In an uncertain time defined by rapid change, the word “resilience” has taken on new meaning. Resilience is no longer about simply fending off the occasional mishap; the ability to quickly adapt, recover and return reinvigorated is a constant requirement in the business world.
Resilient people tend to have what psychologists call an “internal locus of control”. They believe the actions they take will affect the outcome of an event. Another characteristic of resilience is the understanding that life is full of challenges. While business leaders cannot avoid many of these problems, they can remain open, flexible and willing to adapt to change.
Resilient people are also aware of the situation, their own emotional reactions and the behaviour of those around them. To manage feelings, it is essential to understand what is causing them and why.
Resilience can’t simply live in the boardroom, though. It needs to be instilled throughout every organization, from its culture and capabilities to its operational decisions and development. These skills can enable employers to take control of the present – and direct their futures.
Defining ‘whatever it takes’
Many businesses extend themselves into areas that don’t complement the company mission. Then, they ignore signs that indicate that things aren’t going well — or even deny that a problem exists at all. When the problems can no longer be avoided, it’s often so late that they fail to recover. And this is my point: resilience is about adapting before a potential problem becomes a real problem. At its best, it’s proactive — it is about being a step ahead.
To avoid complacency, emotional decisions and ill-planned ventures, it’s important to always remember why the company is in business and what makes it different, and what are the main sources of revenue and sustainable growth. If leaders are prepared to do anything to get their businesses through a tough spot — including completely restructuring or realigning — they can turn a company around in almost any situation.
Building a more resilient business
Strong corporate values matter. They provide a sense of shared purpose and keep people working together for the same goals. These values are especially important in uncertain times.
That is why it is essential as leaders to surround yourself with people who live by the same tenets you do — and the same strength, creativity and drive to succeed.
The following are some guidelines that resilient organizations use to grow a stronger, bolder group of employees for a stronger, bolder business.
Look after your people. Minimizing stress is a key issue in the frantic, changing 21st century world. People under stress are not alert to what is happening around them, and they are prone to oversights and mistakes. Establish a network of mutual support in your company, so people do not feel isolated and know how to get help when they need it.
Encourage confidence. People need the strength to remain calm, focused and confident when handling crises. To do this effectively, they’ll need energy, drive, determination and conviction. Being positive, having clear goals and being open to new ideas and possibilities are essential to innovation – and making the right move for your company’s future.
Provide support and challenges. Spend some time reassessing the way things are done in your business. Is there a better way of approaching an issue or completing a certain task? Ensure that your people will be able to respond to changes, including sudden crises, quickly, efficiently and successfully.
Find strong, resilient leaders. People in senior roles need the experience, skills and behaviours to steer the company through difficult times, while also commitment and enthusiasm. Leaders need to be challenging, forward-thinking, open to new ideas and innovative – and they should encourage these attributes in others.
Value learning and experience. Expose people to experiences that will equip them for dealing with unexpected, difficult situations. Experience is a great teacher; if individuals are used to dealing with difficult situations, they will be more comfortable with, and confident in, their ability to think logically and creatively when they encounter them in the workplace.
Put the right people in the right roles. Resilience needs to be part of all succession decisions – and there is no substitute for a person’s actual record of achievement: the challenges they’ve faced and what they’ve learned. Remember, you’re not just hiring for today. You’re hiring to prepare your company for tomorrow.
Foster teamwork. Challenges require teamwork, all the way to the top. Trust, dependability and openness are essential, as are strong leadership and a realistic attitude. By working closely together, supporting each other, sharing ideas and spreading the workload, an overwhelming challenge will be less daunting, much easier to tackle and more successfully resolved.
People make the difference
Turbulent markets bring opportunity and risk; companies need to call on all their resources to navigate such uncharted waters successfully. What matters, however, is that each individual believes that these issues — values, purpose, boldness, imagination and others — are important and interprets them in his or her own personal way. In fact, the most significant lesson for any business leader is to know that while structures, procedures, processes, and systems can all be improved, the true source of resilience is people. They are the reason companies succeed. Get that right, and you’ll weather any storm that comes your way.
Luis Gallardo is the CEO of Thinking Heads. Former managing director of global brand and marketing at Deloitte and author of the book Brands & Rousers, The Holistic System to Foster High-Performing Businesses, Brands and Careers