This is the second instalment of our three-part series on business resilience. To investigate what makes an organisation “resilient” and how can it be achieved, we sat down with four experienced business leaders – Dawn Browne, People & Talent Director at Fuller, Smith & Turner, Adam Boukadida, Chief Finance Officer at Etihad, Rory Lamont, Chief Procurement Office at Hitachi Rail, and Group Head of Corporate Finance, Treasury and Special Projects, Anthony Leung – to get their insights and advice at this crucial time.

Business resilience is often understood at the level of the actions and character of an organisation as a whole. However, speaking with business leaders across several global industries, it’s clear that personal and team resilience plays just as important a role.

For resilience to get built into the DNA of a company, it needs to become part of its overall mindset. However, “you can’t crowbar resilience into an organisation,” as Dawn Browne explains. “You can’t just say it will be one of your company values. It doesn’t work that way. But you can develop it over time. For us, we didn’t set out on a conscious journey of resilience. We didn’t talk about it, but we do now. And when we talk about resilience, it’s in the context of being able to navigate what’s ahead of us.”

The belief that you can overcome obstacles and survive a crisis is key to how many organisations become resilient. “You need to build that confidence,” says Anthony Leung. “The way you do that is to get things right more than you get things wrong. Showing that you can take that step forward, being confident that you can – that’s how you build resilience.”

Empowering the team

Building confidence happens at an organisational level – making the big calls and getting them right – but “it has to start with the individual”, according to Anthony Leung. “Empowering others on the team is vital. Empathising with them and understanding where the pressure points are for them means you can help them, and that camaraderie builds connections,” he continues. “It’s like team sports. When your team is down, you don’t pull back and do your own thing. You pull together. And that sense of teamwork means people don’t feel exposed and vulnerable when they’re under pressure. They trust each other and they feel they have support and back-up.”

The business leaders we spoke to agree that the people part is key to building resilience. Developing an understanding of your workforce, providing them with support and building a work environment that allows them to feel safe all go towards strengthening your organisation. And, as Adam Boukadida explains: “You’re only as strong as your team.”

Managing risk

Teamwork is also a vital component in pragmatic, informed commercial risk-taking and decision-making. “You can’t be an expert in everything,” explains Anthony Leung. “You need to draw upon the experience and expertise of those around you to help you come to risk decisions.” Not only do empowered, comfortable individuals feel more equipped to take risks, but “managing risk generates resilience,” as Rory Lamont puts it.

Changing the mindset

Sometimes, in order to build resilience, “you have to change the psyche of the organisation”, as Rory Lamont explains. “You need to flip things and get everyone switched on to what you’re trying to achieve.”

Again, individuals have an important role to play here. “You need to have a glass-half-full attitude about what the change brings about. And if you can do that, you can be a change advocate,” says Anthony Leung. “This will build up your own resilience as you start to change other people. And then the ball just keeps on rolling – you see the benefits of change, you see that people can change and, as more people join you, you multiply that effect.”

And if functional leaders are acting as change advocates within the leadership team, the impact is magnified even more. “That’s part of the role of the Chief Procurement Officer, in my opinion. You need to hold the organisation honest to some of the things that companies are a bit blind to,” explains Rory Lamont. And according to Dawn Browne, “something people often underestimate when you work in HR is that you don’t just lead the people agenda, you try to help the organisation look at the way it does things. You hold up that mirror and you help enact change.”

The role of leadership in building business resilience is covered in the third and final instalment of our Resilience series, which can be found here: Part three: The role of leadership in building resilience.

Disruption is a cost of doing business in the modern world, and hiring transformation and change leadership will enable organisations to better cope with this and be more resilient. For more information on how BIE can help, please contact our team.

Written by

Alex Hyde

Alex leads the Transformation Search Practice and partners with clients to identify business transformation talent through retained search. He has an extensive international network covering a range of sectors across large listed, private equity funded and privately owned groups. He appoints Chief Transformation Officers and Director level hires covering Strategy, Transformation & Program delivery, and Change. Functionally, roles are typically aligned with Finance & GBS/SSC, Technology, Digital & ERP, HR, Supply Chain & Procurement and Operations.

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