Margit Takacs: Getting personal about resilience
IMI Associate Margit Takacs says teams must create ‘special bonds’ for resilience to flourish.
The advent of Covid-19 is plausibly the biggest shock humanity has experienced since World War II. We live in a global village where everybody and everything is connected. What happens in one part of the globe has a butterfly effect in all corners. We have to bounce back faster than ever. There is no time to ruminate; we need to be ready to act and persevere with confidence and competence, no matter what unexpected turns life takes.
In other words, we need resilience.
Resilience has become one of the most cited buzz words of recent times. We hear leading experts, television personalities and even our neighbours talking about the importance of being more resilient in everything we do. We think to ourselves “Yes, of course, I am resilient. No matter what comes my way, I will get through it”. While acknowledging it is a great start, what else is there to resilience? What can we do for our teams and for our organisations?
Business excellence through resilience
Resilience is the ability to face and overcome adversity. When a business is resilient, it is able to recover quickly in times of disruption and prepare for what the future holds. Resilience is no different at an individual or at a team level, with the caveat of the special need for increased self-awareness and empathy.
We want to become stronger from the setbacks we face and confidently display the unique learnings to our shareholders and stakeholders. According to Cross et al. (2021) in the Harvard Business Review, “resilience has been shown to positively influence work satisfaction, engagement, as well as overall well-being, and can lower depression levels”.
This is the way to business excellence.
Where should we start?
In this fast-changing and interconnected world, to be successful we need to recognise that the customers and their loyalty lead to long-term high business performance. Knowing what customers’ changing needs are, even before they find out themselves, and having an agile organisation reflecting regularly on the customers’ changing preferences, constitutes the first step. If the business has “a flexible, adaptive, and ready for disruption culture”, as thoroughly researched by Sundaram and Barrett at Gallup, it will have a pivotal advantage.
Organisations need purpose-driven employees at all levels who see their own aspirations being fulfilled with their company’s vision and who have a strong drive to get through even the most challenging times.
Leaders who dare to challenge their own readiness and invest time into their own development can adapt to the employees’ changing needs and schedules in today’s hybrid business world. They are asking difficult questions to assess whether their teams are able and ready to become truly resilient. They are deeply reflecting on the team’s ability to have open discussions about challenges whilst giving each other evidence-based feedback.
Leaders evaluate the team’s willingness to join forces, and, in times of distress, to come up with creative approaches and solutions, and they assess people’s genuine interest to care for one another in good and in bad times.
Psychological safety is the prerequisite in the journey, as outlined by Millar. An often-cited terminology that needs demystifying, psychological safety is about leaders creating a culture where people dare to speak out without negative consequences. This is easier said than done, we know, but it is a must.
What can we do about it, practically?
There are many paths leaders can take, so here are some of my recommendations to help you get started.
- When it comes to your business being resilient, constructively challenge yourself and your management team about how customer-focused and agile you are. Nowadays, everyone wants to be both, but where do you lie on this scale, really?
- Recognise when stress occurs and speak openly about it with your team. Build on your team’s capacity to cope with the unexpected, dare to be vulnerable and admit when it is hard. Invest time into your own leadership competencies to boost your insights into leadership and, in so doing, set an example for your team.
- Demonstrate that you trust your team members by allowing them, if need be, to fail, to rise again, and to learn together. Furthermore, do a regular pulse check on your team’s well-being and energy levels.
- Whether you work together virtually or in a hybrid manner, people crave for connection. Take the time to create special bonds with one another by organising interactions that create distinctive encounters that make a difference.
Resilience, for a leader, a team or an organisation, practically, starts with remembering that we are all humans and, yes, we can do it.
Margit Takacs is an IMI Associate and works as a senior change management and culture consultant with 20 years of experience in the corporate and not-for-profit world. She is affiliated with a number of programmes at IMI, including the Graduate Development Programme and Leading with Strategic Intent.