertainty, will inevitably reduce resilience in many people.


Perhaps one of the additional factors responsible for reducing resilience is the impact that comes from people working from home in isolation. Does working with resilient people tend to influence the resilience of others? To test the impact and influence of resiliency, we collected data from 25,248 peers that participated in a resiliency assessment. We matched up one peer with another peer in the same workgroup. We measured the level of resilience using a 360-degree assessment, where we had an eight-item index that evaluated resistance for each peer. The results are displayed in the graph below. Peers with very low resilience scores (bottom 10%) pulled down the resilience score of their peers to the 38th percentile. Conversely, peers in the top 10% pulled up the ratings of their peers to the 68th percentile. If there was not any influence from a peer on their resilience, or lack of resilience, then the scores would be close to the 50th percentile.

While the differences are not huge, consider the fact that peers do not work together that often. Even in interactions with casual relationships, resilience seems to be contagious. In previous research, we found an even stronger impact between managers and their direct reports.


Most Contagious Behaviors

1.     Energy and enthusiasm. Energy and enthusiasm bring more energy and enthusiasm from others. Lack of energy and zero enthusiasm mirrors low energy from others.

2.     Continuous improvement and a desire to exceed expected results. Practice never leads to improvement without a strong desire to break the record and improve. The desire to do more and be better is very contagious. So is the desire to do less and care little about improvement.

3.     Desire to take on challenging goals. The desire to do hard things and take on challenges encourages others to do the same.

4.     Willing to go above and beyond. Once again, having a strong will to do more than is expected is a very impressive trait.

5.     Inspiring others to high levels of effort. It is one thing to take the initiative yourself, but having the skill to inspire others is an important skill that makes a huge difference. 

6.     Willing to challenge standard approaches. It is easy for most of us to continue to use standard processes and procedures, but it takes courage to speak up and find ways to change and improve them. Often doing this can have a big payback. 

7.     Asks for feedback from others. It takes courage to ask others for feedback on their performance. Some people assume that asking for feedback creates the perception that people lack confidence. People that ask for feedback are courageous, and our research confirms that they are much more effective.

8.     Makes an effort to improve based on feedback. It is only helpful to ask for feedback if a person takes action to improve based on the feedback. This is the hard part of asking for feedback, following through, and doing something to improve.

9.     Being a role model. It is easy to ask others to change, but what makes the asking more effective is when the person asking acts as a role model. They take charge and walk their talk.

10.  Quickly recognize where change is needed. Change is hard for everyone, and when a person dares to acknowledge what needs to be changed and then creates a plan for improvement that makes a difference in the organization.

The ten behaviors listed above can increase resilience in a person. Having a good role model that practices these behaviors can positively impact their resilience. This study shows the significant impact of being resilient and how it can help you and your peers. Everyone has been a bit worried about the negative effects of catching a virus from someone else. However, this research confirms that there are significant positive effects that can come from spreading resilience to all your peers.

Joe Folkman


Joe Folkman is the founder of two leadership development firms, Novations and Zenninger Folkman. He is a psychometrician, speaker, and Forbes Contributor. 


Topics: Leadership, Change, Resilience

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