Resilience is defined as the capacity to adapt to situations and overcome obstacles. Never has this survival tool seemed more critical than now, not just for individuals but for businesses and organizations.

Diane Coutu explains resilience this way in Harvard Business Review:

“Resilient people possess three characteristics — a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise. You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three. These three characteristics hold true for resilient organizations as well… Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improvise solutions from thin air. Others do not.”


Furthering Coutu’s point about accepting reality and turning hardship into something positive, Alphapoint offers these tips for college students on developing resilience, advice that is actually relevant to everyone.

  1. Identify negative thought patterns.

Curb negative self-talk. “Being able to catch these thoughts and question their actual validity helps to nip these patterns in the bud, allowing you to form new, likely more accurate, and positive interpretations of reality.”

  1. Pinpoint sources of stress.

“Once you know where your stress comes from and the unhealthy reactions or behaviors that it provokes in you, you can work on improving your coping strategies.”

  1. Manage your physical health.

“Physical and mental health are inextricably linked. Improving your self-care is a simple yet vital part of cultivating resilience.”

  1. Develop and strengthen positive relationships.

“Relationships – whether with friends, family or with trusted advisors or professors – are crucial to resilience. “

  1. Set and work towards concrete goals.

“Pursuing tangible, reasonable goals will give you a sense of purpose. As you inch closer to the finish line, your progress will further motivate you to move forward while increasing your sense of self-worth.”

Other self-care tips include: consistent sleep, staying away from things that cause anxiety, connecting with spirituality, working through feelings instead of stuffing them which are all healthy habits. The experts also recommend releasing stress through meditation, expressive arts, yoga, abdominal breathing, and just taking time to do things you love.


Employee resilience can begin developing with the start of a new job. Michael D. Watkins in Harvard Business Review offers this advice to managers on-boarding new hires:

  • Bosses should reassure new hires that learning is more important than doing in the early days.
  • Learning should be accelerated. “The faster a new hire learns about the organization and their role, the more they will be able to accomplish in the critical first months.” Online orientations, by the way, can be a vital piece of this accelerated learning.
  • Make them part of the team.
  • Connect them with key stakeholders.
  • Give them direction, answering these questions: What do I need to do? How should I go about doing it? Why should I feel motivated to accomplish it?
  • Help them get early wins to build confidence and credibility.
  • Coach them for success by continuing support past the initial onboarding process and having regular check-ins.


Forrester Research identifies resilient companies with the following attributes:

  • They build strong, trusted, and dependable relationships with customers.
  • Become a preferred employer that can easily recruit and retain the best talent.
  • Protect their revenues and reputation during a crisis.
  • Recover quicker than their competitors.

Tim Burke, CEO of Quest Technology Management, cites these factors in company resiliency:

  • Strong senior executive support.
  • A willingness to challenge assumptions.
  • A commitment to transparency and collaboration.
  • An organizational culture promoting continuous employee education.
  • Sharing knowledge with a trusted network of organizations.

To begin developing a strategy of resilience, Burke has these recommendations:

  • Identify what will make your business resilient, including organizational and technological factors.
  • Determine how to measure those factors so you can build appropriate metrics into your key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Get proactive: set up extensive real-time monitoring and alert systems to measure performance and security stance, and to flag issues ASAP.
  • Establish procedures for evaluating technology innovations to determine whether your business should adopt them and how.
  • Base decisions on reliable independent data.
  • Build robust technology alliances that protect your confidential data and enable you to collaborate effectively.
  • Practice for disruption with regular and realistic testing of business continuity plans — and don’t forget that specific recovery plans are less useful and dynamic than the ability to create impromptu plans in response to unanticipated situations.
  • Help employees during disruptions, because without a resilient workforce you cannot expect to sustain a resilient business.

The big consulting firm McKinsey recommends organizations create flexibility through a “safety buffer” by cleaning up balance sheets, preparing for downturns earlier than everyone else, and establishing a “resilience nerve center.”

According to McKinsey, a resilience nerve center aims to do three things well:

  • Monitor a small number of material risks and use stress tests to orient the company, early, toward downturn-related economic impacts.
  • Decide how the organization will manage these impacts faster.
  • Execute by organizing teams into agile, cross-functional units that drive toward clear outcomes, create forums for faster executive decision making, and monitor the results through value-based initiative tracking.

McKinsey shares, “It is far better, in our experience, to agree on a small number of representative major threats and for each to define a clear leading indicator, as well as triggers for escalating the threat to decision-makers. Thinking this through ahead of time is great preparation for tackling unexpected threats when they emerge.”


In regard to digital technology, McKinsey clearly lays out the advantages:

“…Accelerating digitization has widened the gap in capabilities and performance between digital leaders and laggards—a gap that is likely to grow during any downturn.” Those companies further along with digital technology see 7+% more revenue growth than industry peers, notes the firm.

“The digital haves will connect better with loyal customers; provide a frictionless, private customer experience; serve them at a lower cost; absorb price hits; and avoid expensive IT upgrades at a vulnerable time.“

Tim Burke of Quest Technology, agrees on the importance of technology, offering these tips as companies scale up:

  • Embrace technological innovation with due diligence.
  • Proactively invest in constantly evolving, state-of-the-art security measures.
  • Understand that the complexity of today’s technologies demands an unprecedented level of automated, integrated, real-time monitoring and management.


It is good to remember just a year ago no one would have considered a pandemic to be the biggest disruption most of us would see in our lifetime. But here we are. This crisis has taught us resilience must be thought of not just in business, competition or market terms, but equally in terms of internal operations, leadership, and people.