As turbulent times go, it’s hard to imagine a more unpredictable or nebulous time than right now. The Covid-19 pandemic has swept through the business landscape like a typhoon, leaving devastation in its wake, with many businesses either permanently closed or temporarily suspended.
Of those that have so far survived there are a lucky few who have seen no change – or in fact a rise – in demand. But what about the rest? How have they navigated the pandemic and lived to see another day?

Resilience is the key to surviving the unexpected. Without it, you stand little chance of successfully steering a business through an uncertain future.

But what do we mean by resilience? And how can you build it into your business?

Start with the fundamentals

First and foremost resilience is built on a foundation of three fundamental components: diet, sleep, and exercise. This is something which too many business leaders neglect.

A lot of leaders don’t consider the physical components of resilience. They forget that if you’re not getting enough sleep, if your diet is poor, if you do no exercise, then your body starts to get more and more run down which causes you to find everything – even little things – difficult.
Getting these fundamentals right will help you develop a reservoir of personal resilience as a leader, so that when problems do arise, you don’t instantly feel fatigued and unable to cope. Once you have this reservoir of personal resilience, it also allows you to help others develop theirs.

Get comfortable with the unexpected

The nature of the unexpected is that it is, by its very essence, unforeseeable. However, this shouldn’t stop you from being prepared:
We need to be comfortable with the unexpected and become more familiar with the fact that at some point a crisis is going to happen. We need to make the unexpected routine and make the reactions familiar. So, how do we do this?

The best way to deal with a crisis is to buy yourself time to think. You need to slow down and think – but if you take too long to think, sometimes you’ll miss the opportunity that’s there. The military strategy of ‘actions on’ is the way business leaders should approach preparing for the unexpected. This technique effectively creates an immediate, pre-planned response to a number of possible situations or crises.

In the military, before going out on a patrol they would say “actions on being sniped at” or “actions on a bomb going off”. They then talk through exactly what they were going to do in that immediate moment. This immediate response would buy the leader time to create a more long-term strategy.

Control the things you can control

When it comes to control, it’s all a matter of perspective; if you focus on the things you can control, you become more resilient as a person. It’s about how you react to and think about events, rather than the events themselves. You can’t control the event, but you can control your response.

When we focus on worrying about whether or not something will happen, it’s simply wasted time and energy.

Business leaders get really wound up about things they can’t control, such as “will a second Covid spike occur?” How much influence do you have over that? Absolutely none. Rather than fretting about it, think through what you would do if that were to happen. That helps build resilience. Instead of becoming emotionally drained, you focus on what you can do.

Have a sense of purpose

When a crisis happens, it’s easy to get caught up in the drama and emotion of the situation, it’s important to always focus on action and purpose.

If you allow yourself to be emotionally wrapped up in a situation, it can become debilitating. That emotional downward trend is infectious, and it can affect your whole team.

This isn’t the same as denying the problem or putting a falsely positive spin on things. It’s important to be authentic as a leader and openly acknowledge how worried you are, before addressing the situation with a sense of purpose. There’s nothing wrong with saying this is scary, and then it’s about working out how you can support each other across the team.

How personal resilience translates to business resilience

The connecting rod between personal resilience and organisational resilience is built around the acronym CALM.

The first letter stands for compassion. When things go wrong, everyone reacts in a different way. A team is made up of different individuals: some will be gung ho, some terrified, some quietly anxious. As a leader, you need to take the time to understand where people are.

Action-orientated is the next one. Everyone feels more comfortable when there’s a sense of action. In a crisis, ticking off things that are easy to achieve gives people a sense of motivation and positivity.

The L in CALM is for level-headed. Taking the time to think and reflect and using your team a bit more to help you do this, is a vital part of resilience in the face of a crisis.

Finally, the M is for mindfulness. Being mindful and kind to yourself as a leader is the foundation for resilience: Even if you don’t feel like you need it, you must take time to stop, because inevitably you will need it.

As with most aspects of leadership, business resilience begins at home. If you make sure you are physically, psychologically and emotionally resilient as an individual, you will become equipped to build resilience into your business. You need to have the ability to cope with things personally, and once you have that, you can begin to effectively address the resilience of your organisation.