Back in 2003 the Harvard Business Review published an article, “The Quest for Resilience” . It stated that “The world is becoming turbulent faster than organisations are becoming resilient.” Fast forward some 17 years and while many companies have improved their ability to respond to the ebbs and flows of business it’s fair to say that no one could have anticipated our current predicament.
The point the article made back then still resonates today. “In the past, executives had the luxury of assuming that business models were more or less immortal. Companies always had to work to get better, of course, but they seldom had to get different—not at their core, not in their essence”. Our ability to respond to the massive change around us today, and to re-imagine the very model on which our businesses have been built, will be the biggest test and indicator of our future successes, and indeed, our survival.
Business resilience is about being able to anticipate and respond to changes that impair the ability of the company to both earn money and deliver on their purpose – the real reason they exist – and, importantly, to bounce back when change happens. It’s critical that organisations set themselves up to withstand shocks and deal with uncertainty, remaining agile to change before change becomes necessary. Unfortunately, no one could have ever imagined the shockwave that is being felt across the globe right now. It’s therefore even more important that business leaders consider how they can best support and respond to each other, their employees, as well as the communities and countries in which they operate.
There are both operational and financial dimensions to meeting this challenge. The most crucial, and often over-looked part, is the human side of resilience. For it is with and through people that all businesses exist and thrive. As the magazine Psychology Today says:
“Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.”
The need and desire to ‘rise from the ashes’ will resonate with many of us at this time. Businesses are already re-inventing themselves to survive in this new normal and people are learning about what makes them truly happy.
In business, as in life, we all need some form of a feedback mechanism. We need to know that we’re heading in the right direction and that we’re on track. That’s a key measure of resilience. The decisions you make today will inevitably have an impact on the results you achieve tomorrow so it’s important to know where you are relative to your plan – If you have one! Measuring both personal and organisational resilience enables business leaders to establish how well their company is set up and how to manage change and deal with adversity.
We know what resilience means but how do you become resilient? There are some key steps and while it’s better to create a plan for change before events happen many won’t have had that opportunity. We’ve put together these top ten tips for leaders, business owners and employees to help develop the qualities, navigate the current turbulence and disruption in our world and to arrive stronger on the other side.
- Adaptability and speed of decisions – To adapt, businesses need to make fast decisions and sometimes based on limited information. Be vigilant and alert to changing conditions. While change is inevitable it’s the response to that change that matters most
- Accountability – accept that mistakes can and will happen. Being accountable is crucial and enables people to truly step up and accept that they must stand up for the decision they make. It’s also important to note that the information we had yesterday is now out of date so recognise that people are human. Retribution will inhibit their decision-making ability and their willingness to step up and be accountable
- Flexibility – leaders need to be flexible and open to new ideas that may only be ‘80% perfect’. Just as the wind and storms change a skipper’s tactics so too will leaders need to change theirs
- Optimism grounded in realism – avoid the negative media frenzy and stay in touch with your own feelings for positivity and optimism. That’s what employees expect. We may not have all the answers but keeping a sense of optimism grounded in the reality of the situation is key to coming through the turmoil in the best possible shape
- Innovate and act on that innovation – people need to be given the time, tools and permission to think differently. Innovation can’t be left to one person or one department; now is the time to make innovation part of everyone’s job description
- Get it done culture – resilience is about making things happen once a decision has been made. Quick decisions need to be implemented to be effective and that’s where the mindset and attitude of the leadership team, and throughout the business really matter
- Trust your team – it’s imperative that leaders seek the perspective of others, trust their team and delegate where appropriate. Just because someone brings a different perspective to your own doesn’t mean either of you is wholly right, or wholly wrong
- Be self-aware – Leadership is about two things: leading from the front and generating ‘followership’. Having an awareness of how you ‘are’, how you feel and how you react is key. Self-awareness leads to a greater authentic leadership style and at times like these true authenticity is needed
- It’s all about your people – people are the biggest asset you have. Recognise and acknowledge that the people in your business are ‘emotional’ humans and therefore need support as well as guidance. Be mindful of each other’s feelings while presenting a positive mindset. Lead with humanity and purpose. Sometimes people just need an arm around their shoulder for support or to cry on
- Give people meaning – great leaders recognise that people come to work to earn money and bring good to the world. It’s your job, as a leader, to help your organisation and people focus on the ‘why’ of the business and therefore better engage your people now and in the future.
Author: Phil Rose, Co-founder Ignium