Leadership

Building resilience will be the most important thing you ever do in business

Yemi Penn /

rock bottom business

W Squared Coaching founder Yemi Penn. Source: supplied.

There’s a lot of discussion about how building resilience is being introduced within education, as there’s concern that future generations have been over-protected by well-meaning parents and families. But there’s often an assumption that adults naturally possess this thing called resilience.

I’d say while some of us may have been through more hardship than others, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t struggle to cope with yet another knockback to our business pitch, an employee who hasn’t worked out, or when that competitor comes in with a lesser product but at a cheaper price and starts stealing customers.

So how do we prepare for these setbacks? How can we build this holy grail of resilience so we don’t fall into a heap or throw our arms in the air and give up every time we hit an obstacle?

Authenticity, not perfection

There are some who argue that resilience is not a choice. Particularly if you’ve had a tough upbringing, have had to make difficult choices just to survive, and have not had the support structures that many rely on.

I did hit rock bottom in my early-20s when I found myself pregnant and homeless, and I’m sure without that radical life-changing experience, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It makes me less risk-averse, knowing that if I go out on a limb and (metaphorically) take a gamble in my business, if things don’t work out, it can’t be as bad as that period of my life.

One thing I recommend for building resilience is to be comfortable within yourself.

Be authentic. Know what you are offering, and how you are communicating as a business and as a person are true and honest. This will enable you to face challenges more easily. Knowing that whatever the difficulty is, there was nothing you could have done to change it, brings a sense of peace and acceptance that, in time, builds resilience.

But we’re not all perfect.

If there was something you could have done to stop the situation, then acknowledge that you made a mistake and won’t do it again. This acceptance in itself is empowering.

Another tip for building resilience is never comparing yourself with others.

We all know this way danger lies, but we somehow can’t help ourselves. We look at our university peers or colleagues and question why they have things we don’t. This acceptance of our own flaws, and strengths, tends to come in time with maturity.

It’s something that’s difficult to force, but I challenge you to move towards acceptance of who you are, rather than trying to be someone you’re are not.

Trying to be a square peg in a round hole will only lead to misery! With self-acceptance, resilience naturally follows.

Finally, it’s about putting things into perspective.

Running a business is challenging and there will be moments of difficulty you couldn’t possibly have anticipated, but once you’ve faced a few obstacles, you realise it’s not the end of the world and you learn how to manage it.

When I face frustrations, I look back to the time when I didn’t have a roof over my head. I appreciate not everyone has an experience on that scale, but we all have times we wouldn’t go back to in a million years — maybe, a time at work when you felt out of your depth, or experienced redundancy, or faced a bigger, personal or health challenge.

By changing your mindset to think of the bigger picture, you can prepare yourself for the future, confident in the knowledge that if a similar situation happens, you’ll be able to handle it.

Ultimately, we all want things to go our way.

I sometimes think resilience is a bit of a game to play with ourselves. If we convince ourselves we’ll be able to overcome this obstacle, eventually, we will.

And when we look back on the tough times as character-building, or as offering lessons to learn, we know we’ve achieved it.

NOW READ: What cancer taught Springfox founder Stuart Taylor about resilience

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Yemi Penn

Yemi Penn is the managing director of Penny Consulting and W Squared Coaching.