As a small business owner, you’ll inevitably face challenges that can feel overwhelming and insurmountable. But if you want to keep your company afloat, you need resilience—the ability to bounce back from those challenges and keep moving forward.

It’s a tricky situation to face, and it’s one that every leader needs to confront.

Leaders are often expected to be resilient and optimistic in the face of uncertainty and failure. But what does it mean to be resilient? And how can you make sure your team can bounce back after a setback?

While many organizations have been quick to adopt the term “resilience” into their vernacular, few have thought about what it actually means and how they can foster resilience within their workforce. So “resiliency” has become a buzzword that is trendy but lost some of its impact and meaning.

Resilience is what will help you keep your head up when things get tough and make the tough decisions that need to be made. When it comes down to it, resilience is an attitude. It’s the desire to keep going even when faced with setbacks.

First, resilience is not just an innate trait—it’s something that can be learned. It requires practice, patience, and persistence. But if you’re ready to start building resilience into your workplace culture, here are some tips:

What is Resilience?

Understand what resilience is and isn’t. Resilience is not about always being upbeat or putting on a brave face. It’s about being able to acknowledge that problems exist and recognize their gravity, while also having the confidence and skills to manage through them. It’s about embracing uncertainty, navigating through the turbulence, and emerging stronger on the other side. It’s about facing the objective reality of a tough situation with thorough, unflinching honesty, and then finding the strength to deal with it. What resilience isn’t is ignoring or downplaying tough realities with blind optimism. It isn’t ignoring hard truths and thinking that everything will work out on its own.

Model Resilient Behavior

Start with yourself. Model resilient behavior yourself. As the leader of your organization, it’s important to set the tone by demonstrating what it looks like to bounce back from setbacks-both professionally and personally. By being honest about the challenges you’ve encountered and overcome (or couldn’t), you demonstrate to employees that it’s okay to struggle and that you trust them enough to be vulnerable with them. Some specific examples of how you can model resilient behavior at work include:

  • Proactively seeking out feedback and constructive criticism
  • Admitting when you make a mistake and taking responsibility for it
  • Identifying and acknowledging what you can control and what you can’t
  • Encouraging open dialogue about failure—what went wrong and what could be done differently next time
  • Asking for help when you’re struggling instead of trying to tough it out on your own
  • Handling difficult conversations with grace
  • Encouraging positive self-talk

Encourage a Growth Mindset

Encourage a growth mindset among employees. This means helping them understand that abilities such as creativity and problem-solving skills are not set in stone—they can be cultivated over time. When employees reframe their mindset from ‘Failure is a setback’ to ‘Failure is an opportunity for growth,’ they can focus on learning and improving, ultimately becoming more resilient. And as a leader, this is exactly what you want: employees who can bounce back from setbacks while still maintaining a high level of motivation and engagement with their work.

Encourage Optimism

Encourage positive thinking without being pollyannaish about things. It’s important to encourage employees to think positively without being unrealistic about the situation at hand. This is where that honest reality assessment comes in handy again. Acknowledge that things are tough right now but emphasize that the team is up for the challenge and will come out stronger on the other side. For example, you can say “There’s no denying that the last few months have been tough, and yet we’re all in this together and I know we’ll come out stronger in the end!” And emphasize a sense of collective effort and ownership over outcomes; be cautious about placing blame for the present state on any one person or group.

Encourage Wellness

Encourage employees to take breaks. We’ve all heard the airplane safety instructions that tell us to put our own oxygen masks on before helping others, but it’s a metaphor that’s especially useful for resilience as well. When we’re running ourselves ragged, we don’t have much energy left over for dealing with challenging situations—and when we’re feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, it makes it much harder to be resilient. Part of being resilient is knowing when you need to step away from a situation—whether that means taking a break from your desk, going for a walk, or taking some time off.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s OK to take a break! And it’s OK to encourage your team members to do the same. When we’re working hard and working long hours, we’re often so focused on what needs to be done right now that we forget about our bodies’ natural need for rest and relaxation. Taking breaks is essential for resilience: it prevents burnout and helps us maintain the stamina needed to work through difficult issues and find efficient solutions.

Create a Supportive Environment

Create a supportive environment. A key ingredient of resilience is social support. When employees feel like they have the backing of their team, they are more likely to feel confident and secure in their ability to weather tough challenges. Create opportunities for employees to have regular check-ins with their supervisor or manager to discuss how they’re progressing and what challenges they’re facing. These conversations should be open and honest, with a focus on finding solutions together. This will help build resilience in the workplace culture by encouraging team members to feel safe discussing their feelings with each other and being able to rely on one another when things get tough.


Resilience is an essential trait for any small business owner, as it helps you cope with the many challenges you’ll face in this role. Whether you’re managing a team, dealing with an increasingly competitive market, or simply trying to keep up with the demands of your customers and clients, resilience can help.

Building resilience starts with understanding that resilience is a skill that can be learned and developed over time-this isn’t something people are born with. Just like any other skill, it takes practice to build resilience. And once you start building it into your workplace culture, you’ll find that everyone benefits from a more positive outlook and greater ability to handle challenges effectively.


To find out how to Recession Proof Your Leadership Team, contact us at Apex Catalyst Group. In our Leadership Sprints series, we have this topic and others to help leadership teams have one vision with one voice, be one team, who are stronger, healthier, and even better decision makers.