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Leadership > Resilience

3 Ways to Build Entrepreneurial Resilience for the Next 'Wave' of Challenges

When the problem is what you didn't do, the solution begins with figuring out what to do next.
3 Ways to Build Entrepreneurial Resilience for the Next 'Wave' of Challenges
Image credit: BsWei | Getty Images

When I left the Navy and entered entrepreneurship, one of my first clients was a tech company in Silicon Valley undergoing massive market shifts that needed to reexamine how its operations.

Just a few years prior, a tsunami had struck their manufacturing plant in Asia and wiped it out completely. I mean, it was gone. All of it. When I asked what lessons learned they from the catastrophe -- after all, who wants to learn it again? -- they scratched their heads and replied, “Uh, we didn’t.”

I was dumbfounded (more so than usual). They didn’t review how information flowed before, during or after the tsunami hit. They didn’t review what decisions were made, by whom, at what point or why. They didn’t evaluate the effectiveness of their emergency action plan. When the next tsunami strikes, they'll be learning all these lessons -- again.

However, it’s important to point out here that this company didn’t necessarily error in what they did (i.e. building a plant in a tsunami inundation zone). They erred in what they didn’t do.

When learning opportunities escape you, so too does the opportunity to bolster your resilience. Just think of the last challenge you overcame or traumatic life event you experienced. Remember those situations to remind you of past examples of your resilience. When your patience is tested today, recall when you were patient in the grocery checkout line last week behind a mother of five when all you needed to buy was batteries. The point is, past experiences inform today’s perspectives, which means you can’t be more resilient today if you don’t understand what made you resilient yesterday.

Here’s are three places to start building resilience.

Related: The 8 Magical Benefits of Resilience

After the fact.

One of the best tools you can employ in your startup (or any company for that matter), is the after-action review. The AAR (or post mortem) isn’t a “nice to have if there’s time” activity. It’s a must. It’s something you must incorporate into your workflow if you want to thrive and avoid repeating past mistakes for the simple fact that people learn from doing and from observing others. 

However, AARs don’t come without challenges. When there’s an absence of trust or low psychological safety in the group then members won’t contribute because they fear social judgment. What’s more is the group’s leader is the shining example that everybody turns to for an example, so if he’s unwilling to humble himself before the group then chances are nobody else will either. Make it a goal to conduct an AAR every month for six months. It may feel awkward at first but it is the best tool you can use to learn and become more resilient together.

Related: 5 High-Performing Habits to Instill in Your Culture

With your questions

When you lead with curiosity you challenge people to think for themselves. Ask questions -- How might we (fill in the blank)? What do you think? What else? -- to reveal how a person thinks, the depth of their thinking and what he or she values. You can then use to inform your next move, whether it's another question or a decision.

However, not everybody wants to think. Let’s be honest, some people just want the “right answer” so they can be told what to do because, well, they just don’t care enough to put in the effort. That’s fine. Let them opt-out because they aren’t the people you want anyway. Replace them with people you do want. Use questions to spark creative thought and discover new insights. That’s how you grow your people but your company.

Related: A Navy SEAL's 5 Entrepreneurial Leadership Lessons From 2014

What you measure

I remember one coaching client of mine who was a senior executive who was fearful of speaking up in meetings. The thought of speaking before other executives made him nervous because he feared what they might think. So, I asked him to do one thing: track how often he speaks in meetings. If you want to improve anything, begin by measuring it.

When you track something, your brain focuses on finding it, which meant that he would be searching for opportunities to speak. Second, by tracking how often he talked he received immediate feedback; praise and small victories that boosted his self-confidence. What he was really doing was building his resilience in real-time. Boom (this is where I'd spike the mic, walk away).

Stay relevant by building your resilience daily as an individual, a team and as a company. When that next “tsunami” hits, you’ll be glad you did.