Dr Audrey Tang
Dr Monomita Nandy
Brunel University London
Brunel Business School
Kingston Lane, Uxbridge
UB8 3PH, UK
Are they made of stronger stuff?
Look around you, right now, and you will notice some people may be coping a little bit better than others. The answer is resilience. It is possible to learn. It’s like exercise for the mind. Like physical fitness, it takes time and a little effort, but its effects are powerful.
How can business leaders be resilient?
Resilience is built over the years. They may have been taught, they may have taught themselves, they may have learned from experience – when life gives them lemons, they make lemonade. They may already have built a strong support network that they trust and can go to for help at any time. They may have worked out their own goals and already know where the motivation needs to come from. Others may never have had that or may not perceive what they have had as something that could potentially make them stronger. If you don’t recognize sweetness, lemonade seems an impossible and even pointless task. BUT, even if you haven’t thought about it before, you can begin to build or rebuild your resilience, and that of your teams and your organizations.
What is resilience?
According to chartered psychologist and author Dr Audrey Tang, resilience is about ascending three peaks: crisis to survival, exhaustion to rebuild, competition to thrive (Tang, 2020). A business leader from any sized company will have to go through the following stages, especially in the post Covid-19 environment.
1. “Crisis” is often the known enemy. While it doesn’t hurt to have your energy tank topped up, the survival in the crisis period is helped by adrenaline. The bigger the crisis, the more support as the community pulls together. Where the hardest slog comes is when the crisis is conquered.
Ask yourself before or during the survival period.
– What or who keeps you going when you are exhausted?
– How can you take or find respite while in a period of crisis?
– What is the minimum you need during the crisis stage in order to survive? (Thus leaving less to repay, restore or rebuild)
2. After the storm is the calm, but that is the hardest part of all – Rebuilding through “Exhaustion”. Key workers are exhausted. There is devastation in the form of debt, despair, loss and trauma, and compassion is now running dry. You need to pick up again when there is less camaraderie, less charity and even more fear of “now what?”
Ask yourself during the rebuild period
– Who or what of your new collaborations can assist with your restoration?
– What renewed, revisited or transferrable skills can now be utilized?
…and do a regular “sense check” on the consumer and client climate, exploring new areas or opportunities where possible.
3. Then you’re ok, you’re finally back…but you can’t stop there. If you stop, you stagnate, and if others grow, you are moving backwards. Now you must thrive through “Competition”.
Ask yourself when able to thrive
– Have all the exposed weaknesses been addressed satisfactorily?
– What lessons were learned and how can they inform your current decisions?
– Have you shown appreciation to all those who came together to pull through to this point…and do you continue to do so?
Tips to build resilience
Following are few useful tips by Dr Tang to build resilience for leaders and teams at an organizational level:
Note that while this is most likely to happen after a crisis, this is best repeated regularly.
Audit your areas of weakness
i) Reflect on and correct areas of weakness in your initial response stages
While the same occurrence may not happen again in your lifetime, you may have identified certain areas in which your response was sluggish or affected company morale and trust. Be aware of what happened, through asking the “5 whys” (asking “why” five times to get to the root cause of the problem).
ii) Know that intellectual awareness is NOT the same as practical preparation
It is good to know the “theory” of what you might do, but it is action that is essential. In life coaching terms, I tell over-thinking clients “don’t be the most enlightened person that never lived”. You need to be able to put those ideas into practice, and if you cannot, then work to adapt them so you can.
iii) Are there wider opportunities or networks with whom you can grow collaboratively?
Use this time to network or reach out to explore opportunities, especially since you have been afforded time to think, as well as holding the awareness that people’s habits and behaviors may change after a crisis. Consider also previous areas of expertise which may even be “now defunct”. Would their revival serve you well?
iv) Be aware of changing consumer/client behaviors
Following a crisis or changed situation, the lifestyle we had been used to may change and so our consumer behavior may follow. Organizations need to keep abreast of and consider the possible mindset of their clients and customers.
v) Use the time to reflect on your own responsiveness and growth potential
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you have been gifted some quiet time:
– If you knew a disruption or crisis would last longer than the proposed 12 weeks, how might you respond?
– If you knew six months ago this would happen, how would you prepare?
– What long-term strategic projects may have to change or could be started as a result?
– With whom can you collaborate to help you with any changes of direction, or to help each other rebuild after financial loss or other negative effects?
vi) Be mindful of your “fear responses”
Crisis brings fear, and fear can result in knee-jerk reactions. Be aware of what yours are so that you do not fall back into old habits. You would not drink poison if you were thirsty, why would you engage in toxic practices just because you are afraid?
vii) Future plan “what worked”
You may find that new adaptations such as “work from home” resulted in better productivity (and fewer overheads, more room to add location-based services and so on) – if this is the case, think carefully to best optimize any new implementations. Don’t just rush into buying the technology you are using because “it works now” – think about how that method is going to work in the future and how you might want to use it and invest accordingly.
viii) Keep topping up your energy tank NOW
Resilience is the knowledge that you can and will cope BEFORE the act of proving it. The best time to work on it is when things are calm. (When they are not – you need all that emotional and mental energy you have built up to survive and rebuild!) It is the knowledge that you can and will cope in all three stages of resilience rather than the act of proving it. You will also find that if you have built up your strength, not only is survival and rebuilding easier, but you are already better placed to find ways to thrive following the unexpected.