Is Your Business Resilient?
Michael DeVenney
September 20, 2021

In the past several months, companies have been tested to the extent and degree of their ability to withstand adversity as never thought possible. Every function of organizations from supply chain management to customer service to operations – and especially leadership – has been pressured as never felt in the past. And there have been no playbooks for response.

But can your business continue to bend and not break under the ongoing strains?

When we think about resilience as a company, cash reserves, low debt levels and robust prospect pipelines along with other operational factors come to mind, yet these are just numbers -- measures of how an organization is performing. On their own, key performance metrics do not provide foresight into the capacity of a business to survive challenges. There is a missing factor far more important to sustaining the future prosperity of companies – resilience.

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And resilience, it is fast becoming one of those words used so many times, it loses its meaning and ends up as just another buzzword. So, how am I applying it to business?

It is a word with meaning to me. Resilience describes the ability of a company to withstand, respond, and recover from tough situations, bounce back from negative surprises, and to cope and manage the reaction to setbacks and obstacles with a proactive perspective.

With that definition in mind, I look to a different aspect of an organization to assess its resiliency. Companies are in their simplest form a collection of people. And it is the combined resilience of the workforce that indicates whether a business will sustain and succeed in the face of difficulty.

Deep cash balances and active sales pipelines will not matter if the collective perspective of people within the company is stressed to the point that they cannot manage their emotional reactions and cope effectively with continued uncertainty. Key performance indicators mean nothing without the confidence of teams that they can continue to contribute and execute effectively to support future business response and success.

Leaders need to provide a working environment that supports people to embrace and support change, rebound from setbacks and thrive in the face of ambiguity, disruption, and uncertainty in an accelerated world. And this is where I believe our businesses are most at risk. Yes, it is more about how people feel than the numbers that will determine if the innovation and perseverance to rebuild and reimagine the company to survive is there.

And we rarely measure the resiliency of the workforce (and I do NOT mean engagement). As leaders, we need to understand if the experience and dynamics of working in the organization supports people to believe in a sustainable future. Is the feeling that they and their colleagues have the competency to do what is needed? Do they have confidence in the shared future of the business? Do they feel a strong sense of connection with each other and that they are there for one another? Are they clear on the purpose and direction of the company? Are they able to cope effectively with events and ongoing change? Do they have a feeling of being able to reasonably control what is going on around them? And can they maintain their composure and manage their emotions in healthy ways with the difficult situations they are facing? All these factors are the true measure of the resiliency of a business.

There is no question, it is essential to ensure the financial and operational strength and stability of your company but, most critically, ensure that you are providing the environment for people to be collectively resilient, together as a workforce, to maintain the future success of your business.

Ask questions, get feedback, listen and interpret, and provide people with what they need to feel like a team so that they can react and respond in healthy ways to bring the business to the future you envision.

If you burn out your people, you will also burn through cash and opportunities.

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