As we start the new year, many companies are working on setting goals.  I often work with clients on this.  Often these goals are around profit numbers or achieving a certain amount of sales.  But as I have been working with a number of companies that are looking to take their business to the next level, one idea keeps coming to mind.  It’s a topic I have read and heard a lot about lately.  The idea of building resilience in your organization.  But several questions come to mind.  How do you build resilience in your organization?  And is this a worthwhile goal for 2020.  And, how do you establish and measure such a goal?

This month I’m going to feature four articles on some non-typical things to think about in your goal setting for this year.   So let’s focus on this first one, the idea of building “resilience”.

What is resilience?

Resilience is defined as the ability to recover quickly from difficulties.  In a word, toughness.  In business, we talk about companies that handle economic disruptions, competitive pressures and organizational disruption (leadership change, etc), with little disruption to profits and ongoing operations.

When it comes to our people, we look for the ability to handle unexpected problems, personal and professional disruptions and maintaining professionalism and productivity.  We value team members with high resilience as they withstand stresses and unexpected problems and navigate through treacherous waters with ease.

Resilience is difficult to measure but fairly easy to identify.  We see it especially in entrepreneurs who must navigate numerous issues from product problems, financial difficulties and seeking investors.  Most successful entrepreneurs would measure high in resilience if there was a way to measure it.

How to build resilience in your organization

The good news is that resilience can be developed.  If your organization is not as resilient as you’d like it to be, you can build it up.  There are three keys if you want to build resilience in your organization.

  1. Visualize Resilience
  2. Model Resilience
  3. Hire for and promote team members with resilience

Visualizing resilience

To build resilience we must first be able to visualize it.  We’ve defined resilience, but what does it look like?  It’s difficult to visualize conceptual ideas.  But here’s a practical example that may help.

Taipei 101 is an iconic skyscraper located in the city of Taipei, Taiwan. It rises almost 1700 feet (nearly six football fields). At the time of its construction in 2004, it was the tallest building in the world.  Ironically (or scarily), it’s located about 600 feet from a seismic fault and is located in an area that has to deal with severe winds.  What a combination!!

Engineers had to come up with an innovative design to counter the destructive forces of earthquakes and wind gusts.  In a word, they needed to build “resilience” into the structure of the building.  To do that, they designed an enormous tuned mass damper.  The damper is an 18 feet wide, 728 ton steel ball.  It is suspended from the 87th to 92nd floor.  (See picture).  Acting like a giant pendulum, the sphere sways to counteract the building’s movement, making it one of the most resilient structures on the planet.  (To learn more about Taipei 101 and see a video of the damper’s movement, go here).

I don’t know about you, but picturing a resilient organization is theoretical at best.  But understanding the resilient elements of the Taipei 101 structure is something I can visualize and apply to my teams.

Model resilience in your leadership

Now that you have a mental picture of what resilience looks like, thanks to those engineers in Taiwan.  You can begin to picture what resilience may look like in your organization.

  • A key team member leaves, but you effectively move around team members to fill the gap and keep moving
  • You suffer a setback on your product development, so you pull together a task force to get it back on track
  • A client threatens to leave, so you put together a strategy to regain their confidence and provide the level of service they expect

These are just a few examples of how you can model resilience from the leadership seat.  These responses may not have been easy.  But as the leader you need to model confidence, creativity and open-communications as you promote these moves as good for the organization.  In so doing, you demonstrate resilience and build it in your team members.

Hiring/Promoting resilience

But if resilience is so critical, especially for entrepreneurs, then there must be a way of measuring it in prospective employees.  But how?

I propose that there are three ways to measure resilience.

  1. Assessment tools such as Grit and DISC
  2.  Evaluation of emotional intelligence
  3. Actual results in the face of obstacles

Assessment Tools

There are a variety of behavioral assessment tools on the market.  Tools such as DISC, Predictive Index and MBTI are just a few of the many assessment tools available.

It can be a stretch at times to determine resilience based solely on behavior analysis.  But we know for a fact that certain behavior styles are more receptive to change than others.  For example, utilizing the DISC assessment, we know that people who are high on the D and I scales are more open to change, while those high in S and C measures are far more resistant to change.  In fact, “S” stands for “steadiness”.  The high “S”, however, may actually provide value during chaotic times because a person with this behavior type will always seek to calm things and get back to a steady-state.  This is, therefore, the challenge of using behavior-based analysis only for measuring resilience.

Another measure is to evaluate for “grit” or “tenacity”.  In her book entitled “Grit, The Power of Passion and Perseverance”, Angela Duckworth describes how grit can be measured.  I believe her model may be the best resource for assessing grit in an indidivual.

Emotional Intelligence

Another factor in determining resilience is emotional intelligence.  People high in EQ are both more self-aware and socially aware of how emotions are impacting team performance.  In situations of high stress, the most effective leaders have high levels of awareness and control over their emotions and how others are being impacted.

EQ impacts resilience by allowing leaders to more effectively navigate the emotional waters of turmoil and provide stability to their team.

Actual Results

The best predictor of future success is past performance.  As such, one of the best predictors of a person’s ability to be resilient is to examine actual examples of resilience in their past.

The best way of determining this is through behavior-based type questions.  Behavior-based questions are interview-style questions where we ask a person to describe a situation that matches what we are looking for.  For example, if we are looking for someone who knows how to handle new unexpected competitive pressures, as them to describe an experience where they had to do that.  The more precise and applicable answers will typically identify those with the appropriate skills.

Build resilience today

Resilience can be built in your organization.  Interested in making this a goal for 2020?   Talk to me about how this can be done.  Email me at