This feels like a very timely post to write following on from my recent post on why everyone is talking about resilience. Last time I wrote about how to support others and this part explores what you can do for yourself and what’s needed in business. Why is resilience such an issue in businesses large and small? I’ll explain now and it doesn’t all make for pleasant reading.

Business owners are human

Mostly. Just kidding, all the businesses I work with have superhuman owners and founders. I encourage business owners to look after themselves first as running a business is hard. Adding in family commitments, community work, leading a team – this is superhuman work.

You can’t help others if you don’t put on your oxygen mask first so looking after yourself as a business owner is so important.

Personal resilience and how to build it up

Each and every one of us has different levels of resilience and know what we personally need to do to maintain it. You can’t just magic up resilience because you’ve had to hit the big red emergency button – you need to know you’ve got something to call on in the first place.

Why we need to keep the tank topped up

I like to think of keeping the resilience tank topped up so you always have the reserves to draw from when you need them. Imagine it as pouring from this tank. It’s hard to fill the tank if you’re emptying it at the same time – just think of a tank of fuel, you have to stop driving in order to fill up. Nobody wants to be left with the red light flashing and the engine stopping when you’re driving.

Making sense of having an empty tank

If you’ve just gone through a traumatic event, your resilience will have taken a huge hit and it’ll take a while to recoup. Be kind to yourself, you can’t always carry on as you did before. Once you’re building back up, your resilience might even be greater than you had before as you now have a new perspective on situations. I’ve spoken before about Bouncing Forward and Man’s Search for Meaning which are particularly relevant to this topic. Both are fantastic books on this topic and I’d encourage reading both.

Tips on building resilience and keeping it topped up

Here are a few pointers I work with clients on around how to build your resilience and keep it topped up for when you need it.

  1. Understanding what resilience is, how we recognise it and how our bodies and minds work
  2. Knowing what our level of control is, how to take a perspective and how we respond to external factors
  3. Planning how to build our resilience – how we look after ourselves
  4. Supporting ourselves with healthy relationships, healthy thoughts, looking after our wellbeing and finding a sense of purpose
  5. What we need to plan for in business in terms of resilience
  6. Preparing for difficult situations especially if working remotely

Good news stories coming from quiet resilience

I notice the talk about resilience is currently on the survival end of the spectrum and not the thriving end. Probably for good reason as we try to keep everything and everyone bobbing above water. Resilience in terms of thriving is a quieter chat at the moment. Those businesses who’ve diversified, changed completely or altered their business model to serve a different audience have been resilient. They make good news stories but the mood shifts back to those who aren’t resilient rather than those who are.

Having a good business resilience plan is normal and not the most exciting thing in the world, but necessary nonetheless.

Good things being done to help: small businesses, hospitality, tourism

From the small business owner who is trying to stay afloat in a negatively impacted sector to the large corporations who seem unshakeable; they have had very different types of challenge.

There are some brilliant initiatives to support smaller businesses and those who’ve been especially impacted by lockdown restrictions. Most Local Enterprise Partnerships have business support schemes available to for various needs. I’m involved with a few and I’ve witnessed time and again the dogged determination and resilience to not be beaten but to survive and thrive. It has been incredibly humbling to see people adapt their businesses almost overnight and to see new ways of working. For instance, the embracing of new digital skills and new arms to their business. Those skills and changes which were a distant plan a few month prior are now embedded into many businesses.

Enterprise Nation and Uber Eats have launched a support scheme for restaurants and hospitality companies to get back on their feet. For some Uber drivers, they’re able to get support on a different business idea of venture too.

The team at Silicon Brighton have launched Our Brighton at breakneck speed. The initiative is designed to get technology and digital support out to businesses who need to get online, to increase their presence and get back into business. Keeping local traders, independent shops and hospitality going is the lifeblood of what makes Brighton, well Brighton.

This is why everyone is talking about resilience, it’s about businesses as well as individuals.

The human side of large organisations

In larger organisations too it’s been inspiring to see leaders unveiling a more personal side. Leaders showing vulnerability, opening the door on their challenges and taking their team with them as they navigate forwards. There has been a huge surge of interest in employees’ wellbeing and mental health recently and with good reason.

Good leaders have been going above and beyond ensuring their staff are looked after in the best way they can. This may be making sure they have the best equipment to work with at home and managing working hours. Or it’s booking in time for them to exercise, putting on wellbeing classes and arranging remote activities. They also ensure the pathways of communication are not only open, but their use actively encouraged.

It’s been interesting to work with a global corporate company recently where they’ve positively embraced working on resilience. In fact, the analogy of keeping resilience topped up like a tank came from a great conversation I had with them. It’s been inspiring to see how teams can work together to support each other even whilst working remotely.

But not all businesses are human

I’ve also experienced first-hand the detrimental effects of a toxic work culture. Sadly on more than one occasion, I’ve been bullied and seen it happen. Being an ally is so important but in cultures where employees are terrified to speak out, you can feel powerless. Cultures where bullying is normalised means that no employee has a chance of being resilient. It’s a downward spiral for both individuals and companies.

In my last blog post about resilience I said only last week that talking about resilience was not a case of “pulling your socks up”.

I urge all leaders out there to be mindful of this.

Each person is going on their individual path with this and will need support to be resilient in different ways. Everyone is an adult so bears responsibility for their own wellbeing but I encourage you to talk to your teams, and your support network often. Talk in depth about what everyone needs to get through – and get through this we will.

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash