COVID-19 Proves Resilience Is Not About Bouncing Back

This season of uncertain times with no clear end in sight has reinforced my belief that resilience is the single most important character of a leader. Now more than ever, we all need resilience.

As we drift farther and farther from what we knew as normal, it seems increasingly unlikely that whatever ‘normal’ was, will ever really return. It was hard for me to admit that, but I think I’m there now. 

The other day, I received an email from someone who had seen the title of our new book, Resilience: It’s Not About Bouncing Back (How leaders and their organizations can build resilience before disruption hits). The tone of the email was angry. It almost sounded like, ‘How dare you say resilience is not about bouncing back when that’s exactly what it IS about?’ They asked what my crazy angle was and challenged my views on resilience harder than anyone else had.

I responded with my official answer – the one found in the book:

A great picture of resilience is a ball. Have you ever watched a ball bounce? Let’s just say you stand on a tall platform and you drop a ball to the floor below. When it bounces back, how high does it go? Will it bounce as high as it went before? I would submit to you that it won’t. It will definitely bounce back, but it will never bounce as high as it was when it was dropped. 

Building resilience involves intentional preparation so that we can increase our ability to come out on the other side of challenges better equipped to deal with them than we were before. This is not a return to our former state of mind. It is a transformation of our former self into a stronger self so that the next time disruption hits we will be better prepared. For organizations in an environment of rapid, disruptive change, there is often no “back” to bounce to after disruption, because by the time they right themselves things have changed.

A week went by and I still could not shake their question. It nagged at me like a pebble in my shoe as I thought about COVID and my own ‘new normal’, which doesn’t feel normal at all.

I responded again:

This is the week I realized the idea that resilience is not about bouncing back has never been more true, particularly related to COVID. This situation is a perfect example in that whatever ‘normal’ was, we will never see it again. IF we do, it will be a long time. Just getting through this crisis will require us to think differently, do things differently and think of our world differently…getting through this crisis and landing better off than we were before will require quantum leaps forward (not back) in ways we may not even be able to imagine right now. There is no back to bounce to…we must move forward.

Many things right now are upended. Industries from speaking to airlines are shut down right now. Individuals and organizations both big and small have been hit hard by the economic crisis. We will need to think differently to survive the current disruption and to move forward, but we will move forward. We will find a new normal. And I believe we can emerge stronger and more effective than before. That’s resilience.

If you want to learn how you can move forward in these uncertain times, be energized by disruption, and emerge stronger than before, I invite you to check out Resilience: It’s Not About Bouncing Back or call us. It’s what we do.