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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

From Crisis to Resilience — How to Use Adversity for Strategic Success

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The world our parents and grandparents were raised in bears little resemblance to the world we inhabit today. Glued to the radios and eventually the family television, the two previous generations bore witness to many firsts and many rare events: The moon landing, the Great Depression, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Charles Lindbergh successfully making the first transatlantic flight, launching Russia’s Sputnik satellites into space, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, expanding voting rights globally and many more.

Following the Second World War and the expansion of mechanisms and technology, companies throughout the First World were well-funded and saw incredible growth. They knew where their goods and services came from, and when there were minor disruptions, they knew which levers to pull to get things going again. In turn, families could reasonably rely on goods and services reaching them.

Related: 8 Ways Successful People Master Resilience

Not clear what levers to pull anymore

It doesn’t matter where we call home; what we experience is extraordinary and unprecedented. Controversial elections, global conflicts that seem to strike from nowhere, the increase in both frequency and intensity of natural disasters, AI-generated images (oddly, many that are polydactyl) and planes carrying either military personnel or world politicians shot right out of the sky are just a few of the events playing themselves out on the world stage before our very eyes.

We’ve become all too accustomed (maybe even enured) to phrases like the new normal, terrorist attacks, telehealth, remote working, zoom fatigue, the #MeToo movement, arguments over body autonomy, economic downturn and hyperinflation. With this new reality and expanded vocabulary comes a deepening divide between people and civil unrest.

Some may argue that access is part of the problem. “News,” in all its current forms, has returned to the days of William Randolph Heart’s famous quote, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Our parents’ and grandparents’ viewing experiences were both shorter (T.V. used to go off the air at midnight, and there weren’t many channels) and more filtered, allowing them to take in those firsts but not consume them the way we do today.

Social media platforms and the 24-hour news cycle notify us throughout the day with images depicting horrors and atrocities designed to shock and awe. Psychology Today believes we all need a break from the constant barrage because our mental health is suffering. However, minimizing viewing time won’t alter the realities of our new normal.

Whether these events happen “over there” or hit “too close to home” due to our interconnectedness and access, these shared moments and the resulting ripple effects are experienced by all of us throughout our vast planet.

If world leaders and heads of small and large organizations are challenged to manage these upheavals confidently, the angst experienced by the rest of us is intensified. Given the monkey wrenches being thrown into our daily lives, it’s no wonder that predictability and decision-making are aspects of governing our lives we can no longer reasonably rely on.

Regardless of our personal or professional circumstances, supply chain disruptions, cybersecurity threats, economic instability and worse, these interfere with our daily lives. Our ability to “bounce back” isn’t what it used to be. According to Pew Research, the middle class, historically the backbone of society, shrank from 61% in 1971 to 50% by 2012.

Rather than brush these challenges under the rug, corporations are choosing to be more transparent with their customers and stakeholders. Given these challenges, the levers governments, organizations and households used to pull that were once available to us are no longer operable, leaving all of us feeling anxious and frightened, hampering the decision-making process.

Related: 5 Steps to Move Beyond Small Talk and Start the Business You’ve Always Dreamed of

Using moments for better decision-making

Much of my career has been spent observing people following some extremely challenging, even horrific, circumstances. I started my career in financial services, managing the portfolios of high-net-worth clients.

When Merrill Lynch sold off its international interests following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, I took a very unusual pivot by working overseas in Indonesia, Ukraine and Jordan as a political advisor. My final deployment was to Iraq during (not after) the second Gulf War. My reasons for being in those countries couldn’t have prepared me for how much I would change and be affected by my surroundings.

Deployment after deployment, I noticed a common theme continually repeated. Regardless of the losses people experienced: loss of limbs, homes and family members — rather than retreat, without exception, every person rose to the occasion and looked for ways to rebuild and thrive. In these “moments, ” I recognized a universal truth: leaders emerge and inspire others to do the same.

I witnessed firsthand that following the worst days of their lives, they forged ahead, summoning the strength, resilience, purpose and courage to thrive, rebuild and find that path forward.

In these moments, I saw extraordinary and sometimes superhuman responses to horrific circumstances. I witnessed empathy and determination, unlike anything I have been involved in before or since. I came to call these moments Optimize the Moment™.

Related: 10 Ways Successful People Push Through Adversity

I share many of these moments, case studies and outcomes of the steps I take to become mission-oriented and empathy-based in my new book, From War Zones to Boardrooms: Optimize the Moment When Strategic Planning Fails.

Today, I am a strategic consultant for Fortune 100 companies and other great organizations. In my role — advising them on day-to-day operations and helping them manage crises — I find countless opportunities to incorporate Optimize the Moment. By recognizing and acting on critical moments, all of us, from world leaders to heads of corporations and individuals, can redefine missions, assemble effective teams, and achieve success — even amid a real crisis.

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