Building resilience, personally and professionally

Resilience is a word we’ve all heard a lot over the last three years. It’s a certain toughness, a capacity to manage and adapt to difficult situations. It’s what Forbes calls “the ability to bounce back from hardship, to learn rather than to give up, to bend rather than break.”

It’s also not a new concept to anybody who’s been in business for any length of time. Here in Delmec, resilience is part of our DNA, from the tough economic environment of the 1980s, through to the recession of the noughties, all the way to the pandemic of late.

Through it all, we’ve had to roll with the punches, meeting issues head-on, and embracing opportunities as they come. In that way, business isn’t that much different to life — and in my role as a CEO, there are few key steps I take to help make both more resilient.

A positive perspective

We all know that not every day is sunshine and roses. Some days go so thoroughly down the drain that it can be tempting to give it all up and walk away. But it’s important to bear in mind that tomorrow’s a new day, and there’s no limit on how many times you can start again.

That’s the type of positive perspective that I value in my life and work. We operate in some of the toughest environments in the world, including snow-capped mountains and dry desert sands. If we didn’t maintain a can-do attitude and a positive approach, we’d be in trouble pretty quickly. I’m lucky that the team we’ve built relishes challenges, and sees every task as an opportunity to think creatively. But their work requires a supportive environment, and that comes from the top down.

While I’m no Pollyanna, my role as a leader is to maintain an optimistic outlook where possible and, to paraphrase another Irishman, encourage my people to try again, fail again and fail better.

Strong communication

There’s a reason why our mantra at Delmec is ‘synergy shapes success’. It’s because we’ve always valued relationships, teamwork and the transformative power of collaboration. We work hard to keep communication flowing, even with disparate teams across multiple continents and countries.

It turns out, that’s a pretty good policy for lots of reasons, not least building resilience. Research from my alma mater Harvard Business School shows “that resilience is not purely an individual characteristic, but is also heavily enabled by strong relationships and networks. We can nurture and build our resilience through a wide variety of interactions with people in our personal and professional lives.”

Those relationships, for me, are vital. They encompass trusted colleagues, loyal clients, old friends, and of course, my wife and family. By talking issues through, we get to verbalise them, hear alternative viewpoints and work together to come up with solutions.

A willingness to learn

They say that curiosity keeps you young, and it’s certainly something I’ve found to be true. No two days are the same in my job, and there’s always something new to be learned — from my teams, my executive colleagues, and my clients and their customers. I don’t operate a linear, siloed approach to leadership — who wants to exist in a vacuum? Instead, I’m all ears.

That’s one of the reasons why we hired extra consultants this year, so that we can build new expertise and fresh insights into our established teams. We try to recruit a mixture of people with academic and practical backgrounds, so that we’re accessing the most cutting-edge knowledge as well as hard-earned experience in the field.

Whether it’s an innovative design, a new product on the market or a yet-to-be tested approach, there are usually any number of solutions to a problem, if we’re willing to be open to them. That understanding helps us pick ourselves up and start again, and again, until we’ve reached our goal.

Having said all that, it’d be wrong of me to say there’s a magic formula for building resilience. Some challenges in life and business are not easy to overcome, and grit can only take you so far. But it’s important to me that I try to put building blocks in place that’ll make it easy to tackle the issues as they come in a better, more productive way. More resilience can only benefit my personal and professional life — although I’m hoping we’ll have a quieter few years ahead!

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