Stress Tests or Resilience Tests

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

stress testing their nuclear power plants after the Fukishima disaster after the tsunami in Japan. German financial regulators are angered over the failure of the European Central Bank to adequately stress test financial institutions regarding their Tier 1 capital holdings, apparently the key metric to a bank’s financial stability. And medical science is stress testing our biological systems and (surprise?)…exercise helps men with Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. Stress testing describes the stability of a system and requires an assessment that goes beyond normal operational capacity to see the effects in a controlled setting. We don’t usually stress test in our own lives as we just tend to live them but more importantly I think it is time that we look at our resilience capacity rather than how much stress our system can handle. We recognize the telltale signs of stress–fatigue, exhaustion, frustration–but we often do not recognize what it take to be resilient whether its about preparing ourselves for a difficult day or trying to recover  from a challenging week. For example

  • Do you try to “catch up” on your sleep on the weekend?
  • Do you try to eat a healthy salad at lunch because you know you will be eating a greasy burger tonight at dinner?
  • Do you get to work extra early to get a jump on your day only to find that the extra effort did not really make a big difference?
Our attempts to “manage”our stress are doomed to fail because stress is inevitable and predictable. Recognizing that and building a resilience mindset is much more important to our health and productivity.  And resilience testing your systems can help you find the best ways to to do that. Here are some tips on resilience testing.
  1. Pay attention to your bounce back. If after a weekend on rest, you are still exhausted when you get back to work, you are not doing a good enough job of recharging your batteries
  2. Notice the expression on the faces of your colleagues as you meet for your weekly meeting. If they appear to be frustrated, aggravated or despondent, you are losing productivity and effectiveness, not to mention the chance that key people may leave.
  3. Review your annual plan to see how you are doing to date and whether your progress is at the 50% point (assuming you are on a calendar year). Assess what has worked well and where have points been missed. Navigating successfully through strategic plans is critical to your success.
  4. Check out your planning process for new projects. Are they realistic and can your team pull them off? Will the additional pressure mean that other projects fall through. Preparation for resilience means being transparent about the reality of workloads at work
  5. Take a breath during meetings, particularly as you are about to speak your mind. Make sure you are clear on your message and that your contribution will add to the discussion. Visualizing the impact of your words on others is a great navigation tool.
We have the opportunity to test our resilience every day. Make sure your resilience is working for you]]>

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