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Focus on psychological capital to improve performance

By Rumeet Billan

Resilience is a reactive state. It occurs after a positive or negative situation has been experienced, and focuses on how one responds to that situation. Those who are resilient are able to take a positive experience and use it to help build their self-efficacy, hope and optimism, which are the key components of Psychological Capital (PsyCap) according to Dr. Fred Luthans.

They are also able recover quickly from obstacles, challenges and setbacks they may encounter personally or in the pursuit of accomplishing a task or goal. It is an internally driven response to externally driven situations.

Being resilient is a capability that can be developed, measured and managed. For organizations, focusing on the positive PsyCap of its employees can facilitate performance improvement. Building PsyCap involves interventions that support and develop efficacy, hope and optimism, which all contribute to being resilient. These capabilities interact synergistically and promote overall wellbeing for both the individual and the organization.


Self-efficacy is knowing that you can rely on your strengths, skills and abilities to successfully accomplish a task or goal. A belief in one’s own abilities is critical to self-efficacy and this involves building confidence and developing a healthy self-regard. Positive experiences provide us with the opportunity to build our assets and create momentum towards what it is that we are trying to achieve. Negative experiences can derail us and promote destructive self-talk.

Dr. Fred Luskin’s research suggests that 90 per cent of the approximate 60,000 thoughts that we have each day are repetitive. The language that we use to describe who we are and how we are feeling contributes significantly to how we perceive ourselves and what we believe we are capable of doing, being and achieving. Self-talk is how we make our emotions real. Improving the language that we use with ourselves will promote positive thinking patterns and impact our self-efficacy.

For organizations, providing constant (versus yearly) positive and applicable feedback can help to build an employee’s efficacy. Further, intentional recognition, appreciation and access to learning and development opportunities are strategies that organizations can incorporate to positively develop their employees.  


Dr. Charles Snyder discusses hope as integrating agency and pathway thinking to goal-oriented thoughts. Having agency involves the motivation to pursue our goals and pathway thinking is the active development of strategies to accomplish the goals that we are motivated to pursue. Hope is fostered by establishing a tangible goal that is important to the individual and promotes the creation of various strategies to accomplish it. Identifying milestones can help to provide encouragement and build momentum towards realizing the goal.

Creating approach-oriented goals (versus avoidance-oriented goals) is a key strategy that can have a positive impact on employees. Reframing the language that we use in developing our goals can help us to be both future and solution-focused. Identifying pathways on how one can accomplish their goals (“How can I do this?” versus “Can I do this?”) provides a platform for individuals to establish a direction and generate solutions. An individual’s belief in their ability (self-efficacy) to realize their goals is critical to hope.

Being resilient is a capability that can be developed, measured and managed.


Optimism encourages us to consider how we view obstacles, setbacks and challenges, and how we explain the causes of those situations. Dr. Martin Seligman discusses the “3 Ps” (permanence, personalization and pervasiveness) as essential to understanding optimism. Those who are optimistic view setbacks as temporary, externally driven and situation specific. Those who are less optimistic view the same type of situation as permanent, internally driven and global (impacting all areas of their life).

Deconstructing and realistically challenging the narratives that we’ve created about the obstacles that we face is an effective approach to developing optimism. Creating an inventory of obstacles and setbacks faced and overcome over the past six months to two years is a useful strategy to help establish a record and proof that the challenging situations encountered were temporary versus permanent.


Resilience requires developing positive adaptation processes to help overcome the challenges that we face and using positive experiences to build confidence in our strengths and abilities. In addition to creating an inventory of obstacles that we have overcome, creating an inventory of our recent achievements is a valuable exercise that promotes self-efficacy, hope and optimism, which improves our resilience. It also generates momentum for further wins.

Being resilient involves flexibility to bounce back from challenging situations. Contingency planning is an important practice that can ease the impact of negative experiences that we may encounter. Being open to different ways of accomplishing a task or goal promotes resilience.


Being resilient is a powerful capability. It promotes positive thinking patterns and a greater understanding of ourselves and what we believe we can achieve. The components of PsyCap work together and empower us to realistically challenge our assumptions and behaviours that may be derailing our growth. Focusing on the language that we use, developing tangible goals that incorporate agency and pathway thinking, developing inventories and contingency plans are all ways that we can nurture and foster resilience among ourselves and within our organizations. 

Dr. Rumeet Billan is the president and CEO of Viewpoint Leadership.

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