Building a Resilient Culture

Feb 23, 2021

Last week we considered the ways in which we can build personal resilience. Now we take a look at how to bring this into your business. When we speak of resilience in business, we are looking at a team effort that comes from the top down through the right leadership and vision.  

2020 reshaped our priorities. With a crisis on our hands and the world coming to a standstill, it inevitably gave us a reason – and the time – to rethink what is important in our lives and society. 

Many businesses took this time to reevaluate why they existed. Looking into their purpose, and how it impacts our society. 

But why worry about purpose? 

It’s not just a great sense of belonging and a clear vision for leadership that is supported by purpose. Did you know that 91% of investors said that non-financial performance played a pivotal role in their decision-making (CCaSS survey)?

Resilient Culture, Thriving through disruption

Knowing your purpose is also likely to increase your passion. Charismatic, passionate leaders can literally change lives. A study by Cardon observed one of the largest investor organisations in America. The individuals invested more than 100m in 170 companies. In a study where they were pitched to by 241 companies, out of the 41 (17%) that were funded, the angel investors were asked to rank the respective CEOs enthusiasm and passion. Of all 13 the criteria’s for investing (such as market opportunity, relative risk, revenue), perceived passion came in third place.

Passion is a positive trait that is contagious, so leading your team this way will naturally inject more enthusiasm, excitement and joy into your business. Wouldn’t you prefer someone who is enthusiastic about the product and services they represent, than someone who isn’t? 

Dr. Howard Friedman ran a study (known as the Affective Communication Test) with individuals who were ranked as being either highly charismatic – or not very charismatic. They were asked to sit – silently – with one another. When a low ranking individual was paired with a high ranking counterpart, the high-scorers had so much energy in their non-verbal combination (for example, body language) they exuded joy and passion. This, in turn, rubbed off on the lower scoring individuals. When ranking their mood after the experiment, the low-ranking charismatics would rate their mood as happier, even without speaking to their high-ranking counterparts. It goes to show that positive characteristics such as passion, enthusiasm and joy are, indeed, contagious.

Resilient Culture, Thriving through disruption

2020 reshaped how companies collaborated. Collaboration became a competitive advantage. The idea that a company is only as strong as its weakest link isn’t new. But the situation really came under sharper focus once we were unable to physically work together – whether that was with employees, board members, partners or suppliers. Our ability to restore and enhance collaboration through digital means, while also improving the processes, helps to build and maintain our business relationships. 

Having the right digital and technological systems and processes in place can help to ensure there is maximum transparency when collaborating, so working remotely can be as efficient and interactive as possible. How do you have conversations within your business? How do you decide who you will collaborate with?

Looking at any weaknesses and identifying vulnerabilities requires a proactive approach. Whether it’s your team or the supply chain, becoming more resilient as a business will involve building deeper relationships. Communication needs to focus on what’s done well and what isn’t, so you can build a better understanding of necessary changes and improvement at all stages of collaboration.  

Resilient Culture, Thriving through disruption

Enhancing Vulnerability & Trust
Creating a culture that supports open and honest communication is important. There’s an old stereotype that leaders have to be stoic and intense, but thankfully this is fading thanks to speakers and authors like Brené Brown talking openly about empathy, vulnerability, removing shame and having difficult conversations as the keys to good leadership. 

If you want your employees to be more creative and innovative, give them the space to explore, exchange ideas and experiment. If mistakes happen – and they will –  instead of shaming them, learn from them. We are yet to see a successful innovator who didn’t fail many times in the process. 

It takes courage to be vulnerable in the workplace and have open and honest conversations. However, we need it more than ever to become more resilient during a time where we are no longer physically working together. 

Resilient Culture, Thriving through disruption

Creating a super-engaged workforce to improve performance
There are many challenges around engagement when staff make the transition from working in an office to working remotely from home. We need a super-engaged workforce to have a high-performing business. Supporting their staff and sustaining a sense of belonging when employees are working from home will continue to test businesses. 

Creating a super-engaged workforce needs deliberate design, practice, and measurement when we are not physically together. A good place to start is to read Super Engaged by Nikki Gateby. Changing your strategy to a “people-first business” means that everyone is responsible for increasing engagement, not just from the top down.


In 2020, with markets and industries all over the world crashing to a standstill, it seemed that the bigger the giant, the bigger the fall. Being adaptable is going to be key for remaining resilient. Smaller companies with leaner structures – like e-commerce brands and low-cost airlines – were able to react and adapt quicker. If you are a large company, then you need to consider how to implement a solid change management strategy that will allow for quick adjustments during turbulent times. This is where your competitive advantage will lie; by being able to transform at such as space and respond to shifts in the market to enhance growth and recovery.

Boards need to urgently map out how these policy drivers feed into real-time decisions – be they strategic, commercial, or operational – and take preemptive action where possible to protect and create value. 

Businesses need to consider the potential impact on their own companies of upcoming cliff-edges in government support, including the impact on employment and consumer demand, and understand which companies, sectors and regions governments will prioritise for support.

We are living through a transformative age where we can take little for granted and companies need to be agile and resilient enough to deal with what’s in front of them right now. As economies and societies reshape, so must businesses – whilst keeping a clear understanding of their core purpose and their value to society. Adaptability and resilience will be key to survive, and – eventually – thrive in the face of adversity.