Resilience in the workplace for entrepreneurs and introverts

For most entrepreneurs, resilience in the workplace is a crucial trait that sometimes stands between success and failure. It is that capacity to recover from a challenging situation and slog on, effortlessly. In most of these cases, we associate resilience with toughness. In particular, that ability to stand up and work harder, no matter what.

Misunderstanding resilience in the workplace

But then, so many of us try to be in charge, always. Indeed, there are so many ways to shield you from the things you can’t predict. And then, there are a trillion ways to stay connected, for just in case you miss something important. Above all, the end goal is to remain in control of the future. Since a place on the podium is the only outcome we desire.

To stay in control requires a lot of effort; it requires precision. The fact is, if you want to be in charge of tomorrow, you need the ability to predict the future. The thing is, this kind of precision requires a lot of energy. Or, the alternative, you can avoid the disappointment and shield yourself from all the unwanted. Some may call it “the head in the sand” approach.

A better strategy may be to admit that we are not in control of the future. Therefore, you need to accept that more than one result is possible, positive or negative. The challenge here is not to be overwhelmed with all the choices, but to have the ability to thrive when things go wrong.

Resilience and the lack of recovery

According to an article written by Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan, working people do have a fundamental misunderstanding of what resilience in the workplace means. Yes, per definition, resilience does mean to quickly bounce back and do what you do best, even better. Nevermind your mental of physical health. However, to stay healthy and keep productivity up, one needs to have a recovery period.

In their article Achor and Gielan states that “the very lack of a recovery period is dramatically holding back our collective ability to be resilient and successful”. Recovery is a complex concept. In particular, the brain requires time to restore and maintain a stable psychological condition. And this is where most people fail.

An example: Resilience in sport

Individual sportspeople and teams know the concept of building resilience through rest and recovery all too well. After a match or race, scheduling adequate recovery time is standard practice. In many cases, coaches monitor athletes individually and adapt the recovery time accordingly. Indeed, sports scientists studied recovery and resilience in sport well over the past few decades. Yet, in business, we get it so wrong often. 

To illustrate the concept of resilience in sport, you don’t need to look further than the 2019 South African rugby coach. After losing their first game at the 2019 World Cup, some may argue that this team had luck reaching the finals. Indeed, luck always plays a role in successes and failure, but great leaders know how to exploit it. After winning the World Cup, at the post-match conference, Rassie Erasmus mentioned resilience the factor that got them through patches of bad luck, and hard work placed them in a position to take advantage of good luck.

Losing the first game was a gift. It allowed the team to learn and do better. Above all, an opportunity to bounce back and do better. Even more, a chance to create resilience.

The meaning of resilience in the workplace

By not spending active time with work, does not mean we are in a recovery mode. On the contrary, new disruptive technologies and business models are accelerating the rate at which we do business. Consequently, in this hyperconnected world, we nearly never stop thinking about work. Not even during our sleep. The term that comes to mind is workaholics. And, in many cases, we believe that our community expects it from us. With this comes loads of stress.

The first question that entered my mind was how I, as an entrepreneur and introvert, think about resilience in the workplace? How do I recover from a difficult period and built my ability to bounce back and be prosperous? And how does resilience differ from an introvert to an extrovert? What does this mean for a world that is in love with the tough and charismatic entrepreneurs?

Resilience in the workplace for an introvert

As a frequent traveller, sometimes being away from home for weeks, scheduling time off to recharge, can be challenging. I tried spending an hour or two in the hotel’s health spa, but that didn’t work for me. Even the gym did not have the desired effect. I assume the environment did not give me the stimulation I was seeking.

Then again, going for a long run through a buzzing city or sitting at the corner of a bar enjoying a glass of good wine while observing all the customers has the opposite, but positive, effect. It is not that I want to be alone. I need to be in an environment where I can take my mind off things.

The next statement best summarises this phenomenon:

For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as refreshing as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.

Jonathan Rauch

The best outcome for me, as an introvert, is to invest in the time to recharge. Either through scheduled me-time or avoiding interactions that will drain energy. 

Five ways to increase resilience in the workplace

Staying on top of your game, in the long run, takes extraordinary effort, determination, and just being smart with your energy. Expect failure. It is the price you pay for becoming exceptional in the long run. 

That said, we can cultivate resilience by attitude, behaviours and social support. According to Rich Fernandez resilience in the workplace includes optimism, the ability to stay balanced, manage emotions, and create a sense of safety. More important, you can learn to be resilient. In his article, Rich Fernandes identifies the following five ways to built resilience. 

Go and practice, it takes a bit of effort, but you will reap the benefits in the long run.


This mental state where you can focus your awareness on the present state, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and body sensations. Business leaders worldwide are more aware of the advantages of mindfulness; many practise it daily. Mindfulness predicts judgment accuracy and insight related problem solvingenhances cognitive flexibilityfacilitates job performance and decrease job performance.

As an introvert, I love mindfulness exercises. A few minutes in the morning, about 10 minutes, can make a world’s difference. I am using an application on my phone to guide me through my morning mindfulness ritual. 

Categorise your work

Within our hyperconnected world, we are bombarded with bits of information, every second of the day. The reality is our brains can’t keep up, and it is not going to get better.

The first action you can try is to minimise your digital connections. Stop using technology and interactions with media for certain times of the day: before you had coffee in the morning or after you brushed your teeth at night. Lying in bed and scanning news and social media feeds do not turn your head off.

At work, you will not be able to decrease the amount of information coming your way. The best action here is to avoid context switching or multitasking. The answer is to create dedicated times for specific tasks and activities, some calls it “serial-monotasking“. 

Take short breaks, regularly

We all know that we have ups and downs during the day. Nobody can focus at an elevated level for eight hours. If you pay attention and stay mindful, you will recognise these dips in energy levels. When you observe such an energy dip, it may be useful to step away for a few minutes to regain your mental focus, clarity and energy. These brief moments of detachment will grow your capacity for resilience in the workplace.

Stress alertness

Not all stress is bad for us. Some stress may even have a positive effect on our wellbeing and help us perform at our best and be more resilient in the workplace. The flip side is that when we pass the stress peak, we can enter a danger zone. 

The trick here is to pause and observe the stress we are experiencing. This ability to monitor your mental state and react accordingly is powerful. Above all, it gives you the freedom to respond in a way that matches the situation, “the ability to pause, step back, reflect, shift perspectives, create options and choose wisely“. 

Encourage empathy

When you create the ability to recognise, understand and share feelings with a desire to assist, better known as showing empathy and compassion, resilience in the workplace will grow. A high level of empathy and compassion increases positive emotions, creates positive work relationships, and increases cooperation and collaboration.

Bottom line: The ability to pause, observe, take control and make a rational decision in an ever-changing environment is the ultimate form of resilience. And remember, it is a journey, not in an event. Don’t be discouraged by a false start. Entrepreneurs are in it for the long run.