One of today’s entrepreneurship catch phrases is resiliency. How well can businesses bounce back from tsunamis of economic disasters?
Melissa Lamson, chief executive officer of Lamson Consulting, and Meghan M. Biro, analyst, brand strategist, podcaster and TalentCulture CEO, looked at the sea change businesses must navigate to succeed.
“Businesses and employees are going through a lot,” Biro said. “There’s the pivot to remote, changing laws and regulations—sometimes overnight—plus safety. That’s not just physical safety, but emotional as well.
“How should we best deal with the pressures of working amid brand-new and vexing circumstances?” she said. “Get resilient, so instead of crashing from the stress, we bounce back.”
Organizations that grip onto the status quo with their cold, dead hands have no interest in flexibility that would open themselves to resilience. “This is how we’ve always done it” will be their funeral dirge.
“We have been lucky to have a strong economy since coming back from a recession in 2008,” Lamson said. “Many of us haven’t had to endure a crisis like this one in a while—I guess it’s more than one crisis.
“We don’t cultivate a culture of resilience in the U.S.,” she said. “We don’t plan for the future. We think short term. It is more about ‘quick wins and successes.’ We need to plan for ‘resilience’ to develop a tool-kit for it.”
Fear of constant monitoring
A touch of paranoia takes an emotional toll among the workforce.
“Long work hours is a major cause of a lack of resilience,” Lamson said. “People work more because they are afraid they won’t be seen working virtually. They work longer because there’s nothing else to do. There are fewer external boundaries, so we have to create our own.
“We talk about emotional intelligence, empathy and compassion,” she said. “Look around. What is the major cause of stress in your organization? Diversity is really about belonging. Do people in your organization feel they belong?”
Bouncing back is not inbred into an entrepreneur’s soul.
“Resilience in an organization isn’t something that just happens because an organization has weathered storms over the years,” Biro said. “It’s based on learning from those hardships.
“Companies rigidly structured with a narrow mindset tend to have problems with resiliency,” she said. “A nearsighted approach to fixing the workplace can mean you miss the mark. So, as you work to increase diversity and inclusion, make sure you understand how they improve your company’s resiliency. Then you’ll achieve all three.”
Diversity opens organizations to new points of view and ways to do things. There are many ways to bounce back. Diversity presents a brainstorm of options from which to select the best choice.
“We can certainly learn from those who have experienced a lifetime of discrimination and other painful situations and have had to practice resilience as a coping strategy,” Lamson said. “The more diversity we have—ideas, thoughts, perspectives—the more innovation we’ll have to foster organizational growth. We need people with diverse backgrounds to gain those points of view.”
Diversity through intelligence
She suggested that a 90-minute facilitated discussion on how to promote resilience through Inclusion and diversity would do wonders for an organization.
“Emotional intelligence is the essence of having a diverse organization.” Lamson said. “We create a sense of belonging when we have compassion for others. This is especially true when it comes to systemic racism or any -isms. We need to re-evaluate policies, procedures and systems for bias.
“Inclusion requires intention, emotional intelligence, compassion and care,” she said. “When we create culture, we have to account for and encourage different approaches. Careful culture doesn’t equal groupthink.”
On the contrary, it brings a different way of seeing everything.
“Diverse experiences and perspectives bring flexibility and an expanded imagination when it comes to decision making and setting strategies—a huge benefit in terms of resilience,” Biro said. “If an organization hasn’t had a reckoning with its own structural systems, it’s going to have the same problems it’s always had. That means it’s too brittle to achieve resilience.
“Resilience really means the strength to face and come through internal as well as external challenges—including improving diversity and inclusion,” she said.
Leaders need to seek talent who looks, thinks and acts differently from the person they see in the mirror. Opting for the safe and familiar limits leaders to only one answer: theirs, which might be wrong.
“Promote genuine preparedness, foresight and transparency so your people are not just along for the ride but invested in the outcome—no matter the crisis,” Biro said. “How resilient is your company? How much can you handle disruption of learning into your own culture and finding the weak points? Today’s leaders need to want to find this out.
“Own the disruptions, own the company response, own the mea culpa and resolve to do better,” she said. “Be transparent about mistakes. Don’t just promise to do better. Act on it.”
Refusing to address problems will not make them go away.
“Talking openly about real issues, painful situations, the lack of resilience people feel right now is an absolute must,” Lamson said. “Employees are looking for leaders to be supportive emotionally, compassionate and caring.
“The more emotional intelligence an organization has, the better it can cultivate a culture of inclusion,” she said. “Inclusion is the feeling of belonging—it’s simple, yet complex. When you feel supported, you belong, and you can build resilience under those circumstances.”
Above all, leaders need to be attuned to what their workers are going through.
“I’m hearing from leaders that they are shocked people are under-performing right now,” Lamson said. “They are surprised how upset people still are.
“Start with a conversation about what’s most important to the business,” she said. “Then break it down into one to three key actions. The action should be first and foremost ‘assessing.’ It’s not about changing everything all at once.”
Those with vision have their eyes on tomorrow.
“The competencies of the future are social skills, interpersonal connection, building trust, adapting to styles and cultures,” Lamson said. “I would add an understanding of power dynamics and social justice.”
She regularly schedules leadership workshops throughout the country for women executives. Lamson also has a free resource to assess how inclusive the leaders in an organization are.