June 17, 2024


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Most articles I write tell stories of how our company overcame a problem and everything worked out. As I write today, we are in the thick of it — an external fraud crisis requiring months of brainstorming and massive amounts of product development data to mitigate. It’s getting better. We have a clear road map to build and implement the necessary tools, which are nearly complete, and the brunt of the pain is behind us, but we are still in the midst of the storm.

Last week, I took many employees in the Seattle area out for meals in small groups to ensure I heard and addressed everyone’s questions and to get to know people in a more intimate environment. Many participated in the hard work to find a solution, so I also expressed appreciation and tried to reduce any concerns. During one such lunch, a team member asked how I kept my comfort level through such circumstances. I answered, “Because of the people on our team.”

Our company is a living case study of how resilience and unity sustain a team through crisis. Unity is a shared purpose and support network that makes it easier to cope with adversity. Resilience is about more than just surviving challenges, but thriving despite them. We have dealt with bigger threats before, but in going from seven employees to over 70, I have refined my approach to ensure we have the resilience and unity to get through it. Here’s how.

Related: How to Build and Maintain a Truly Resilient Company Culture

Be proactive

Rather than wait until a crisis strikes, leaders should be proactive about building a unified team that bounces back from any challenge. It takes daily efforts to establish the foundation of trust and respect that nurtures unity, so establish regular communication and relationship-building as a practice long before problems arise. Otherwise, it will take a lot more legwork to communicate, connect and rally at a time when we would be better off conserving resources.

When our team was smaller, I could look everyone in the eyes and trust they felt connected, informed and motivated. As a larger, more remote team, I rely more on managers for insights into everyone’s concerns. When my direct reports told me team members had questions, I made short videos to answer them and the positive feedback was overwhelming. Many team members said the format was comforting, like meeting in person, and I plan to continue video updates as a regular practice. By building better communication and stronger relationships, rather than panic when a crisis hits, we move with purpose and unity through it.

Ease people into it

Today’s crisis will probably not be the last, and throwing people into problems once they happen can be frightening. Without resilience and unity, that fear can be a company’s biggest enemy, turning even the smallest speed bump into a car crash. When negative perceptions take hold, people stop talking about unity and get caught up in their own heads. Rather than thinking about resilience or unity, crisis hits and they lose hope.

Give everyone baby steps into navigating a crisis by presenting them with safe opportunities to practice. The first time we face a challenge is the most frightening only because we are the least prepared to handle it. Enough low-risk challenges arise on their own to provide individuals with the chance to struggle through and overcome them so future, larger events are easier to handle. Solving that first encounter with a problem can feel like running a race without practice — the finish line seems so far and impossible to cross. The more times we do it, the less frightening that process becomes.

Transparency is key

When leading in times of crisis, communication should be clear, honest and regular. Answer when people have questions. Stay calm and be earnest about the realities of the problem, the urgency and the resources being allocated to bring it under control and rebuild. Transparency can help calm people’s fears through an otherwise uncomfortable process. It also invites others to get involved in the solution. By being transparent with my team about the fraud, they rallied together to create a solution faster than expected. People are more likely to respond to transparency with patience or offers to help.

Communication in person can be easier than via remote tools to read body language and signals during interpersonal exchanges that might indicate discomfort. Having one-on-one meals with my team members, I could hear their concerns and get a feel for their comfort with the topic, and they could more easily trust in my reassurances. They may still have questions I can’t answer, but I can explain the steps within our control, how long they should take, and when to expect a reassessment. When we let people see where we’re headed, they can more easily get on board.

Related: Resilience Is One of the Most Essential Entrepreneurial Traits. Practicing This Can Help You Build It.

Celebrate with balance

During hard times, leaders need to address everyone’s concerns, acknowledge that the storm is still ongoing and celebrate within a reasonable time frame — but this takes balance and, sometimes, a leap of faith. While the solution to our fraud crisis was in place and we were ready to implement it, I had some trepidation about announcing that I wanted to give everyone an extra day off as a thank-you because we still had a lot of work ahead of us. Celebrating victories in the midst of resolving an urgent problem can seem unreasonable or disconnected.

At the same time, people were getting tired. It took us months to create all the tools needed to resolve our problem, and it would take several more to implement and assess them. The right balance of appreciation during one storm can motivate people to keep striving for the calm that is coming soon.

As leaders, the steps we take before a crisis define our team’s future resilience. While many of these steps are experiments, they mirror the principles we practice year-round to build an indomitable team. We may hit bumps and need to change course, but with a plan to stay resilient and unified, I trust we can get through anything.



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