Martin Rowinski is the CEO of Boardsia corporate board recruiting firm, and an investor and author.
The pandemic, supply chain crises, a potential recession – you might think we’re going through some really tough times, but we’ve been through some tough times before. At any time, a major event can turn your life and business upside down. When this happens, you can’t just drop everything and give up. Leaders have no choice but to take on challenges if they want to succeed. The stronger you stay, the better you come out.
In our current climate of uncertainty and impending challenges, my advice is always the same: even when the job gets tough, work harder.
Overcoming adversity can make you stronger.
As someone who spent 10 years of my life live under communist rule in my home country of Poland, I learned early on how to overcome adversity. I had to survive. My mom would send me to wait in line at the grocery store, and I had to get there early or risk facing empty shelves. Often the food was finished before 8 o’clock. The scarcity was palpable and seemed to affect everyone around me.
When I arrived in the US and found abundance in every store, I was amazed to learn that people could have anything they wanted as long as they had the money to buy it. Even though hard work seemed to pay off little, it was always better than the life I had experienced under communist rule. Remembering this, I always managed to push myself harder.
When my mortgage business was destroyed along with the rest of the mortgage industry in 2008, I had to reinvent myself. I tapped my creativity and came up with something completely new, and I worked twice as hard to learn how to do it right. I built a business and a new career that led to where I am today. Like many others at the time, I had no choice but to make it work. I had a young family to think about, so I got creative and was lucky enough to find a way to move forward.
Work hard when you face a challenge.
After 2020, even those who have never had to overcome adversity have seen firsthand how a crisis can affect someone and how we have no choice but to plow through it. For those new to overcoming challenges and moving forward in the face of adversity, here are five principles to help you:
1. Trust your team.
Trying to carry all the stress and weight of a crisis on your own can quickly burn you out and make it even harder to rise to the challenge. When things start to seem impossible, it can feel easier to give up, but having a team to fall back on eases the burden of making tough decisions. Gather people from within your company or trusted advisors and talk to them often. Make sure everyone is aligned with the best path forward.
2. Admit that you need help and accept it.
Don’t try to be a superhero and take on the world alone. Be open to accepting help from people you wouldn’t normally be able to get to. Find role models or mentors, even outside your company. If you are in a relationship, talk to your partner. Don’t be afraid to embrace the support of others who are willing to offer it.
3. Try new things.
It is often said that the definition of “madness” is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. There are many ways to achieve your goals, so try different things. Think outside the box. This is where a team of diverse thinkers can bring more perspectives to the table and aid in better decision making.
4. Be smart.
Support your team and engage them in in-depth discussions about staying ahead of what’s happening in your industry and the business world. Investigate all possible solutions and use each failed attempt as a learning opportunity to improve and do better next time.
5. Stay calm.
Leaders must show strength if they want their teams to stay strong too. Involve everyone on the team and discuss what they need to feel supported. The more they feel supported, the more they can also support their colleagues.
So often in life, when we go through hard times, we find ourselves at a critical crossroads: keep going or give up. I never say give up. Tough times come and go like an unpredictable tide. When you and your organization remain strong in the face of adversity, learn from and overcome challenges, you are better positioned to emerge victorious in the end.