“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
― Nelson Mandela
“Toyota’s 2009 recall catastrophe involving unintentional acceleration covered over 6.5 million vehicles. The crisis “brought the company back to reality. After a failed attempt at brushing off its customers’ complaints as ill-founded, Toyota President Akio Toyoda admitted that Toyota had become too big and distant from its customers and, using a line from management guru Jim Collins, he said Toyota was in an advanced state of decline, and was “grasping for salvation.” Since then, Toyota has become less cocky, gradually rebuilding the faith among its customer base, cutting costs, and going through a back-to-basics overhaul of product development. In the fall of 2012, Toyota announced a recall involving 7.4 million vehicles involving the power window switch. Unlike the disaster in 2009, the company was proactive—getting the story out early, putting its customers first, and controlling its outcome.”[i] That Toyota outranked all competitors in the 2014 Consumer Reports Car-Brand Perception survey is an amazing testimony to their adaptability and resurgence in the aftermath of adversity.
Here’s the lesson: In our fast-paced and rapidly changing business environment, companies need to display resilience—the ability to bounce back in the face of any challenge or obstacle. Resilient people and organizations can be stretched, bent and compressed, but still bounce back without being broken. This takes skill at both personal and organizational levels.
But even before those skills, at the core of who we are as individuals and organizations has to be a strong sense of dedication to purpose. Without heart-felt passion and belief in the vision and mission of the organization, resolve becomes difficult to muster during the most difficult of times. When every member of the team is committed to the value their organization brings to the customer and world, the pain of the short term can collectively be endured and overcome.
Taking a realistic yet optimistic view of the situation, as Toyota did, creates opportunity to convert a difficult situation into an opportunity for enduring growth. Employees and organizations that actively face and solve their problems instead of surrendering or complaining often become stronger and better as a result. Resilience increases the chance of victory, while succumbing to a victim mentality almost assures defeat.
If we must fail, let’s fail forward, as John C. Maxwell explains in his book Failing Forward, “Embrace adversity and make failure a regular part of your life. If you’re not failing, you’re probably not really moving forward.”[ii] What sets people apart is their perception and response to a setback or failure.
The secret to growing beyond failure lies in utilizing it to master fear instead of it mastering us. Failure grants us the opportunity to face our fears and stomp them out so they cannot resurrect in the future.
Be ready for challenges, barriers, or obstacles and embrace them as opportunities to learn and grow. Change, growth and success rarely happen without some level of resistance. Flexibility and adaptation through experience and learning help us grow the muscles of resilience over time, making us better employees and leaders.
Resilience is learned and can be proactively developed and strengthened by implementing a few simple yet valuable practices in your life.
- Remember your inherent value and worth—Resilient people don’t measure themselves by success or failure. They understand their value is deeper than temporary achievements and they accurately assess their strengths and weaknesses, focusing on the former.
- Reduce unnecessary stress—Let go of the little things. This grants you the energy to better manage the tough things.
- Take care of yourself—Take care of your physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual being. Don’t beat your body, mind, emotions or spirit into the ground by being too hard on yourself.
- Build stronger relationships—A bond of trust within the team and all stakeholders remains critical in the face of adversity. Keep the channels of communication open, transparent and authentic through the challenging times. Often, integrity in action is the hallmark of successful resilience.
- Start each day with an attitude of gratitude—Find the silver lining in the adversity and use it to encourage yourself and others through the tough times to victory on the other side.
- Reframe, learn, and grow—Ask yourself:What did we learn? How can we grow and leverage this as an opportunity to catapult ourselves to a higher level of performance? Though we never seek them out, setbacks and challenges can become our greatest learning opportunities if we handle them well.
It is rare to find successful people or organizations who haven’t experienced profound adversity in their lives. The success stories we read about spring forth from situations where people believed in their fundamental mission, were willing to fight for survival and banded together with others to overcome the odds.
Failure isn’t fatal. No matter how bleak a situation may appear, it’s not a dead end. Remind yourself of your vision, rededicate yourself to it and begin moving forward again. This is how we build resilience.
[ii] Maxwell, Jon C. “Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success.” Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, TN. 2000.
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