Hershey is more than a name stamped on chocolate bars around the world—it is the name of a man who demonstrated extraordinary resilience in the face of failure. Milton Hershey, founder of The Hershey Company, grew up watching his father fall short in numerous business endeavors. Milton faced many challenges of his own as he sought to enter the confectionery world. These included the breakdown of his first solo venture, a short-lived candy shop partnership with his father, and the bankruptcy of a third enterprise. It wasn’t until he overcame and adapted to his numerous failures that Hershey finally succeeded with his Lancaster Carmel Company that would become The Hershey Company we know today.
How do people like Hershey persevere when they don’t initially succeed and are forced to change direction time and time again? The answer is resilience. Not just passively riding out the tide, but actively moving forward, managing change, uncertainty, and difficulty. Resilience should be cultivated by today’s business professionals to reach their personal career goals and the goals of the organizations they lead. According to Beth Benatti Kennedy, leadership and executive coach and resiliency training expert, “being resilient does not mean you put your head down and power through. Being resilient means you have the skills to handle change and to recover and recharge yourself, so you have the energy needed for a productive, engaging career and life.” The following are tips for building resilience to bolster leaders to career success despite challenges that may arise.
The American Psychological Association (APA) includes wellness as one of their “four core components” that “can empower you to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences.” Applying this to business leadership, Suzanna de Baca, president of Business Publications Corp, asserts from her own experience that “you cannot lead others if you are not in good shape.” She further asserts, “eating healthy food, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, practicing spirituality or mindfulness, and cutting down on intoxicants or stimulants are common-sense ways to practice self-care.” Kennedy echoes this sentiment; “self-care to enhance your health and well-being yields immediate benefits. You will be more productive and energized.”
Stress management is an important component of self-care for individuals in business leadership positions. Kennedy acknowledges that “while stress has several positive motivational benefits, in unhealthy amounts, it can interfere with your career and personal life in many ways.” Staff at the Mayo Clinic recommend that individuals “practice stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing, or prayer” in order to maintain health and improve resilience.
Joseph Folkman and his team at the leadership development firm, Zenger Folkman, compared the behavior of the most and least resilient leaders. In their study of over 500 individuals, they identified “champion[ing] change” as 1 of 7 factors that enable leaders to demonstrate resilience. Folkman explains that “resilient leaders are willing to change and able to provide the leadership to ensure the organization will also change.” He continues on to say, “resilient leaders embrace change and also encourage others to change.”
One method of embracing change is to “become a lifelong learner.” Caroline Castrillon, certified professional coach and founder of Corporate Escape Artist, recommends this in her strategies for career resilience. Castrillon advises individuals to “stay up to date on the latest technology, take online courses, and attend industry conference.” She further expands, “anything you can do to develop your expertise will help to increase your self-confidence and resiliency.” By continuously staying up to date on industry trends and innovations, leaders can prepare to guide themselves and their companies through changes that otherwise might derail their success. As Charles Hunt, founder of The Audacity Firm, LLC, says, “Just because you can’t be prepared for everything, doesn’t mean you can’t be ready for something.”
De Baca recalls, “My mom used to tell me if I was overwhelmed to clean off my desk. That advice simply meant creating a reasonable goal to get ‘unstuck.’” With this account, de Baca encourages leaders to “develop realistic goals and take decisive action” to increase resilience and confront challenges. Envisioning and working toward long-term goals is important, but de Baca suggests that setting achievable short-term, yet progressive goals can build the momentum needed to overcome obstacles and achieve the desired results. This is particularly important for leaders seeking to guide their teams through difficult and uncertain situations. “Making sure your team has ‘quick wins’ can help them—and you—develop your confidence and strengthen your resilience,” teaches de Baca.
Folkman also advocates being decisive despite uncertainty, stressing that “making decisions is always difficult because no person has all the data or understands all eventualities. But organizations cannot move forward until a decision gets made.” He further adds, “the most resilient leaders are effective at making decisions and moving forward. If they make the wrong decision, they are quick to make a different decision and move in another direction.”
While every professional may not be developing the next global chocolate company, business leaders need to cultivate resilience in themselves and their organizations in order to overcome the challenges they face on the road to success. Kennedy asks, “how can we be effective in our careers if we do not have the ability to bounce back and deal with change?” The answer: we can’t. No matter how innovative the product or stable the market, competitors will arise and obstacles will materialize. Fostering resilience will help professionals and their organizations overcome roadblocks to achieve the success they need and desire.