Stretched Too Thin: How Leaders Can Build Resilience In Their Organization
Updated: Aug 20
Before the summer of 2015, it was very rare for C-suite executives to openly talk about personal loss and tragedy and how they recovered from it. And yet, when Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband, she found support on the very platform she works to market- Facebook.
What does resilience mean?
Very simply put, it is the ability to bounce back from failure and setbacks, even tragedy, to make the most out of life. Many of us demonstrate different degrees of resilience in various areas of our life, but we may not be thinking too much about it in the workplace.
When a business hits the doldrums, leaders often wonder why the employees cannot simply pull up their socks and get to work with even greater gusto. However, the truth is that many of us know very little about resilience at work, plus constant fears (losing the job, failing at a task) can cause employee morale to fall significantly.
In physics, there’s an interesting example of elasticity. If we ask you, which one is more elastic- steel or rubber- what would your answer be? The correct answer is steel because it has better abilities to come back into its original shape than does rubber when subjected to pressure. How many employees have you compared to rubber bands so far?
What’s more, resilience affects different organizations differently. A smaller organization with more flexible roles is better at being elastic. This is because every individual can quickly adapt to new forces, plus the team itself is small and can efficiently be run by one captain of the ship. However, larger organizations that have done business in a given manner for several years often find that new market developments are challenging. In such situations, the leader’s vision has a huge role to play in how quickly, and willingly, all of the employees bounce back. Only a leader knows what specific fears plague their firm, which is why they can alleviate these fears best.
However, what must a leader do to be tuned into these aspects, but not take it to heart?
Coaching might help. Specific goals the leader sets could include ways to achieve balance and build a growth mindset. They may also choose to spend a certain amount of time every week reading or talking to employees in different verticals. Many senior leaders around the world have even sworn by meditation and mindfulness. Jeff Weiner and Mark Benioff both swear by this practice. Closer home, Vani Kola, Kalaari Capital’s visionary founder, talks about ‘heartfulness’ as a technique that helps us live in the moment. Be it coaching or be it mindfulness, consistency is key.
The Road To Resilience As A Leader
Many leaders also have the tools and resources required to build resilience in their organization, but they may be lost as to where to begin. A few simple steps can help you get started- here’s how:
1. Always take the army approach. In the army, everyone has a specified set of tasks that they need to perform. Startups often struggle with this because there seem to be too many tasks and not enough time. However, giving people monthly goals can really help. Keep the goals specific- instead of saying, “increased push for sales” say, “discover and speak to at least 10 qualified leads”.
2. Remember that you’re working with a great diversity of people. Often, it is easy to get caught up in our own thought patterns, which in turn can alienate other people and their thoughts. However, many companies actually hire for diversity, both in thinking and experience, to help come up with as many new solutions as possible. Use this diversity to your advantage.
3. Don’t set the stretch goals. Perhaps one story of failure that endures in modern history is that of Marissa Mayer and Yahoo! The world waited with bated breath to see how the new CEO would accomplish all of her big, hairy, audacious goals. Except, she didn’t. Many times, companies in a crunch situation feel the need to outperform everyone else through sheer force of will. However, research repeatedly shows that doing that in bad times can actually have less than desirable consequences. Instead, if you are already in trouble, it is best to do what you do well. The only time when stretch goals work is when you have the tools, resources, and time to do justice to them. 4. Train your managers, and train them often. Motivation is a scarce resource. Today, several organizations look at training as just another overhead that needs to be borne. However, a good training program can provide valuable insight into how your employees think and how you might be able to reorient them. Moreover, training is always a way to step away from work and learn something new. As you become a leader, it is also essential to coach more leaders in your stride, so you are prepared for the day when you truly become big.
What situations have you encountered that needed organizational resilience? How did you get through this situation? Tell us in the comments!
Pick up Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s resilience best-seller Option B from our bookshelf.