Resilience and Leadership: How Leaders Can Harness The Power of Change

Creating A Resilient Organization

In today’s hyper competitive business world, one thing you can bet on is that change will accelerate and make the marketplace more complex. You can also bet that leaders who take advantage of change and create an adaptable organization will enjoy greater success than those who don’t.

The question is, how can leaders make change-a terrifying black hole of uncertainty for many-a driver to greater success? Resilience to change is one the three “human” elements I coach executives to embrace on their road to higher personal and corporate performance. An Awareness of your strengths and weaknesses and a Connection to stakeholders are the other two elements which comprise my ARC of Leadership methodology.

As I mentioned in my first article on Resilience, a resilient leader integrates four fundamentals into his or her leadership style to create an adaptable organization that is ready for new opportunities. The four fundamentals of Resilience are:

  • Proper Risk Management
  • Effective Personal “Brand” Alignment
  • Prompt Reaction
  • Timely Execution

Resilience Fundamental #1: Risk Management

Last article, I discussed how education and knowledge, managing your business relationships and having a mitigation plan, are key to proper risk management. In today’s article, I will go into detail on the second and third critical fundamentals of Resilience: alignment and reaction.

Resilience Fundamental #2: Effective Personal Brand “Alignment”

The second fundamental needed to master Resilience and harness the opportunities of change is to align your public brand or image with your desired image. Being a credible leader who walks the talk is one of the most powerful-and difficult-means to inspire change. Most successful leaders or companies surround themselves with clever people, and it’s the smart ones who will be the first to see a disconnect, or a synergy, between what you say and what you do… and then follow accordingly. To achieve that alignment, build your credibility and then influence behaviours, leaders must embrace the following:

  1. Demonstrate Your Commitment. A public AND internal commitment and dedication to the tasks, strategies and objectives of the organization is key for any leader. Leaders who spend time publicly communicating their company’s mission and are present within the organization to articulate the vision and answer employee questions are true leaders. They have a pulse on the marketplace and are in touch with their staff… and vice versa. So when the time comes to react and implement change, employees will not be surprised and will understand the context of the conversation. If you only show up to deliver bad news, people will become defensive and resistant by the sheer sight of you coming their way!
  2. Be Positive. Have you ever seen a leader that concentrated on the negative events or possibilities? It’s very depressing to hear we’re doing a bad job with little hope for success. Good leaders are able to acknowledge the current struggle AND take the time to weave in positive messages of hope and achievement to their organizations. If you can highlight what is going well and communicate positive opportunities in times of chaos, people are much more motivated to keep struggling on through the tough times of change.
  3. Radiate Confidence. Leaders must communicate their confidence in the people, the processes and themselves to get the job done during times of uncertainty. A key assumption here, is you have assembled a team in whom you are confident… and if you have not, well, then you have other issues to manage! Your confidence needs to be communicated throughout every aspect of the company and marketplace. If you don’t believe in yourself or your team, this will be perceived and will diminish the impact of the actions taken during difficult times.

Resilience Fundamental #3: Prompt Reaction

The third fundamental of Resilience is your ability to react in difficult times. As a leader, how you react to change-be it quickly, slowly, or not at all-will have a major impact on how your organization also reacts. Do nothing and the changes or difficulties will be accepted as inevitable. React slowly and in small increments and you risk impacting your corporate culture… which is very difficult to change later on. Prompt reaction is what you should strive to achieve. In general, employees, customers and suppliers value leaders who react quickly and bring along a “take charge” attitude. They value it because they see you, the leader, addressing the issues and feel more comfortable that the change can be dealt with effectively.

To increase your capacity to react promptly, integrate the following into your leadership skill set:

  1. Be Empathetic. When anyone learns about or is confronted with a difficult reality, many people go into a state of shock or even denial and avoid dealing with the issue as long as possible. Experts agree, that we can better manage shock and therefore move forward by releasing the energy, anxiety and stress it creates, as soon as possible. Obviously, it doesn’t look very professional if a CEO is crying in public or during a town hall meeting; however, as a leader, acknowledging this “pain,” you validate that it’s perfectly normal to be anxious and stressed out about these changes. Your empathy makes a huge difference in getting people feeling comfortable that you understand their pain, and they are much more willing to get “on board” to move forward in your desired direction.
  2. Accept The Reality. Many organizations and leaders keep resisting change in the marketplace or its corporate culture. McDonald’s is a good example of this. For many years McDonald’s made small changes to their operations and marketing, with constant menu tweaks in hopes of expanding their customer base. Finally, they realized they needed a full-scale overhaul if they wanted to stay competitive. Because they resisted the changing marketplace for such a long time, they had to completely change their brand image to retain and then expand their target audience. McDonald’s now offers a healthier menu, a more refined cafe-like experience, has updated their interiors and exteriors, and provides free wi-fi. Although these changes are expensive, I do applaud the leadership team to have the strength and courage to fund such a major initiative. On the other side of the coin, a company like Nortel was not resilient at all. They failed at making the transition from Bell Northern Research, a government-sponsored organization, to a commercially-viable entity we all know as Nortel. Their government-based mindset and resistance to being nimble in the highly dynamic and customer-focused marketplace, lead to the end of this once great organization. The lesson here is, change is inevitable, how you deal with it is not!
  3. Mind Your Health. Although we all understand the impact alcohol or recreational drugs has on our ability to properly assess and react to a situation, there are other health-related factors to consider. Lack of sleep, prescription drug side-effects and our general level of health all have a major impact on our energy level and clarity of thinking. Take the time to rest, exercise and eat well; it will pay off in terms of your mental endurance and personal productivity.

Effective personal brand alignment and prompt reaction are the second and third fundamentals of Resilience. Last article we discussed the first fundamental, risk management, and next article, we’ll look at the final fundamental, timely execution. I encourage you to focus 5-10 minutes a day in exploring these two fundamentals in your journey to mastering the art of Resilience. Until then…

Be amazing!

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