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The importance of resilience

It’s not really news to say that UK-based businesses are facing high levels of uncertainty.

Article 50 may have been triggered but while the press froth about sideshows like Gibraltar (sorry, Gibraltar!) the reality is that we’re hearing little to nothing about exactly how the government plans to support the UK’s international trade situation (and the Foreign Minister’s glib comments are hardly reassuring).

So, as businesses ponder the prospect of how to manage in the absence of solid information (or even a back-of-an-envelope plan) they are left to fall back on their own resources. And when it comes to their human resources, the key trait in times such as these is resilience.

What is resilience?

Simplistically, resilience is hanging in there when the going gets tough. That said, being resilient is not a simple case of being stoic in the face of difficulty; it is not the clichéd British ‘stiff upper lip’, nor is it laughing in the face of danger. Resilience is many things, including:

  • Optimism
  • Adaptability
  • Flexibility
  • Durability
  • Learning from every situation
  • An openness to opportunity

Resilience is the ability to cope with setbacks, stay in control, bounce back, devise strategies for the future, and come out the other side stronger and wiser. And if that sounds like the job description for a successful entrepreneur or business owner, that shouldn’t be a surprise…

3 traits of resilient leadership

How to develop resilience? Try to keep your eye on the bigger picture. The broader your view the easier it is to keep things in perspective. Maintain a wide network of professional and personal contacts – not only does that encourage more strategic thinking, it also gives you more resources to call upon when you need to.

Resilient change leaders tend to display the following characteristics:

  1. Curiosity – resilient people ask a lot of questions, they want to know how things work. At times child-like but never childish, they are prepared to play with new ideas and developments in order to understand them better. There is a healthy sense of wonder and a willingness to experiment, make mistakes, and ask, "What did I learn?”
  2. Adaptability – They are comfortable with ambiguity and contradictory positions and viewpoints. They are not inclined to be overly rigid in their thinking; decisive and firm, yes, but not rigid. When it comes to problem-solving, they are likely to apply both logic and intuition (and if one of those is not their particular strength, they’re comfortable with inviting that specific contribution from others).
  3. Confidence – Resilient change leaders have an air of confidence based on good self-esteem. It’s not that they’re the best at everything (and nor do they think they are) more that they know what their abilities are and are confident that they can find a way forward when faced with difficulties.
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