4 Ways HR Leaders Can Build Resilience in Themselves & Others

March 26, 2023

Contributed by Judy Dang, Principal of Avid At Work, HR West 2020 Speaker

Over three weeks have passed since HR West 2020, the human resources industry conference that has been shaping the future of HR together with the HR leaders and HR community. 

Good grief, how the world has changed since the week of March 9th, 2020!

So many questions are still unknown: how long will this pandemic last? Will self-quarantine stretch into summer? How will this crisis affect our teams? Even though we still have countless unanswered questions, I know one thing for sure.  

It’s not WHAT but HOW.

The variables grow daily. Change is a constant. But the HOW stays the same. I will continue to sneeze into my elbow. I will continue to call my network like I do every Tuesday from 10-11 a.m. I will continue to go to play the long game and not get lost in the weeds. 

“How we do anything is how we do everything” is a popular Zen teaching. How we do things now can build resilience for the long-term. Regardless of the WHAT, focus on the HOW. How do you treat yourself and others when you’re stressed? How is bad news communicated to your team? How do you deal with change and uncertainty? 

Not only did I get to present at HR West 2020, but I also enjoyed many fantastic sessions by so many HR thought leaders. Here are my interpretations of the ones I attended through the lens of resilience. The four HOWs: Courage, Self-care, Leadership, and GenerosityTheir guidance is super relevant right now. And will continue to belong after we move past these turbulent times. 

“If there’s ever a time for us to be courageous, it’s right NOW!”

“If there’s ever a time for us to be courageous, it’s right NOW!” Opening Keynote, Cindy Solomon at HR West 2020 discussing the silver bullet for courage in HR.


Cindy Solomon 

“Do the next best thing.”  

Cindy’s HR West 2020 keynote focused on courageous leadership. Boy, do we need that more than ever.

She explained the barriers that can stifle courage: 

lack of self-awareness, fear of the unknown, overthinking, need for all ducks in a row before taking action.

How to counter those? First, do the next best thing, not the “right” thing. Make the best decision you can for right now. Let go of the need to do it right. 

Second, step into your potential. Courage can be developed.


Step into it even if you feel afraid. Take your seat at the leadership table and guide your company through this.

Put on your team captain outfit and step into your leadership role. 


Four Ways HR Leaders Can Build Resilience in Themselves and Others

First breakout session with Ryan K Fortman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP. The Strategic HRBP; Are Your Skills Scalable for High Growth? Photo credit: Lorianne Lee, SPHR

Ryan Fortman 

“Replenish your well.” 

This means taking ownership of our own personal and professional development. Take time for rest and renewal. Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others with theirs. 

How many of us work through lunch? Or ignore our body’s signals for sleep? Or slide into overeating and over-watching the news? 

During this time of high anxiety, basic self-care is essential. Healthy eating, adequate sleep, and taking short walks if possible, can relieve stress and keep us healthy. Mental health professionals also suggest limiting news intake to twice a day. 


Four Ways HR Leaders Can Build Resilience in Themselves and OthersCecilia Gorman 

“Act leaderly.”  

Role model the expectations you want from your team. Put courage into everyday language. 

Communicate expectations. 

“This is what courage looks like in our firm: we stay home when we’re sick. We communicate. We give people the benefit of the doubt.”

Whatever it is for your team, tell them your expectations so no one has to guess. Because when we don’t know, we guess. And 9 times out of 10, we probably guess wrong. 


Catherine Mattice Zundel 

“The little things mean much.”  

Small acts of generosity or a word of sincere and specific appreciation. These can increase trust and resiliency with your team because they demonstrate your ability to nurture relationships for the long-term and not just during performance reviews or sporadic employee recognition events. 

According to a study “Resilience Training That Can Change The Brain,” researchers found that the mere act of doing something rather than remaining passive can decrease distress. They also discovered how gratitude rewires the brain for long-term resilience. 

While we’re traversing this global pandemic, there are still things we can do to boost our resilience. HR can take the lead in this by promoting opportunities for altruism. Let’s err on the side of generosity in granting leave, enabling teammates to give PTO hours to a coworker, and removing barriers to job sharing. 

What Now? 

I recently heard from a friend who has several family members on the front lines in healthcare. She wanted to do something to help so started sewing face masks. She also posted a notice on Nextdoor offering Zoom training to her neighbors. 

Last weekend I dusted off my own sewing machine and made two masks. I so enjoyed doing something with my hands and away from screens. 

There are many small ways to contribute to our communities, our coworkers, and our human family. Try picking one small thing today. 

Call your teammate for a quick check-in instead of sending an email or using Slack. Eat lunch away from the screen. Listen to an uplifting podcast while on a walk.  

To paraphrase Helen Keller: the bend in the road is never fatal unless you fail to turn. 

This will pass. The world will come back. But it’ll come back different. When we get through this, things will not be the same. Let’s set ourselves and our teams on a stronger footing for when we get through this. 

About the Author

Principal of Avid At WorkJudy Dang is a business productivity training and coach. She coaches and speaks on not just getting things done, but getting the RIGHT things done. Judy brings 18 years of project management, training, creativity, and problem-solving expertise across university, nonprofit, and, professional service settings. Judy co-presented a breakout session at HR West 2020, “Leading From Within: Clarity, Connection, Courage.” Connect with Judy on LinkedIn. 

Share HR West 2018 Details! > HR in the most innovative place on earth! #HRWest18
Posted in HR BLOG, HR West 2020 and tagged , , , , , .

Leave a Reply