How to build a powerful resilience framework.

by Michelle Hunter

The past year taught us a lot about the need for resilience during periods of extreme change. Here’s how you can create a framework to help you thrive no matter what comes next.

Resilience is a framework that helps us grow strong during times of stress.

Remember how things were a few years ago? My husband and I were learning to enjoy an empty nest – and had time and resources to pursue dreams we had paused while raising our family. My business was in a growth phase. My health was better than it had been in years, and while I faced a few challenges, I felt good.

Then things changed… as they always do. 

Today we are raising our preschool grandson. Our nest is no longer empty… and my home is full of little boy toys, school artwork, and sticky fingerprints. 

My business is stable (and I’m grateful) however my team isn’t the same, growth is stagnant at the moment, and my goals have shifted significantly. 

As I write this, I’m thinking of my father. We lost him a year ago this week and I miss drinking coffee with him as we discussed faith, family, and business. 

We’ve experienced a worldwide lockdown and pandemic protocol, isolation from friends and people we love, and limitations we didn’t anticipate. 

Significant change. We need to cultivate resilience. 

Resilience is important in business and in life.

Resilience is defined as (1) the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness and (2) the ability  to spring back into shape; elasticity.  Resilience is not perseverance or continuing to march on during a difficult season. It is true recovery – and the ability to put challenges behind you rapidly so you can continue toward your goals. 

Resilience in business means bouncing back from a crisis without a fundamental change in mission. It means bending and maybe pivoting, but not breaking. It is an unshakable belief in the end goal and a realistic appraisal of the current situation which allows you to work effectively into the future. 

Some people are naturally resilient and jump back up after a failure or challenge in an almost unshakable way. These people are uncommon, in my experience. Most people (myself included) need to build a mindset of resilience through an intentional framework. 

The next 12 months will challenge all of us. Change is a normal part of life and the pace of change has accelerated recently as the world recovers from the pandemic. We will need a resilience mindset to continue moving forward. 

Let’s build one, okay?

Pause to consider what hasn’t changed. This is the foundation of your resilience framework.

Take out a journal and shift your mind away from the changes around you. Take an accounting of what hasn’t changed in your life and business. This is where I begin to build resilience… Setting my eyes on the constant elements of my life and creating a framework I can build on.

What hasn’t changed? 

The essential core of my work.  My work is primarily that of a storyteller.  Copywriting and marketing are effectively telling the stories of business in a way that captures the heart of the audience and creates an excitement about future possibilities. The way I do this work may have changed recently, but the work itself remains the same. 

The reasons I do this work. My work is based on a love of words and all the ways word choice impacts storytelling. I love to read fiction, enjoy telling stories in my writing, and thrive when I’m speaking to a group of any size.  

My heart is drawn to the people who are putting out their best efforts in service of others but struggle to get enough clients, volunteers, or participants to make their mission sustainable. It’s fulfilling to use my skills to help these people share what they do with the people who need them. It’s like matchmaking with storytelling. The better the “match”, the more rewarding my work is to me. 

My core values. My faith is the rock I build my life upon. While I’m not perfect – as anyone who knows me will tell you – I draw energy, vitality, and peace from my relationship with God. My values – honesty, generosity, simplicity – flow out of my faith. 

The history of my professional life.  As you might have guessed from my description of an empty nest, I’ve been around for a minute or two. The past few decades are full of successes and failures that make up my history. I draw strength and wisdom from these, and much of what I’ve learned as a person and a leader comes from this history. 

These are some of the things that remain unchangeable no matter what life throws my way. Taking an accounting of them helps ground me and begins to shift my mindset away from anxiety and overwhelm. This is the first step to building resilience. 

Acknowledge the ways the past year changed you. 

Resilience isn’t denial or an avoidance of the issues that are right in front of us. Resilience is (at its core) realistic – acknowledging what IS so that we can accept what is out of our control and take action to improve where we can.

That’s why the next step in building a resilience framework is taking note of the changes inside us. Here’s what I see as I make my list. 

I’ve grown as a leader.  Growth happens in response to a stimulus. That’s what science tells us, and that’s what I see in my own life. The lessons of the past few years pushed me to lead myself better – taking control of my thoughts, organizing my routine, and controlling my emotions. In turn, this has allowed me to grow as a leader of my team. I’m more transparent, more thoughtful, and more consistent with the people around me. 

My work is more focused and efficient. Preschoolers require a tremendous amount of dedication and effort. Managing the details of his life increases the “mental weight” I carry daily. With more demands on my energy and attention, I’ve had to focus my efforts on the essential and impactful work inside my business and set aside the things that don’t move us toward our goals. I’ve also had to streamline operations and build in efficiency so we can meet our obligations in less time. 

The goals I set for my company are more realistic. It’s easy to dream big when things are going well. I’m naturally a risk-taker, so big goals don’t intimidate me. Typically I think we can accomplish anything we decide to achieve. Over the past several months, I’ve learned to stay closer to the edge of possibility and to reduce the number of goals so we have margin to respond to change. I think this is more sustainable and healthier for us, overall.

Acknowledging changes actually energizes me. Accepting these changes opens doors to mental and emotional recovery and allows me to begin creating a vision for the future. 

Up to this point we’ve discussed the internal work of building a resilience framework. There are external components as well we should consider.

Build your resilience framework using emotional intelligence as a guide.

The pandemic created significant change for all of us. The resilience framework for your business needs to support your team and your customers too. Time to draw on your emotional intelligence. 

When did you last pause and really listen to the people who work for you? The word choices and emotional energy of your team are valuable clues to their well-being. Listen intentionally to evaluate them, and respond accordingly. People who feel truly seen and supported are more resilient. 

Take the same approach to evaluating the well-being of your vendors and customers. Give them space to connect with you as humans, apart from their role in your business. Be gentle in the ways you resolve conflict or communicate expectations. Prioritize people over productivity, and help those you engage with begin to recover. 

Evaluate changing needs properly. 

Marketing begins at the point of your customer’s need. You must connect with them around a need they are aware of in order to begin discussing the solutions you provide. So, it’s important to identify these needs accurately.

Here’s the thing… Everyone’s needs have changed

Your customer’s priorities have likely shifted. Their needs have expanded to include things like safety, reassurance, and flexibility. Your marketing needs to change accordingly and (at minimum) include an acknowledgment of these additional needs.

The path to business resilience includes evaluating the changing needs of your market so you can respond accordingly. Listening is valuable here, and so is a bit of market research. Don’t assume you know what has changed. Validate changing needs with real people. 

Respond to your customer’s needs empathetically. 

Shift business as usual to include empathy and understanding. Some tactics I recommend (and you might want to consider) are: 

  • Provide smaller experiences to potential customers as an entry point rather than expecting a large commitment. Help them move past overwhelm. 
  • Build relationships gently and intentionally through multiple interactions and micro-commitments. Help them build trust slowly over time. 
  • Allow for financial flexibility by offering payment options, investment tiers, or basic services at a lower cost. Help them take action when money is tight.

Your resilience framework develops over time. Be patient. 

Unless you’re one of the magical people born with natural resilience, you’re in development mode. It takes time to shift your thinking away from fight or flight and into recovery. Your resilience framework is a powerful tool to help you. Be patient with yourself… and carry that patience over to your team and customers. A little kindness goes a long way. 

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