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Running Resilient Businesses 

Updated: Jun 5, 2021

At Mountain Mindset, we are big believers in the cross over of leadership skills between mountain sports and business leadership.

One of the qualities that we focus on during our Medical and Business Leadership Academy programmes is that of building personal and team resilience. Personal and team resilience are key to success in the mountains and likewise in business.

Take mountain ultra-running as an example. The ability to run 100 miles through mountainous terrain is not simply achieved through training. A significant portion of success is down to team and personal resilience. The ability to exploit the highs during the race and ride out the lows are all part of the overall process to succeed. Every race starts with a plan and objectives that normally have to be reassessed and amended as the race goes on to achieve the ultimate goal: to finish.

The ability to run-off a sprained ankle; spend three hours vomiting but still move forward; support crew waiting in the pouring rain to help their runner hydrate and eat; or the ability to keep moving after over 40 hours of running are all risks to success and therefore, resilience through these occasions is crucial.

But resilience doesn't need to be responsive, one doesn't have to wait for the incident to occur before calling on resilience. Resilience can be planned to a certain degree. Every runner knows that they might sprain an ankle, so they carry a bandage and painkillers. The months of pre-training has conditioned their body to keep moving despite dwindling energy levels and increased pain. If a runner knows they are likely to suffer from nausea 24 hours into a race they will carry anti-nausea medicine to ensure they can keep eating and running. The team carry their waterproofs ready for the rain so that they can safely wait for their runner.

The point is that resilience isn't just about an inherent quality or capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or toughness. In business a large proportion of those 'difficulties' are known, or at least the possibility is known. If the difficulties are known then the individual or team can prepare for them. Preparation at a team level can come in many forms such as contingency planning, training, or risk assessment. Similarly, the business leader can adopt personal habits that aid resilience such as exercise, balancing work and life for the whole team, delegating responsibility to team members and many more.

But whilst all these strategies will help, toughness is relative to an individual's perception and therefore, 'tough circumstances' to one person may be drastically different to another. For example, a seasoned Snowdonia guide will fare much better in a hillside storm than a tourist on their first mountain hike, not because one is naturally more resilient than the other but because the guide knows the risks and how to prepare for them. The guide can prepare the tourist to be more resilient through instruction and advice, a bit like a management consultant.

So, when you are looking for resilient leaders in your company, don't just look at those who are naturally resilient: find the ones who want to learn and grow. Expose them to difficulty, let them fail and support them to recover. Help build their resilience don't just expect it.

And if you are looking to build your personal resilience, go and find difficulty. Take the opportunity that sounds hard. Travel to that place that looks too remote. Embrace any failure as learning and keep moving forward even if you feel sick and your legs don't want to move.

Join us on one of our Leadership courses to explore this and other Mountain Mindset leadership values in an environment that immerses you in adventure and discovery.

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