In the unpredictable world of retail, chief executives and Be Inspired ambassadors Liz Evans, Suzanne Harlow and Jill Ross explain why resilience is the best tool in your belt.
From the boardroom to the shopfloor, we can all experience setbacks that knock our confidence, making it difficult to carry on with our heads held high.
The dictionary definition of resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties” – but it may not always be such an immediate response.
Resilience is typically a skill built up over time, allowing for mistakes to be made. And it comes in different forms and means different things to every person.
“Resilience comes in different forms and means different things to every person”
For Jill Ross, Accenture managing director for retail, it means tenacity and elasticity: bouncing back and building strength.
For former Jack Wills chief executive Suzanne Harlow, resilience means compartmentalising – methodically removing the ‘bad’ to remain the most authentic version of yourself.
And for Fat Face chief executive Liz Evans, it means knowing yourself at your best and your worst, and creating coping mechanisms to continuously learn and understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Speaking to a room of ambitious women at Retail Week’s July Be Inspired workshop, Lessons in Resilience, these three inspiring women gave their top tips on how to keep climbing to the top when the going gets tough.
1. Remain professional
But, she says, “life moves on and you have to see things for what they are” – a stepping stone in a new direction.
With her recent high-profile exit from Jack Wills (which happened after this event took place), her words may ring true once more.
“Resilience is an individual process that sometimes requires self-care and solitary reflection”
Evans and Ross also believe you can’t let the personal influence the professional.
Whether it’s taking on too much emotional responsibility for events in the workplace, or letting your home life impact your work, all three business leaders agree that resilience is an individual process that sometimes requires self-care and solitary reflection.
Knowing the boundaries between home and work life is key to remaining in the moment – compartmentalising, as Harlow suggests – and not allowing emotions to bubble over.
Step back, take a minute and breathe.
2. Think practically
That said, you should without a doubt speak up and speak out when “it’s all too much”, says Harlow.
Resilience is about building up strength, not shutting out emotions. For instance, sometimes crying is the only way to articulate how you’re feeling and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
“Resilience is about building up strength, not shutting out emotions”
For Evans, Ross and Harlow, the mental and physical wellbeing of their teams is paramount.
If it does all become too much, what can be done to help? What needs to change? Which responsibilities can be reduced and which are you happy with?
3. Use support systems
While resilience is an individual attribute, there is nothing stopping you from helping others and vice versa.
“There is nothing stopping you from helping others and vice versa”
The key to most interpersonal relationships, whether in work or at home, is good, open, honest communication, instilling mutual values of integrity, trust and respect.
Having both internal and external support systems means you can gain more impartial insights into issues in either area. This can help you see through the noise and move past adversity.
4. Be your most authentic self
Building resilience is about making the choice to add a new character trait to your personality – one of strength, determination and integrity.
“Part of building up resilience is getting to know yourself”
Part of building up resilience is getting to know yourself and recognising your reactions to certain situations.
You must allow yourself to react organically, trust your gut instincts, and be open and honest about how you wish to proceed.
5. Find the silver lining
What have you achieved today? What are you grateful for? What are the core values you hold dear? What can you work on tomorrow?
These are questions we should all regularly ask ourselves to stay grounded, according to Rosa Connor, happiness skills coach at Haptivate, who spoke on mindfulness and positivity at the workshop.
“By reframing failure as a part of success, you can create a practical strategy to succeed going forward”
By reframing failure as a part of success, you can create a practical strategy to succeed going forward.
“No one is the finished article,” Ross reminds us. However, in the volatile retail landscape, every knockback can be used as a lesson in resilience.