The Power of Adversity and Developing 'Bouncebackability'

One of my favourite articles from Harvard Business Review, is 'How to Bounce Back from Adversity', by Margolitz and Stoltz (2010). I won't be discussing this article in great detail, but it is available on the link below, so take a read.

What it does discuss however is adversity and how leaders can make the most of when things go wrong. That is, many people see adversity as a set back or even worse still, may use adversity as a time to make excuses. It's all too easy to see tough times as negative and this can lead to a downward spiral.

One of the biggest things I have learned in recent years, is to see the tough times as an opportunity! Adversity to me is now an opportunity to be better, to bounce back, to learn, or to demonstrate our expertise. Now that I see business (and life) in this way, I see countless opportunities and constantly learn and grow when things go wrong.

Every crisis is an opportunity to learn, grow, move forward or demonstrate our expertise. 

Margolitz and Stoltz (2010) articulate this in a very detailed way, but I'd like to make some very simple points and reiterate that adversity is a time to shine and grow. Often we see the best service levels at times where things go wrong. How often do we hear of an excellent service situation that came out of a problem?Thats because a complaint or problem is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate how good you are, as well as a chance to learn and develop.

With all problems, difficult times, complaints and so on, it can be too easy to simply just try to make things right or get through a tough time. What great leaders must do however, is to respond in a proactive way and make the business (and themselves) stronger as a result. Think of a number of crises, problems, complaints or difficult situations you may have encountered: how could you have handled them in a way that made use of the crisis, or generated positivity?

I always tell my team that a crisis or problem is an opportunity to show how great we really are, or an opportunity to grow and develop. Some key points for handling adversity would include:

  • How can we respond to this situation that ensures it gets fixed and also doesn't happen again?
  • Adopt a positive mindset to all situations, how can we turn this situation from negative to positive?
  • How can we use this situation to develop ourselves or our team members?
  • If somethings gone wrong, what does the response look like? See this problem as a chance to demonstrate how good you really are.

Margolitz and Stoltz call this 'Response-Orientated Thinking' and the principle applies to many difficult situations. I have personally become much more 'response orientated' in recent years and regularly grasp opportunities out of adversity.

Often we hear the word 'bouncebackability', but I'd argue this is only relevant to those who learn from adversity. The key is to think in a positive, response-orientated way and then you will likely come back stronger when adverse situations arise. 

Those who think positively and take response-orientated action will be stronger in the long-term and develop real 'Bouncebackability'.

I'd like to ask the question and hear from peoples examples of how they used adversity to come back stronger, or turned a negative into a positive? What examples do you have that are related to bouncing back from adversity?

Kris :-)

Kristopher Ball, MBA