By Sarah Lewis, C.Psychol., Appreciating Change.
As aspects of the lockdown start to loosen it does not mean that our business and personal lives can go back to normal. Instead, as entrepreneurs we need to think of ourselves as moving forward in to a new normal. This means running our businesses with the ongoing presence of covid-19. Understanding the new normal and learning to work within it will take resilience and adaptability.
What can help entrepreneurs to be more resilient and adaptable?
Resilience is an important trait for entrepreneurship. It is about having the resources to cope with unexpected, difficult, or adverse situations. To be able to use these resources we, of course, need to know we have them before we can deliberately use them. This is why spending time gaining self-knowledge is so essential for entrepreneurs.
These three things, having resources, being aware of them, and being able to deploy them, are what feed our resilience, and our ability to bounce-back from adversity in business and other areas of life.
Being adaptable means being able to quickly and appropriately change our behaviour when circumstances change. For example, at present people are having to find different ways to manage their startups or growth businesses, possibly while also having to home school their children.
The old strategies may not be appropriate now. For instance, although entrepreneurs are driven individuals being ‘always on’ for work might not be good for our mental health in the current circumstances. And we’re all going to have to adapt again as more workplaces are allowed to open.
For both resilience and adaptability, resourcefulness is key.
How can entrepreneurs discover their resourcefulness and use it to increase their resilience and adaptability?
Broadly speaking every entrepreneur will have personal resources and social resources to call on.
One of our biggest sources of personal resources is our own unique strengths. Strengths are the attributes that are at the heart of our best self. They are the things that are natural for us to do and that seem easy to us. We each have our own set of strengths. For instance, entrepreneurs are inherently strategically minded while others are more naturally empathetic. Some are good at logical analysis while others are great at developing others.
It’s important to know our own strengths as using them boosts our confidence and gives us energy, allowing us to recover more quickly from setbacks. We are likely to solve a business problem better if the solution uses our strengths. To learn more about your unique strengths as an individual and business-owner, you can take the VIA free strengths test or buy a pack of strengths cards so you can self-identify your strengths. Once you have done that, you can get some feedback from colleagues and others on what they think your strengths are, and when they’ve seen you use them in a difficult situation.
Our previous experiences
As entrepreneurs are well aware starting and developing a business can be stressful at the best of times. When times are extra tough it can be really helpful to remember other times when we coped, when turned a tricky business situation around. Being in the grip of the present can prevent us from accessing resources from the past: our entrepreneurial skills, our business knowledge and experience.
We can discover these hidden resources by remembering our best experiences, when we weren’t just coping but really flourishing and excelling. Once we have brought these experiences to mind, we can mine them for tactics, strategies, ideas, conversations, that really made a difference then and that might be useful now. Appreciative Inquiry is a change process that is built on the understanding that resources from the past can help us in the present and in the future. There are there are some books about how to apply it to your personal life, or your business life to tell you more. If you want to try it for yourself, there is a pack of Appreciative Inquiry Cards with questions designed to help you through the resource discovery process.
Entrepreneurs need HERO abilities
Our HERO ability made up of our states of hopefulness, optimism, resilience, and confidence (efficacy). Add these four things together and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, although resilience is part of our HERO abilities, it is also boosted if we can boost our sense of hope, optimism, and confidence.
You can discover more in the Psychological Capital and Beyond, a book by the people who discovered this, or, invest in a HERO card pack that contains questions and quotes as well as explanations, to help you boost your own HERO abilities.
Tap into your social networks
Our social networks extend our resourcefulness. Think of it as ‘I know a (wo)man who can’. Our network contains people who find easy what we find hard. This means that for entrepreneurs they can be a source of inspiration, uplift, practical advice, useful contacts and many other resources. Exchange your strengths across your network. For instance, you might find it easy to use Zoom, Team and other online resources, while your friend, who is hopeless at that sort of logical rational technical stuff, might be able to reel off a whole list of fun ways to teach times tables to your children!
The social capital of your startup or growth business
A startup or growth business’s resilience is about all of the above, and, about social capital. The social capital of a business reflects its connectedness. It’s about how easily information flows around the organization and how much trust there is. Both of these, quick information flow and trust, make it much easier for businesses to be resilient and to adapt quickly. As we tentatively ease lockdown, the enthusiasm of people to return to previous places of work will depend, to some extent, on the extent to which they trust the organization to look after them. Do they believe the organization is telling them what they need to know? Do they trust the plans to keep them safe? These positive organization development cards have lots of information about the features of the best organisations. For entrepreneurs to weather the difficult months ahead thinking about this aspect of their business will be crucial.
Let me share some quick tips that entrepreneurs can use to boost their own resilience and adaptability in the new normal.
- Follow safety instructions, but more importantly, understand the principles and apply them in different situations so you can be active in keeping yourself safe
- Manage your energy and look after yourself. Having to suddenly adapt our behaviour means we can’t run on habitual lines, so it takes more energy even if you seem to be achieving less. Go easy on yourself, adjust your expectations and standards
- Re-prioritise, and then do it again when things change again. It’s very easy to assume the priorities stay the same even as the situation changes. They don’t. So take the time to think about what the highest priorities are now, in this situation within these constraints, with these resources.
- Redefine your goals so you can succeed in the new situation. This is very important.
- Create and recreate structure for yourself. Structure really helps because it reduces decision-making, which is taxing. Keep evolving new structures to your working day or your life as things change.
These tips will be good to share with your team members. Help them to boost their own resilience and adaptability as they adjust to the ongoing changes in our response to covid-19.
If you are interested in learning more about resilience and adaptability, we are running 4 two-hour live virtual development workshops. You can also access a video interview of two psychologists talking about resilience both generally and at work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Lewis C.Psychol., is the principal psychologist at Appreciating Change, a strengths-based psychological consultancy that is committed to applying well-researched positive psychology ideas and interventions to workplace challenges and opportunities at an individual, team or whole organization level.
Sarah is an associated fellow of the British Psychological Society, a principal member of the Association of Business Psychologists, and a member of the International Positive Psychology Association.
Sarah is an acknowledged Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology expert, a regular conference presenter and author of ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ (Wiley), Positive Psychology and Change (Wiley), ‘Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management’ (KoganPage) and Positive Psychology in Business (Pavilion).
She also collects great positive psychology resources to support consultants, trainers and coaches in their work which are sold through the Positive Psychology online shop. https://www.thepositivepsychologyshop.com/