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Improving Your Company’s Performance Under Pressure

May 4, 2015

By: Crystal Spraggins

Some companies are great to work for when things are going well but quite the opposite when things are not or when there are changes in the workplace. In bad times—that is, when profits are shrinking rather than expanding—all the cracks start to show. Managers are meaner, decisions are more capricious and less intelligent, and injustices are more evident.

These companies are like those people we have  all met who are charming and fun as long as everything is going their way but then turn nasty, and uncooperative in the face of opposition.   In fact, such companies could be said to have a character defect. More than that;  they lack resiliency, or the ability to adapt to stress and adversity.

Steps to a More Company Culture

In "5 Ways to Build a More Resilient Company," Jay Steinfeld, CEO of, says it’s important for companies to develop a “resilient corporate culture” because resilient companies are able to bounce back from failure. He suggests the following strategies:

  1. Don’t try and solve your employees’ problems, because people learn and grow from mistakes. That’s also why he recommends that companies …
  2. Allow people to make mistakes.
  3. Ask employees about their personal lives, and find out who’s happy, because happy people who are willing to try new things make better employees.
  4. Encourage employees to talk during times of stress, which results in “social calming” and leads to more productive problem solving.
  5. Plan for failure.

But resiliency is not just about the people.

High Performance Under Pressure: It’s About the Processes

One reason I find the topic of resiliency intriguing is that I have worked for an organization like that described in the opening paragraph.

I have seen firsthand how bad thinking leads to bad processes that frustrate employees in good times and turn them into finger-pointing malcontents in not-so-good times. These ill-conceived processes also hindered productivity and efficiency, causing more work and poorer performance, stress, and conflict.

Processes matter, and developing good processes before bad times hit is the surest way to both weather those trying times as well as ensure they are not as trying as they could have been to begin with.

In "How to Build a Strong, Resilient and Scalable Business," the author writes:

“ … an unstructured business highly dependent on human intervention will quickly succumb to pressures outside of the status quo. In fact, maintaining the status quo can become the biggest risk, creating a pervasive sense of complacency. The best shock absorber is a scalable business system that drives value to your customers, creates a culture of continuous improvement, supersedes behavioural flaws and constantly aligns the company with market need.”

In other words, smart companies will put processes in place to help manage the inevitable downturns that all businesses experience. The right people plus the right processes make for a more resilient organization.

The right people plus the right processes can also lead to the right culture and the right attitudes.

High Performance Under Pressure: It’s About Seizing the Moment

In “Building a Resilient Business in the Eye of an Economic Storm,” Muhtar Kent, Chairman of the Board and Executive Officer for Coca Cola says, “History has shown us, time and again, that the world's most resilient organizations are those that do more than just prepare for change and turbulence. Instead, they see—and seize—opportunity in the eye of the storm.” Jim Collins makes a similar point in Built to Last.

Good people, good processes, and a culture that promotes experimentation and calculated risk taking are what makes strong and resilient companies able to perform well even under pressure.

Does that sound like your company?

Crystal Spraggins

Freelance Writer, Editor, and HR Consultant in Philly. You can find more of Crystal's work at:

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