It is fair to say that the past couple of years have tested our resilience to a degree that very few of us would have experienced at any other time in our lives.
Now, while it is true that some people are more resilient than others in a crisis, it is not a quality that is necessarily innate. Contrary to some commonly held beliefs, resilience is not exclusively something that you are born with or develop through lived experience.
Everyone has the capability within themselves to become more resilient and better equipped to face adversity and tackle it head on, without first having to endure multiple challenging situations in their life.
We also have the ability to build resilience in others. Resilience is an incredibly important quality to have in the workplace, especially within small businesses, where there is often a great onus on everyone in the team to perform their role to a high level (and often juggle more than one role to fill in for absentees). Being resilient gives you an increased capacity to cope when times are tough, without adversely affecting your mental health.
Having resilience and instilling it in others is not simply about being able to fulfil your role in spite of whatever is going on in your environment, because if there is chaos all around you and you are constantly under the pump or fighting fires in your workplace, ultimately that will take its toll on even the most durable among us, and is ultimately unsustainable.
Possessing and building true resilience is all about putting the right mechanisms in place to create a supportive and collaborative environment where everyone feels valued and respected - a place where they can feel comfortable asking for help if they need it, without fear of being judged or looked upon unfavourably for doing so.
Here are a few key areas that small business owners can focus on to help ensure their business and staff remain resilient as we emerge from the long shadow cast by the Covid 19 shutdown.
1 - Adaptability
During lockdown, many businesses were forced to pivot to stay in business. Fine dining restaurants created gourmet meal boxes with step by step instructions for customers to prepare and serve at home, distillers produced hand sanitiser, and clothing manufacturers started making PPE.
These are all great examples of building resilience in the workplace, so that your business can continue to survive and thrive even when your primary - and sometimes only - source of income is taken away from you.
Many businesses had to make adjustments on the fly and still did so successfully, but preparing for such scenarios by having tried and tested alternative business continuity strategies in place will make this process much more straightforward and build a much greater level of confidence and resilience within your team that you are ready to face whatever situation comes your way, and continue to prosper in the face of great adversity.
2 – Continuous engagement
By keeping lines of communication open with customers (and potential customers) frequently through the various touch points they use to engage with your business, you can keep them up to date with any changes you’ve made or need to make, increasing your chances of securing customer buy-in for your new direction, and critically, maintaining a revenue stream.
This strategy also applies to communications with your team. By discussing proposed changes to how you do business, inviting your team to contribute to decision making processes, and giving them a platform to share their own views and ideas, they will feel much more valued and involved in the future direction of the business. As a consequence, you will have a happier and more productive team, as well as a much better grasp of your employees’ individual strengths and capabilities, so you can tap into those valuable resources when you need to.
Schedule regular one-on-ones with your team members to ask how they are tracking. Find out what issues (if any) they are experiencing, and what you can do to help alleviate those concerns.
3 – Trust and flexibility
An added benefit of having honest and open dialogue with your team is that it builds a strong foundation of trust, not just between managers and staff, but also between colleagues.
Once a staff member knows that their leader and their colleagues have their back and will be there for them in times of need, it builds confidence within them that whatever adversity occurs, they will be able to get through it – the very essence of resilience.
Leaders also need to demonstrate resilience in trying times in order to be able to instil it throughout their team. Sharing in successes and rewarding team members for their efforts also builds goodwill and trust and will make people go the extra mile for you when called upon. Conversely, a lack of leadership can very quickly erode confidence amongst a team and lead to division and isolation.
Finally, a key thread in building trust amongst your team is by acknowledging that they have a life outside of work and being as accommodating as possible in enabling them to manage their other commitments outside of the office.
Many of us have become accustomed over the last couple of years to working remotely, and a lot of people who have experienced that flexibility for the first time have indicated that they have no desire to return to the office on a full time basis again. Facilitating this not only builds trust within your team, it also leads to greater resilience, as a more focused and less distracted employee has more time to reflect upon an issue and come up with the appropriate solution. Working smarter, not harder, delivers results time and again.