advertisement
advertisement
The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

12 leadership strategies for building a more resilient organization

Resilience is a key trait if businesses are to survive and thrive in times of crisis and uncertainty.

12 leadership strategies for building a more resilient organization
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]
advertisement
advertisement

Resilience—the ability to bounce back and recover quickly from adverse situations—has proven to be an essential quality throughout the pandemic, but it’s also a good trait to hone for the post-pandemic world. Crises and market uncertainty can rear their heads at any time, and leaders must know how to adapt and move forward with confidence.

advertisement
advertisement

Below, 12 members of Fast Company Executive Board share their best tips for leaders to promote resilience in their businesses.

1. DIVERSIFY REVENUE AND BUILD A STRONG COMPANY CULTURE

First, leaders should work to diversify revenue sources. If a crisis comes—say in the form of a pandemic—that cripples industry verticals and you haven’t protected your company by serving different types of customers, that crisis could easily take your company out. Also, the ability to “rally the troops” around the company’s focus, goal, idea, or outcome is very powerful; the speed at which this can happen and its degree of execution is heavily dependent on a strong culture. Having a well-rounded company with a strong culture allows leaders to have honest conversations. This is helpful when you need to move past a negative situation, motivate an individual, or focus the company—not on the crisis but on what success looks like beyond the current circumstances. – Richard Makerson, BlueFletch

2. PIVOT YOUR PERSPECTIVE

A crisis can be the biggest opportunity of your business, so how can you reframe it as such? Evaluate the issue with a clear head, because while you may want to remedy things as quickly as possible, acting on impulse can make things worse. Zero in on a core focus and rally the team behind it—get in the trenches together, since it improves morale if you’re fighting as a team. Every failure and crisis is a learning opportunity and a chance for positive growth. Your team will admire you for taking the lead to fix the problem. – Brit Morin, Brit + Co

advertisement

3. BECOME IMPACT-DRIVEN

Leaders can build more resilient companies by transitioning their organizations to become impact-driven—to solve problems that are meaningful and can impact people’s lives. The company culture needs to have a seed from which it will grow a thick, resilient stem, despite any challenge. In a crisis, everyone will work together in the same direction because they care about their work and they understand clearly the value it brings to the world. As humans, we are all in this together, and solutions nowadays should positively impact our everyday lives. – Alicia Chong Rodriguez, Bloomer Tech

4. STAY “TRU”

When it became clear last March that the COVID-19 crisis was upon us, I realized I had to ground our staff before they started to spiral, so I came up with a mantra that encapsulated our shared purpose in the face of the crisis. We needed to “Stay TRU”: Thoughtful, Resilient, United. Staying TRU was our touchstone for getting through the pandemic. Crisis or not, as leaders our job is to provide purpose, context, and clarity. We must constantly improve alignment and collaboration across the company to allow our teams to be more successful, efficient, and inspired in achieving our company goals—and innovating beyond them. – Sascha Mayer, Mamava

5. EXERCISE YOUR “INSTINCT MUSCLES”

Leaders need to be honest, act quickly, and have a backbone. A crisis tests the strength of our instincts because we need to react quickly to manage the situation. Fear of making a mistake paralyzes us, which is why it is important early in our careers to start exercising the “muscle” of our instincts. While it may not be perfect, our gut gets more accurate over time. Leadership requires courage; those who wait on others for advice, hide the truth, or believe problems will just go away on their own do not deserve to be at the helm of an organization. – Ximena Hartsock, Phone2Action

advertisement

6. BUILD NIMBLE, RESPONSIVE SYSTEMS

Resiliency is such an important trait for companies in light of COVID-19, racial unrest, and political drama. Becoming a resilient company means being prepared for whatever may happen, so company leaders need to focus on three things. First, create nimble systems that can respond to change. Second, empower your team to respond as needed without hierarchy and approvals getting in the way. Finally, create space for ongoing reflection and refinements to systems and processes to ensure readiness regardless of what happens. These three strategies, regularly reviewed and supported, can help companies handle shocks, whether inside or outside of the company. – Melissa Bradley, Ureeka

7. REMEMBER IT’S BETTER TO BE HONEST THAN “STRONG”

In our research across four generations during the pandemic, we found that the most important action a leader can take is to deliver honest communication. This may seem easy, but leaders frequently said that they needed to message strength and resilience—which was actually the lowest-scoring request from employees in our national study. What employees want during this time of crisis and uncertainty is honesty, candor, and to know they can trust their leaders. Employees often test messages from a senior leader by asking their direct boss or supervisor if what the senior leader has said is true. – Jason Dorsey, The Center for Generational Kinetics

8. SUPPORT WELLNESS AND PREPAREDNESS

Resiliency is such a big factor in building a thriving and sustainable company. Companies should focus on supporting their employees’ and contractors’ holistic mind and body wellness. They should also transparently present and reframe negative situations and posit them as positives or opportunities that have buy-in across the organization. Teams should catalog and learn from past mistakes to be able to mitigate against future risks, or they can practice disaster drills and play out worst-case scenarios to prepare and know how to react. – Riana Lynn, Journey Foods

advertisement

9. ENCOURAGE OPEN COMMUNICATION

Leaders can build resiliency among their ranks by establishing a culture of open communication. I’ve often found that the action-oriented and customer-facing staff in an organization usually have the best ideas because they are close to all of the action. If a permeable culture of sincerity and openness doesn’t exist, communication in the organization is no different than a political game of telephone. Encourage people to speak up, and if they don’t naturally, come up with fun ways to engage with the team, with a focus on truly listening. – Ziver Birg, Turbulence, Inc.

10. CENTER ON YOUR PURPOSE AND VALUES

As a leader, communicating your vision, beating the drum internally and externally about your purpose, and ensuring that you build your culture and product to align with a shared set of values is essential. Amidst crisis, it is critical to recenter on your collective purpose and values as a team. If your team knows with clarity what their collective purpose is and that your core values are how they will achieve that vision, there will be trust in your leadership. With trust in your leadership, your organization can embrace almost any change. – Erica Mackey, MyVillage

11. QUESTION YOUR ASSUMPTIONS

A moment of crisis lends itself to our most biased survival-based behaviors. It is in those moments that we have to slow down and ask ourselves about any assumptions we are making, both about our people’s needs and what is best for the company. When we are most attached to protecting power is usually exactly when we should be distributing it. – Karla Monterroso, Code2040

advertisement

12. LEAD FROM A PLACE OF RADICAL TRANSPARENCY

The worst thing you can do is pretend you are an all-knowing deity just because you are the leader of the organization. Be clear with your team that you do not know what will happen, but that you are committed to sharing what you know when you know it. This will both build trust and empathy and give you the space to be human in the process of leading through the unknown. – Jessica O. Matthews, Uncharted