Article on ‘The Art and Science of Resilience-The Secret of Sauce of Success in Corporate Life’ by CS Venkat R Venkitachalam, Chairman, Bizsolindia Services Pvt. Ltd.

One of the occupational hazards of retiring from a corporate job, especially at a senior level, is that you must be ready to answer some tricky questions for which there are no definitive answers.  Two such typical questions that I have had to face repeatedly were: 1. Can you suggest a profitable startup to pursue where you do not have to worry about the threat of competition? And 2. What is the most important competence that you should possess to be successful in your career? I have had to field these questions repeatedly ever since my retirement.  Today, after so many summers post my retirement and several training programmes thereafter, for budding managers, I have learned to answer these oft repeated questions posed to me. Let me pen my thoughts here which according to me make eminent sense though the answer to the first question may look a wee-bit flippant, albeit clinically logical.  Here they are in seriatim:  1. Start the business of manufacturing horns for aircraft with so many of them flying around the globe. No lengthy approval processes for this either. There is no competition in this line of business of whatever nature. 2. The most important competence that you need is to be resilient to be successful.  In today’s fiercely competitive environment this is the most important competence that you should have.  Let us discuss all this all-important competence here.

The World Health Organisation describes stress as the biggest global health epidemic of the 21st century.  The antidote to stress is resilience. In today’s fast-paced and unpredictable business environment, corporate executives face myriads of challenges. From market volatility to technological disruption, the ability to navigate these challenges with grace and determination is essential. The key competence that can make a significant difference is resilience. Resilience is not just about bouncing back from adversity; it’s about thriving in the face of it. Here we will explore why resilience is crucial for corporate executives and how they can cultivate this competence to excel in their roles.  Many of us now work in constantly connected, always-on, highly demanding work cultures where stress and the risk of burnout are widespread. Since the pace and intensity of contemporary work culture are not likely to change, it’s more important than ever to build resilience skills to effectively navigate your work life.  According to Harvard Business Review after more than five decades of its research, point to the fact that resilience is built by attitudes, behaviours and social supports that can be adopted and cultivated by anyone. Factors that lead to resilience include optimism; the ability to stay balanced and manage strong or difficult emotions; a sense of safety and a strong social support system. The good news is that because there is a concrete set of behaviours and skills associated with resilience, you can learn to be more resilient. Resilience is the ability to adapt to challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioural flexibility. It’s a skill that develops over time from the lessons and experiences you absorb as you grow up and face challenges. Resilience is the ability to adapt and bounce back from difficult or adverse situations. It involves being able to withstand and recover from setbacks, adversity, and stress, and to maintain a sense of well-being and purpose despite such challenges. Resilience is not about avoiding difficulties but rather about facing them head-on, learning from them and growing stronger as a result.

Let us now see how important this competence is for the occupant in the corner office.  In today’s fast-paced and unpredictable business environment, corporate executives face myriads of challenges. From market volatility to technological disruption, the ability to navigate these challenges with grace and determination is essential. One key competence that can make a significant difference is resilience. Resilience is not just about bouncing back from adversity; it’s about thriving in the face of it. In this article, we will explore why resilience is crucial for corporate executives and how they can cultivate this competence to excel in their roles.

First let us look at the importance of resilience for corporate executives:

Adaptability: Resilience enables corporate executives to adapt to changing circumstances quickly. In a dynamic business environment, the ability to pivot and embrace change is essential for success.

Decision-Making: Resilient executives are better equipped to make sound decisions under pressure. They can maintain a clear focus and perspective, even in challenging situations.

Leadership: Resilient leaders inspire confidence and trust in their teams. They remain calm and composed, providing a sense of stability during turbulent times.

Innovation: Resilience fosters a mindset of creativity and innovation. Executives who are resilient are more likely to think outside the box and explore new opportunities.

Well-Being: Resilience is closely linked to well-being. Executives who are resilient are better able to manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Having seen the importance of resilience, let us see how one cultivates resilience:

Self-Awareness: Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses is the first step towards building resilience. Executives should take the time to reflect on past challenges and how they overcame them.

Positive Thinking: Adopting a positive outlook can help executives see challenges as opportunities for growth. Encouraging a culture of positivity within the organization can also boost resilience.

Learning and Development: Continuous learning is essential for building resilience. Executives should seek out new experiences and skills that can help them navigate future challenges.

Support Networks: Building strong support networks can provide executives with the encouragement and assistance they need during tough times. This can include mentors, colleagues, friends, and family.

Mindfulness and Stress Management: Practices such as mindfulness meditation can help executives manage stress and maintain a sense of balance.

Resilience is not just a personal trait; it is a competence that can be cultivated and developed over time. For corporate executives, resilience is a key to success in an increasingly complex and challenging business environment. By embracing resilience and adopting strategies to cultivate it, executives can not only survive but also thrive in the face of adversity.  When speaking of resilience and its importance, a discussion on this subject cannot be complete without looking at the real-life story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his Antarctic expedition.  This has become the most fascinating story on the importance of resilience.  That is the reason that Shackleton’s adventure story has become an integral part of management folklore of all times.  The Trans-Antarctic (Endurance) Expedition (1914–16) that he led, which although unsuccessful, became famous as a tale of remarkable perseverance and survival. A manager’s career in the corporate environment is no less challenging today.  Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition is one of the most remarkable stories of resilience in human history. Despite facing unimaginable challenges, Shackleton and his crew managed to survive for over a year in the harsh Antarctic environment.   Shackleton had a clear vision of his goal – to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent and he remained determined in the face of numerous setbacks. This unwavering determination helped him, and his crew persevere through incredibly difficult circumstances.  When their ship, the Endurance, became trapped in ice and was eventually crushed, Shackleton had to quickly adapt to a new reality. He shifted his focus from exploration to survival, demonstrating the importance of flexibility and adaptability in the face of unexpected challenges.  Shackleton’s leadership style was characterised by empathy, optimism, and a strong sense of duty to his crew. He led by example, never asking his men to do anything he wouldn’t do himself, and always maintaining a positive attitude even in the darkest moments.  Shackleton understood the importance of teamwork and collaboration in achieving their goal of survival. He fostered a sense of camaraderie among his crew, encouraging them to support each other and work together towards a common purpose.  Despite several failed attempts to rescue his crew, Shackleton never gave up hope. He remained resilient in the face of failure, constantly seeking new solutions and refusing to be defeated by the challenges he faced.  Shackleton understood the importance of maintaining the physical and mental well-being of his crew. He ensured that they were properly fed, sheltered, and cared for, recognizing that their survival depended on their health and morale.  Shackleton’s expedition is a testament to the power of resilience in overcoming adversity. His ability to adapt, lead, and inspire his crew in the face of extreme hardship serves as a timeless example of what can be achieved when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.  Though the path may be fraught with hardship, and the storms may threaten to engulf us, resilience equips us with the strength to not only weather them but emerge stronger. It is the cornerstone of personal growth, a testament to the enduring human spirit, and a beacon of hope in the face of adversity. By nurturing our resilience, we cultivate the power to rise above our challenges and shape a brighter future, not just for ourselves, but for the world around us.

If resilience is such an important ‘must-have’ competence for a manager, the next question would naturally be whether it can be taught and if so, how.  Let us face it. Resilience is something that cannot be taught in a classroom.  It is a competence that must be developed through constant practice and improvement. One of the constant refrains that I tell the participants in a training programme is that they will fail sometimes in their career and in life too.  That is a given.  Failures in life are certainties. But what distinguishes a successful manager from an also-ran is his or her ability to pick oneself up from where he or she had fallen – also, how soon and how well.  That is resilience, for you. Resilience is the capacity to bounce back from adversity, learn from challenges, and adapt to changing circumstances. Resilience is not a fixed trait, but a skill that can be developed and strengthened. Resilience is the all-important competence that a manager must possess because it enables one to overcome obstacles, maintain motivation, and foster a growth mindset. You can build resilience by cultivating optimism, gratitude, and self-compassion.  A trainer, however, can help a manager to develop the necessary competence to be resilient. Resilience training can help individuals develop effective coping strategies for managing stress and adversity. This can include techniques such as cognitive restructuring, problem-solving, and mindfulness. Training programmes that focus on emotional intelligence can improve individuals’ ability to recognize and manage their own emotions, which is a key component of resilience. Resilience training can help individuals become more adaptable in the face of change, enabling them to bounce back more quickly from setbacks and thrive in dynamic environments. By improving emotional regulation and stress management skills, resilience training can enhance individuals’ ability to make sound decisions under pressure. Research suggests that resilience training can lead to improvements in overall well-being, including reduced levels of anxiety and depression.

Thank You

Venkat R Venkitachalam

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