How to Boost Resilience and Adaptability as Small Businesses Face a New Normal

Created: Monday, June 1, 2020, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 10:00 am

Updated: at

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By Sarah Lewis, C.Psychol., Appreciating Change

Around the world, countries are still in lockdown. In the UK, the process of reducing restrictions is starting. However, this cannot be regarded as a return to normal. Businesses need to think of the changing situation as moving forward into a new normal. Handling this, with the continuing reality of Covid-19, will require resilience and adaptability from business owners.

Resilience Pickit
Image: Pickit

What helps people to be more resilient and adaptable?

Resilience is about having the resources to cope with unexpected, difficult, or adverse situations. To be able to use these resources we, of course, need to know we have them before we can deliberately use them to help us. These three things, having resources, being aware of them, and being able to deploy them, are what feed our resilience, and our ability to bounce back from adversity.

Being adaptable means being able to quickly and appropriately change our behavior when circumstances change. For example, at present people are having to find different ways to manage their work, possibly while also having to manage their children’s education. Or maybe having to manage their shopping and finances differently.

The old strategies may not be appropriate now. For instance, adhering to the strict school timetable is not necessarily the best strategy for education, rather families need to find ways to help their children learn, whilst working and managing family tensions. Similarly, being ‘always on’ for work might not be good for our mental health just now. And we’re all going to have to adapt again as more workplaces open.

For both resilience and adaptability, being resourceful is key.

How can you tap into your resourcefulness to boost resilience and adaptability?

Broadly speaking we have personal resources and social resources to call on.

Personal resources

Our Strengths

One of our biggest sources of personal resources is our own unique strengths. Strengths are the attributes that are at the heart of our best self. They are the things that are natural for us to do and that seems easy to us. We each have our own set of strengths. For instance, some people are naturally empathetic, others inherently strategically minded. Some of us are good at logical analysis, others of us are great at developing others.

It’s important to know our own strengths as using them boosts our confidence and gives us energy, allowing us to recover more quickly from setbacks. We are likely to solve a problem better if the solution uses our strengths. To learn more about your unique strengths you can take the VIA free strengths test or buy a pack of strengths cards so you can self-identify your strengths. Once you have done that, you can get some feedback from others on what they think your strengths are, and when they’ve seen you use them in a difficult situation.

Our previous experiences

Sometimes, when we are stressed or anxious it is hard to believe that we can cope, we feel so helpless right now. In this situation, it can be really helpful to remember other times when we did cope, when we got through a tricky situation or when we turned a situation around. Being in the grip of the present can prevent us from accessing resources from the past: our knowledge, our skills, our experience.

We can discover these hidden resources by remembering our best experiences in business and in other areas of life, when we weren’t just coping but really flourishing and excelling.  Once we’ve brought these experiences to mind, we can mine them for tactics, strategies, ideas, conversations, that really made a difference then and that might be useful now. Appreciative Inquiry is a change process that is built on the understanding that resources from the past can help us in the present and in the future. There are there are some books about how to apply it to your personal life, or your professional life to tell you more.

Boosting our resilience by building our HERO abilities

Our HERO ability made up of our states of hopefulness, optimism, resilience, and confidence (efficacy). Add these four things together and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, although resilience is part of our HERO abilities, it is also boosted if we can boost our sense of hope, optimism, and confidence.

You can discover more in the Psychological Capital and Beyond, a book by the people who discovered this.

Social resources

Our social networks extend our resourcefulness. Think of it as ‘I know a (wo)man who can’. Our network contains people who find easy what we find hard. They can be a source of inspiration, uplift, practical advice, useful contacts, and many other resources that help us cope. Exchange your strengths across your network. For instance, you might find it easy to use Zoom, Team and other online resources, while your friend, who is hopeless at that sort of logical rational technical stuff, might be able to reel off a whole list of fun ways to teach the lesson plans you’ve received from your children’s school!

Getting back to work

Organizational resilience is about all of the above, and, about social capital. The social capital of a business reflects its connectedness. It’s about how easily information flows around the team and how much trust there is. Both of these, quick information flow and trust, make it much easier for businesses to be resilient and to adapt quickly. As we tentatively ease lockdown, the enthusiasm of people to return to previous places of work will depend, to some extent, on the extent to which they trust the organization to look after them. Do they believe their employer is telling them what they need to know? Do they trust the plans to keep them safe?

A few quick tips for boosting your resilience and adaptability in the new normal that your business will have to contend with:

  • Follow safety instructions, but more importantly, understand the principles and apply them in different situations so you can be active in keeping yourself safe
  • Re-prioritise, and then do it again when things change again. It’s very easy to assume the priorities stay the same even as the situation changes. They don’t. Take the time to think about what the highest priorities are now, in this situation within these constraints, with these resources.
  • Redefine your goals so you can succeed in the new situation. This is very important.
  • Create and recreate structure for yourself. Structure really helps because it reduces decision-making, which is taxing. Keep evolving new structures to your day or your life as things change.
  • Manage your energy and look after yourself. Having to suddenly adapt our behavior means we can’t run on habitual lines, so it takes more energy even if you seem to be achieving less. Go easy on yourself, adjust your expectations and standards

If you are interested in learning more about resilience and adaptability, we are running 4 two-hour live virtual development workshops. You can also access a video interview below of two psychologists talking about resilience both generally and at work.

Sarah Lewis
Sarah Lewis C.Psychol., is the principal psychologist at Appreciating Change, a strengths-based psychological consultancy that is committed to applying well-researched positive psychology ideas and interventions to workplace challenges and opportunities at an individual, team or whole organization level.

Sarah is an associated fellow of the British Psychological Society, a principal member of the Association of Business Psychologists, and a member of the International Positive Psychology Association. Sarah is an acknowledged Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology expert, a regular conference presenter, and author of ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ (Wiley), Positive Psychology and Change (Wiley), ‘Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management’ (KoganPage) and Positive Psychology in Business (Pavilion). She also collects great positive psychology resources to support consultants, trainers, and coaches in their work which are sold through the Positive Psychology online shop.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog post or content are those of the authors or the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.

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