Resilience is quickly becoming one of today’s overused
words. It’s too bad because the early thinkers who de-fined
the concept, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi or Martin
Seligman, gave us a deep and enduring definition, one that
applied to adults and children alike and led to the development
of innovative practices in psychology. Others soon adopted the
term and we began to see strengths-based theories and practic-es.
Recent books such as Grit by Angela Duckworth or The Rise
of Superman by Steven Kotler have taken the term in new direc-tions.
Resilience theory was and is still an interdisciplinary theory
and we can thank early practitioners for the shift in HR manage-ment
toward performance management based on strengths and
the development of stories of adversity overcome by leaders and
The Marstons have tinkered with the term to arrive at their
phrase, “transformative resilience” (TR). They argue this term is bet-ter
suited for our tumultuous times in which the ability to learn,
grow and spring forward is essential. Their acknowledgement that
resilience is based on decades of research across the disciplines of
psychology, sociology, behavioural economics, neuroscience, busi-ness
and current affairs anchors their work.
HR professionals building and maintaining a resilient work-force
understand what the term means to talent development or
organizational culture. Many of the terms used to define resilience
have found their way into knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs).
The definition of resilience typically includes the ability to “bounce
back.” More specifically, there are seven protective factors: accep-tance,
hardiness, mastery, hope/optimism, self-efficacy, sense of
coherence and resourcefulness.
The TR mindset offers a slightly different set of characteristics:
adaptability, healthy relationship to control, continual learning,
sense of purpose, leveraging support and active engagement.
Looking more closely at Type R organizations, according to the
book, a shared Type R mindset creates the foundation for embrac-ing
challenges as opportunities and catalysts for development and
evolution. This means that behaviours of leaders, employees and
teams can be changed. Even if certain behaviours and beliefs have
been entrenched for decades, Type R leaders and employees can
nudge a change to structures, programs and processes.
The authors make an interesting case for collective resilience,
arguing that group mindsets have multiple layers and influencing
factors that must be acknowledged in order to cultivate a collective
TR mindset. Social media has changed how we communicate
mindsets and has the power to include or exclude individuals, gen-ders
Groups with a Type R outlook “reframe the prejudices, impedi-ments,
challenges and stresses they face and incorporate them into
their own process of growth and problem solving.” Type R individ-uals,
leaders, colleagues can be effective catalysts for changing how
we collectively frame challenges.
For example, regarding women in STEM careers, TR organi-zations
create networks and bias-awareness training. Some TR
organizations go further by taking a public stand on diversity and
equality for minorities; maintaining a position as advocates for
equality and holding a moral compass will be a crucial test for cor-porations
in coming years, say the Marstons.
While Type R integrates the main concepts of resilience, it is
a useful addition to the literature. There is a Type R assessment
available to benchmark where your organization is currently.
While the assessment is interesting and offers you a result, the
book doesn’t delve into this. The Marstons offer more on this
through their training, but including more in the book itself would
have been helpful. n
By Alyson Nyiri, CHRL
TYPE R: TRANSFORMATIVE RESILIENCE FOR THRIVING IN A TURBULENT WORLD
BY AMA MARSTON AND STEPHANIE MARSTON (PUBLIC AFFAIRS, 2018)
50 ❚ JANUARY 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL