During the past two years, many industries have experienced unprecedented volatility – conditions that have been challenging for some organisations, while allowing others to grow and thrive. Geoff Curran, Practice Leader for Gerard Daniels in NSW, attributes the different impact of this disruption to organisational resilience.
“Change and disruption is constant, and recent events – like the pandemic and the war in Ukraine – prove that we can’t foresee and plan for everything,” says Geoff. “To ensure long term sustainability and prepare organisations to adapt, business leaders must proactively build a culture of resilience.”
Here we consider why resilience is important, what resilience looks like, and how CEOs and CPOs can build resilience into organisational culture.
Why is resilience important?
Many factors can disrupt the performance of an organisation, including changes in macroeconomic or geopolitical conditions; natural disasters; and whole-of-industry challenges like digital transformation, the green energy transition, talent shortages and growing ESG demands.
“When an organisation lacks resilience, disruption can be hard to navigate and even harder to overcome,” says Geoff. “A lack of resilience can also create talent challenges, because people are more likely to explore other options when they lack confidence in the future.”
“Not only are resilient organisations better equipped to endure adversity and disruption, but they are also able to learn from it and quickly restore pre-adversity performance. Resilient organisations typically enjoy greater business as usual performance too,” Geoff continues. “Resilience is therefore about developing a culture that allows you to prepare for the future and thrive through change.”
What do resilient organisations look like?
Resilient organisations are often characterised by some common qualities.
1. Strong leadership: “Resilient organisations tend to have leaders with the experience to evaluate situations and make quick, informed decisions,” says Geoff. “These leaders also communicate clearly and build trust to quickly secure buy in when strategic or operational changes needs to be made.”
2. Agility and adaptability: “When organisations are rigid or complacent, they get left behind. But when they are forward looking and resilient, they are in a better position to respond to market changes and take advantage of opportunities to innovate, change tack or do things differently,” says Geoff. “This may include experimenting with new products and services, investing in developing future skills and talent, or harnessing technological advancements.”
3. Clarity of purpose: Employees in resilient organisations not only understand, but often draw motivation from their organisation’s purpose. “In times of crisis or uncertainty, belief in what an organisation does and what it stands for can make a difference to team and individual performance and employee loyalty,” says Geoff.
4. Transparency: Keeping stakeholders informed and helping all levels of an organisation to understand organisational strategy is critical to business performance and continuity. “The leaders who understand this significance, communicate regularly, openly and authentically,” says Geoff.
How can CEOs and Executives build better resilience?
Like any area of strategic focus, resilience-building must be endorsed at Board and/or C-Suite level. Here are some considerations for CEOs and other Executives when building resilience.
What does resilience mean to you?
Resilience can look very different from one organisation to the next. “Resilience might mean building financial security to endure fluctuating demand, or developing technological resilience to remain a market leader,” Geoff says. “Resilience can also be about building a culture of agility and innovation, fostering the desire to learn and to grow, or managing employee sentiment and wellbeing in relation to change.”
“The key takeaway is that resilience is never one-size-fits-all, so business leaders must deeply understand why resilience matters to the organisation, and how it can impact culture and performance,” he continues.
Staying future focused
Resilience not only allows organisations to respond to current disruption, but also to look for and respond to new opportunities. “While we must be operationally and culturally ready to adapt, resilience also requires leaders to look and plan to the future, particularly aroundtalent challenges and opportunities,” says Geoff.
“Resilient organisations often invest in succession planning, leadership coaching and development and building capacity around future skills and expertise,” he continues. “Resilient leaders also understand that goals take time to achieve, change isn’t always quick, and there will be setbacks along the way. So they stay the course until results can be achieved.”
Resilience can’t exist without trust, because employees need to have faith in where they are headed and what their organisation is trying to achieve. “Many companies are focused on business building, but without a culture of resilience, it’s easy to be blown off course,” says Geoff. “In meeting the future needs of the organisation, leaders must ask their workforce to join them on this journey, something that won’t happen without their trust.”
Driving team and individual performance
To adapt quickly, people must feel supported in making decisions and empowered to act without fear of repercussion. “To achieve high performing and resilient teams, CEOs and other Executives must build accountability, encourage self-sufficiency and create opportunities for people to step up,” says Geoff. “Collaborating and drawing on the strengths of both teams and individuals is also really important.”
Does your organisation have the culture of resilience to endure change and thrive through adversity? For advice on succession planning or Executive and Non-Executive coaching and development, connect with Geoff or talk to your local Gerard Daniels team.