Hold tight it’s going to be a bumpy ride


Hold tight it’s going to be a bumpy ride. I am Rob Shand and I have a prediction.

  • PREDICTIONS: We’re now in an era of Permacrisis (Collins dictionary Word of the year) and, as such we should be working towards proactively building a more ‘Resilient Britain’. After a sustained period of calm we are now in a new era where we will continue to lurch from disruption to disruption – pandemic, political turmoil, energy outages, supply chain issues . . . all will take years to resolve
  • PLAN & MEET THE CHALLENGES: This means a new type of leadership is required – a leadership that steadies the ship with a proactive focus on resilience such as putting up the defences against cyber crime and training the team to build the resilience muscle through regular scenario testing.  All industries should be taking a good look at their key outputs and working out their vulnerabilities
  • A focus on a team’s mental wellbeing, building an engaging culture and particularly around ‘impact.’ This means articulating the meaningful ‘thing’ that a business does in the world will be crucial to maintaining a strong team and recruiting the best talent.
  • This means resource will need to go into: Resilience and business continuity, team, including mental wellbeing and brand, vision, impact and conveying this in a compelling and believable way.
  • There will be amazing opportunities but the ‘ship’ needs to be steady and the team needs to be resilient in order to identify and act on the opportunities that this new era will definitely present  

Hold on Tight!

It’s going to be a bumpy ride

I know that I am not alone in feeling somewhat battered by the wave after wave of crisis that seems to have rocked our world in recent times … from the pandemic to economic and political turmoil, energy shortages, supply chain issues, war in Ukraine, a cost-of-living crisis and that’s before we’ve even begun to talk about the environment.

In fact, so much so that the nice people at Collins Dictionary have nominated ‘permacrisis’ as their Word of the Year 2022.

When will it end? The answer is it won’t.  

Or at least not for the foreseeable future. In fact, we may as well get in an early nomination for ‘permacrisis’ being Word of Year 2023 and beyond.  

Dismal? Yes. But since this is the vibe that’s setting in, as leaders it would serve us better to ask some different questions such as ‘what does this mean for our businesses? Where should we be investing? What does leadership look like in unstable times? What about us? Our teams and their mental wellbeing? Will there be opportunities in all this?

Before we get to that, I think there’s another reality check. Not only do I believe that we are as a country woefully ill-equipped on the resilience front, but I also think that we need to realise that no one is going to come and help us. We’re going to need to work this out on our own.  

When the Government waded in during the pandemic with furlough, we saw massive state intervention. That is not going to happen again, they’ve got their own problems. 

So, we’re on our own folks!

That’s good, at least we know where we stand and there is power in that.

Let’s talk leadership. During adversity we need to lead differently.  

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great writes about Admiral Stockdale, the highest-ranking, surviving prisoner in the so called ‘Hanoi Hilton’ during the Vietnam War. On Stockdale’s return, he was asked how he had managed to survive when others had succumbed.

His answer was simple.  

Some had been optimists, but they perished when the optimism ran out. Others were pessimists and they had not lasted long either.  

He meanwhile maintained an ‘unwavering faith’ that he would prevail whilst at the same time confronting ‘the most brutal facts of reality’. In other words, he maintained a ‘duality’ that is today known as the Stockdale Paradox. This approach feels about right for now.

What are the brutal facts of reality now? Without doubt it feels like we need to focus on investing in the resilience within our businesses.  Build walls that are both strong and high. You do this by looking at the key outputs of your business. What does your business make, produce, or serve up? And what would stop you in your tracks? If your key output is biscuits, what would stop you producing these? Cyber-attack? Key supplier failure? A fire in your factory?  

And what period would be catastrophic? 4 hours? 1 day? 4 days? Build your defences and make plans accordingly.

Then rehearse them. Regularly. Test whether your resilience plans even work, ideally bringing in someone with external objectivity.  

You and your team need to build the mental muscle of resilience; there are no shortcuts to this.  

If you fly a fast jet, you rehearse for the worst-case scenario over and over again, so that if that moment comes, you have the mental muscle to know what to do.

And you need to be fit and healthy for the ride. It’s time to double down on everything we know we should be doing to stay fit and well. Sleep well, eat well, keep fit. Beyond that, bring in a range of robust mental wellbeing strategies for you and introduce these to your team.  

This era will be an endurance test.  

Your team needs you to be a high energy leader with a clear vision and to be compelling and believable. If your belief wavers, you’ll lose your team. They will go to somewhere else that delivers more certainty.

Whilst we’re on the subject of retaining and attracting the best talent (because you’ll need all the help you can get), now is the time to articulate what impact your business makes. Humans are searching for meaning so now more than ever, lead with the meaningful thing that your business does. If done authentically, you’ll bring your team and your customers on your journey.  

So, in Stockdale’s words, keep an eye on the brutal facts and build your defences whilst also looking at where you have room to be more compelling both as a leader and as a business.  And if you can keep an ‘unwavering faith’ with one eye on the opportunities you’ll have a fighting chance of riding this one out. Good luck!

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Rob Shand
As a former fast jet pilot, Rob came within seconds of an untimely end when he was forced to eject from his burning jet. Years and years of simulation, training, grit and hard work (what we'd now call building resilience) went into ensuring that he knew exactly what to do when 'that' crucial moment came. He moved into business and spent 15 years building an award-winning VC backed travel company where he also learned all about the need for resilience in a turbulent industry living through extraordinary times. Now, in a world that continues to lurch from crisis to crisis, Rob and the team combine their military expertise with over 25 years of commercial acumen in some of the world's riskiest industries (including travel and maritime security and intelligence) to deliver their unique Rigour in Resilience methodology. With a singular mission to make Britain’s organisations more resilient, they help to make businesses strong enough to withstand this chaotic era. Rob Shand, Chief Resilience Officer, Impact Resilience