The 5 Fundamentals of Resilient Small Business Leadership

December 08, 2020

The spread of COVID-19 has fundamentally changed how we live our lives. The pandemic has disrupted millions of lives, upended traditional workplaces, and forced small businesses to be more adaptive than at any time in recent memory.

In the face of these challenges, leaders are concerned about how their business will be affected, and what they can do next. That’s why we’ve compiled five fundamental insights that small business owners can use to guide their strategies in the months and years ahead:

1. Lead With Your Head AND Your Heart

Resilient leaders are compassionate and empathic. More than ever, leaders need to be showing their employees that they’re aware of the uncertainty that the current economy is causing in their lives. During this time, emotional intelligence is essential.

During a crisis resilient leaders express empathy for their employees and are willing to accommodate changes to workflow due to school closures, increased responsibilities, and changing health dynamics.

2. Focus on Stability

Organizations experiencing crises always face a variety of problems, and resilient leaders need to be able to focus their attention on establishing priorities and making sure nothing spirals out of control.

Here are steps you can take to keep your business stable during challenging periods:

  • Launch a crisis command center. Make sure employees know where they can go to find the latest information related to the crisis and how your business is adapting.
  • Support employees. Be willing to accommodate more flexible or fully work-from-home situations, especially in situations with school closures.
  • Stay engaged. Pay attention to what your customers and your employees are saying about how your organization is reacting to changing needs.
  • Make yourself available. Initiate one-on-one check-in with employees to talk directly about what they’re experiencing, their challenges, and how you can support them.

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3. Be Fast, Not Perfect

Resilient leaders can take decisive action based on limited information and feel comfortable with “unknown unknowns.” It’s more important to focus on getting through difficult situations rather than doing so perfectly — there will be time to collect data and review your decisions after the fact.

If you manage a team, now is the best time to put your trust in them and empower those around you to help make informed decisions. Showing trust at this time builds cohesion in your business, and helps employees feel heard and valued.

4. Own the Narrative

Be forward-thinking and “own” the narrative about how COVID-19 has affected your business.

Don’t exaggerate — be honest with the challenges your organization has faced, and candid about the strategies you’ve used to stay afloat and adapt to quickly-changing realities.

Think about this as your chance to paint a compelling narrative about how your business demonstrated resilience during a time of crisis, and how you’ve used what you’ve learned to come back stronger than before.

5. Look Ahead

Resilient leaders stay focused on the future, not mired in the past or present. 

A Harvard Business Review assessment of how corporations have responded to the last three recessions found that, of the 4,700 firms studied, those who cut costs immediately had the lowest probability of outperforming competitors after the economy recovered.

In other words: businesses that struck a balance between short and long-term strategies were the ones who were more likely to survive an economic downturn.

Staying focused on the long-term and not making decisions based on short-term projections or current fears is the easiest way to “bake” resiliency into your small business.

Building Resilient Small Businesses

Building a resilient business starts with YOU. By implementing the steps in this article, and by investing in hardiness and resilience development, you can make sure that your business is agile, resilient, and even more successful in a post-pandemic world.

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