BusinessManSantaWhile you’re out shopping this holiday season, I want you to find the area where Santa Claus is having his photo taken with list-toting children. Take a moment to consider the man. I don’t mean simply glance at him. I want you to give him a real, penetrating assessment. The first thing you’ll notice is the eyes: cheerful, yes, but also weary and piercing. They’ve seen everything: wars, famine, pestilence, the ascension and decline of great empires. Next, I want you to consider his hands. Hewn from the sturdiest Arctic pine; calloused and gnarled, yet delicate enough to cradle the head of weeping children. Those hands built a production and logistics empire out of ice and snow that has endured centuries. Finally, look at his physique—his stomach in particular. To many, such a paunch is a source of embarrassment—a symbol of gluttony and sloth. For Santa, it is a badge of honor. You see, he wasn’t always so jolly and round. In the early years of his operation, the unyielding Arctic winters took their toll on Claus, who hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to subsist on twigs and frozen carrion. Indeed, his ruddy complexion and cheerful smile belie the rash of beatings Santa’s operations have endured over the centuries.

What kind of word would you use to describe such a man as Claus? I can think of but one: resilient. To get us started, we need an “approved” definition from which to work. For us, we like this take from Webster’s – Re•sil•ient: capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture; tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. It’s that whole “recover” thing that tends to resonate. It speaks to one’s actions after taking a real beating that best illustrate resiliency. Furthermore, the more severe the beating, the more your resiliency gets tested. 

Over the past four to five years, businesses everywhere have taken an extreme beating on a variety of fronts, not the least of which is the bottom line. No market anywhere on the planet was spared. But the organizations that have endured have demonstrated that same resiliency as Claus. With a stiff upper lip, they have withstood the economic shock (and aftershocks) without permanent deformation or rupture and embraced a renewed focus on the basics and a desire to serve customers with optimism for a better tomorrow.

Here at Orgwide, we’ve written about many different management principals over the years, so with Santa’s resilience as our example, we offer downtrodden organizations around the globe Orgwide’s 3 Rules of Resiliency:

  1. Be personal, but don’t take it that way. Don’t take the economic beating your organization has taken personally. Rather, be personally involved. With your team, with your customers, and with your vendors. Resiliency starts with the personal desire to see things through to the better day tomorrow promises. I mean, just imagine what would have happened had Santa taken the blood-soaked Elvish Revolt of 1734 personally!  While the Elf community rose up in arms to oust the tyrannical Jingle the Abhorrent, Santa saw his production numbers take a steady nose dive and his workforce reduce to nearly zero. But Santa overcame. He took “personal involvement” to a new level, rolled up his own sleeves, and got to work on the production lines. Sure, his magical bag of toys might have been a little lighter that year, but there was still a smile on every girl and boys face on December 25!

  2. Be relentlessly optimistic. Know things will get better. Napoleon (who, incidentally, was a huge Santa fan) said it best when he said; “Leaders are dealers in hope.” Hope is motivating and mighty. Hope gives humans the ability to continue when life presents us with the most difficult of circumstances. It is hope that gives us what we need to get through today as we look forward to a better tomorrow. Hope is what changes the word “problem” into the word “opportunity.” Resiliency requires hope. Santa’s own hope and optimism were tested on April 6 1909 with the arrival of US Navy engineer Robert Peary and his team at the North Pole. Peary immediately radioed back to HQ that there was no great toy workshop, no Elves, and certainly no Santa Claus (of course, at that time, Peary didn’t realize that Santa’s primary workshop was hidden by a magical paste consisting of peppermint dust, polar bear tears, and Burl Ives’s mustache hair). The news so rocked the planet that Christmas was on the verge of being cancelled for good. Santa had a global crisis on his hands and saw the “naughty list” expand at a rate he’d never seen. But his hope never waivered. And his optimism was infectious to his entire team. Panic could have just as easily spread through the entire operation, but Santa knew things were going to improve and acted accordingly. And, of course, Christmas of 1909 went off without a hitch. 

  3. Be better next time. When we make it through difficult times, it is imperative that we learn and apply what we can, so we’re ready for the next wave of challenges. Let’s face it, this is real life and real challenges are coming … best to be prepared and put our experiences to good use the next time we have a downturn. Santa does this every year. He modifies his flight plans and sleigh packing procedures in order to effectively deliver toys around the world to an ever growing population! This is particularly important for management and leadership. Knowing how to respond to a proper bottom line beating will come in handy again at some point in the future. 

Maybe it’s time we modify a carol or two to sing the praises of Santa’s resiliency. Christmases come and go, and each one brings its own set of challenges (some more severe than others). But through it all, Santa and his team just keep on chugging along … improving, even! Imagine that! Candidly, for those of us who are energized by the magnitude of those same up and down cycles the market invites us to overcome, it’s a wonderful time to be a manager!  

From all of us at Orgwide Services to all of our readers around the world, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings!

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