What is the culture of a resilient organisation, and what are the biggest blockers to a resilient culture?

“The biggest cultural blocker to being resilient is defensiveness.”


Dr Sandra Bell, CEO and Founder of the Business Resilience Company, talks to Jeremy Swinfen Green about promoting the cultural aspects that enhance an organisation’s ability to be resilient.

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Video transcript:

Obviously, leadership is very important in a crisis, but another thing that will affect an organisation’s abilityto be resilient is I guess the culture that runs throughout an organisation. Now culture partly comes from thetop but not only from the top. So what are the sort of cultural aspects that you need in an organisation if it isgoing to be resilient? And how do you promote that?

Well, I think that for me and for what I’ve observed, I mean, obviously, there is theory and practise, but fromwhat I’ve observed with organisations, the biggest cultural blocker to being resilient is defensiveness.

So you have a highly defensive organisation where people are scared almost. Almost like a blame culturewithin there. Then that can kill it dead. So you read a lot about having a culture of making sure that you’vegot no secret points of failure, making sure that got flexibility, making sure that people know each other.

That’s really important. But actually it’s the interpersonal relationships. It’s the, are we working for ourselvesor are we working towards a greater whole? And that does come from the top. That comes from aleadership who trust people, who steps back, who trust people to do their job, to do what they want to–that they are the expert in that field. And if you can build trust, it really doesn’t matter what capabilities youhave because those people will trust each other and work together and get the job done.

But what about the personal characteristics of people who are a bit further down the organisation than thetop leadership? What sort of personalities do you feel are strongest in a time of crisis?

Personally, I don’t– we all have our strengths and weaknesses. And it’s not about, oh, this particular,Myers-Briggs or whatever it has, type profile is, is perfectly suited in this particular environment. Whenyou’re in an organisation, the whole thing about resilience is about you supporting each other and workingtogether.

And so if you’re in an organisation, it’s not so much about you as an individual. It’s about you as anindividual understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are and then having communicated thoseand worked with others that surround you to fill your weaknesses and maybe use your strengths to helppeople out.

So it is about understanding yourself and also those around you, so that what you end up is the whole,which is far more stronger and far more resilient than the parts. So I am personally not keen on the certainpersonality traits being that. We’ve all got the capacity to do it, as long as we understand our limitations andknow where to find those missing bits to support us.

Copyright Lyonsdown Limited 2021

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