Building a culture of resilience to overcome adversity

Below is a published column by Celia Dietrich, originally featured in the Colorado Sun on August 22. The original article can be accessed here.


We are just past the mid-way point of 2020, but it is already clear that this year will be remembered for one thing: change. In Colorado, we have had the good fortune of growth and economic success for the better part of the past decade, however the events of 2020 have created a tidal wave of adversities.

To ride out the storm, every Coloradan needs to develop a strong sense of resilience, and do so quickly.

Colorado’s economic forecast for the rest of the year seems cautiously optimistic, yet very uncertain. Financial stresses and political strife coupled with social unrest are creating new, everyday adversities for Coloradans to overcome.

Celia Dietrich

Particularly for individuals in positions of power – CEOs, government officials, community leaders – it is more important than ever to encourage and propagate resilience to help our companies, our employees, our constituents and our communities thrive.

The COVID-19 pandemic challenged leaders to address a myriad of issues essentially overnight – the evaporation of revenue streams, major disruption in supply chains, a rise in unemployment to 10.5% here in Colorado, upended business processes that have been forced to go virtual, waves of closings, openings and re-closings, and most critically, viable threats to public health and safety.

While overcoming challenges is par for the course in leadership roles, we have never had to address so much simultaneously. COVID-19 has leveled the playing field – it truly is impacting every Coloradan. One thing is clear: the road to recovery will come with many bumps along the way.

In my line of work as a management consultant, I’m often engaged when clients face critical challenges that will impact the health of their business. Financial losses, weakened cultures and stymied growth – all require resilience and courage to make course corrections that find solid ground upon which to build.

As a CEO, I have walked in my clients’ shoes and plotted a similar course for recovery after my company experienced significant financial and cultural setbacks last year.

There is not a silver-bullet solution to overcome every adversity, but I have learned a set of core principles that will help build resilience and smooth the road to success.

Be firm, focused and uncompromising when it comes to upholding your values and standards for integrity. 

You do not have to be in a position of power to prioritize your integrity. We all have certain ideals that define us at our core. Whatever those are for you, that is where you start to build a resilient mindset.

When times are tough, you cannot go with the wind, you must have an anchor that keeps you tethered to these ideals. Putting your values first – above concerns for profit or success – can often yield unintended results that bolster profits in the end. During times of uncertainty, prioritizing trust and genuinely showing that you care for people go a long way.

Find purpose in every corner of your profit.

In business, it is easy to focus on the bottom line. It is an important benchmark of a company’s health and vitality, however when facing adversities, it is often not the most productive area to spotlight.

Companies are managed by people, and it is people who influence that bottom line – through everyday decision-making and execution of tasks. To motivate people, especially during times of distress, we have to humanize our success and connect the bottom line to a higher purpose.

To generate profits, leaders should deepen relationships with individuals and the community at large by personalizing your approach, focusing on relationship drivers and investing in corporate social responsibility and philanthropy programs.

Colorado’s business leaders can also create profits by investing in, and prioritizing, their employees. It is common to achieve gains by thinking of skills, competencies and human capital as a means to turn a profit. But, the more productive approach is to consider human capital in more personal terms; not as a commodity to serve an end, but as people.

Real and sustainable growth comes through investment in the long-term success of each employee by encouraging individuals to bring their holistic selves to their work, and giving them freedom to personalize their work.

Action over analysis – don’t overthink, act.

When facing the headwind of adversity, you must not stand still; instead, you must put up some resistance through immediate action. This can be hard for leaders who are more inclined to think first, but trusting your instincts to act and putting full faith in your judgments will help.

Success will be a direct result of your ability to act with immediacy, to trust your judgments and restore faith in your ability without second guessing yourself.

Working this way builds the muscle of resilience in your company and yourself, which will enable you to withstand and thrive against the next great challenge or misfortune.


Celia Dietrich is CEO and Executive Chair of Dietrich Partners, a nationally recognized professional advisory services firm with expertise in M&A divestiture and integration, program oversight, operational performance and restructuring engagements.

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