Resilient Leadership – The Covid-19 Stress Test

The Challenge

Like so many other small businesses, we faced the Covid-19 shutdown and learnt much about ourselves, our clients and resilience. At the time of late March 2020 when Australia went into to stage 3 lockdown, we were halfway through a 4-month four workshop Resilience Leadership program, had conducted the first workshop for another and hadn’t even started a third.

The Process

We put the needs of our clients’ first and tested where they were at and if we could continue.  We were humbled that, after the hit from the shutdown of the tourism sector with all operators so greatly affected, and our own business under much pressure, that overwhelmingly our nearly 60 participants in Mackay, Whitsundays, Bundaberg and Gladstone supported our move to complete the 3 Resilient Leadership programs underway through the online solution we devised.

Our Solution

  • Bring all our participants along on a webinar-based pathway whereby 1 day workshops became 3 x 2 hour events online;

  • Our online coaching remained with its importance accentuated by its capacity to build a stronger bond with the participants 1:1;

  • We heavily utilised the “break out” feature of the Zoom platform which overwhelmingly was the better alternative for getting free flowing discussion as opposed to a single online group; and

  • We shifted our content to be less intensive but more relevant to the Covid-19 circumstances and we concertinaed its delivery.

The Outcomes

Our firm belief was that there was never a more important time to build resilient leaders in our communities. We have all added, due to the intensity and unanticipated challenges during this time, to our understanding of leadership, and personal / community resilience. It certainly reinforced a few salient concepts:

  • It's not so much what challenge is in front of me but how I choose to react;
  • Resilience is not a trait we have or don't have but something we can learn through building skills, mindsets and behaviours;
  • Social connection, optimism and community learning are vital to regional resilience; and
  • We now firmly believe - stasis is the enemy, composure our ally.

This quote encapsulates our lingering learning: “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”  (Martin Luther King Jr.) 

Additionally, the premise upon which we build our Resilience Leadership model was emphatically reinforced: 

“Successful recovery recognises, supports and builds on individual, community and organisational capacity and resilience. Our approach looks to the future through advanced consideration of the impact a disruptive event may have on business and our personal and leadership capacity to meet the disaster, assisting to counter the disruption.”

Our fundamental tenet is, if resilience describes the ability to ‘bounce back’, to recover and respond with ‘commitment and optimism’, we need to include a comprehensive personal resilience component.  This motivated us to create a more universal, cross sector Personal Resilience Self Coaching model.  It will now become a core element of our leadership design and a stand alone personal development solution.

The comments from our participants at the conclusion of the programs reflected the many advantages to staying engaged and contributing to the learning:

  • Simple things - like reaching out to others and genuinely asking how they are can have profound, positive impact - important to increasing regional resilience;
  • The program created excellent cohesion between participants;
  • A diversity of people from a range of sectors, is fantastic. We have been able to establish great cross sector relationships which will prove valuable for future disasters;
  • A diversity of people, leaders, conversations and voices will give better decisions and leadership;
  • Leaders from different sectors bring a broad range of knowledge and skills - which can really assist in building a more cohesive and resilient community;
  • Covid-19 reinforced the need for collective leadership in tourism; and
  • The timing of this program has been (ironically) perfect and gave perspective at a low point.