Developing resilience in the face of adversity

Adaptability to ever-changing circumstances and the ability to recover quickly from adversity are two characteristics that define resilience, which happens to be one of the most transferable and desirable skills you can foster. As a leader, helping your team members develop resilience doesn’t just increase your chances of success, it can also play an impactful part in their personal and professional development. But of course, we have to start with ourselves and continue to train our resilience muscle, because there’ll always be adversity and unexpected challenges that we need to be able to handle in a much more productive way. Here are some ideas:

Focus on your locus of control

When faced with adversity, our knee-jerk reaction might be to freeze, vent, or capitulate, even though we know perfectly well that none of these behaviors are going to improve the situation. Cy Wakeman, in her reality-based leadership lessons and her No Ego podcast, frequently reminds us “Don’t outsource your happiness and well-being to external circumstances”. It’s a great framework on which to build resilience. Start with separating what happened from you as a human being, as difficult as it may be. Next, try not to go down a rabbit hole of speculating about other people’s intentions (“They only did this to me because they don’t respect me”). Then, focus on what’s in your control. What can you do to work within the parameters of the changed reality? What can you do to take on this challenge and mold it into new opportunities for yourself or your team? 

Keep a log of lessons learned

One of the positives of adversity is that it might teach you valuable lessons. As Winston Churchill once stated, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. How about keeping a log of your lessons learned from situations big and small? What has the adverse situation taught you about your industry, your company, your profession, and about yourself? Were there signs that you ignored? Was the situation avoidable? If so, what are you going to do differently? If not, what are the best strategies for embracing the change? Are your team members struggling with the adverse situation? How can you help them? Whose behavior is worth emulating? 

Build a supportive network

Depending on the nature and severity of the adversity you’re facing, you need to pick the size and make-up of your support network. Be sure to surround yourself with people who can lift you up and help you figure out a game plan. Consider keeping a safe distance from anyone who seems to offer a sympathetic ear, but actually stokes negativity. Your network may consist of colleagues, peers in your professional circle, your family, friends, mentors, or even experts in the area in which your adversity occurred. Just  don’t isolate yourself.

Practice gratitude

Adversity might cause you to hit the snooze button in the morning and/or to say out loud that you’re “just not feeling it”. We’ve all been there, and we all know that this approach rarely works. How about making yourself start your day by thinking about (and writing down) something that you’re looking forward to and that you’re thankful for? Maybe schedule something that you’d be looking forward to, whether it’s a massage, date night, or a hike. Keeping a gratitude journal and a lessons learned journal can also get you out of a slump when you read it back to yourself.    

Train yourself in adaptability 

As creatures of habit, change is hard, even if it’s a positive one. Facing adversity, it’s even more challenging. As we’re building up our ability to adapt quickly, even little experiments in breaking our attachment to routines can be useful, such as taking a different route to work or parking in a different spot. In fact, attachment to tangible and intangible things and our vision of the future often impairs our ability to be as resilient as we could be. 

There’s no such thing as being “too resilient”. It’s a quality and a skill that can greatly reduce suffering, make you more successful, and even enable you to help others be more resilient in the face of adversity. 

What about you? What are your thoughts on developing resilience? 

How to use ChatGPT for your startup

There’s no content shortage regarding AI in general and ChatGPT in particular. And there certainly is a healthy level of skepticism and trepidation but also a sense of excitement about the possibilities. If you’re looking to leverage its capabilities for your startup, where you may need to be scrappy and don’t have the resources to buy all of the expensive enterprise software you want, ChatGPT can be a game-changer. Let’s take a look at some use cases. 

Analyze sentiment

For the most part, prospects and customers are quite polite and not always easy to read. Your sales reps and customer success specialists might be optimistic by nature, report what they consider positive feedback, and might not want to dig deeper into the real sentiment of their prospects or customers. That’s why companies like Gong include AI-based tools that analyze sentiment. However, if you’re on a tight budget, ChatGPT can be a viable alternative. For example, you may get an email from a prospect telling you that the project has been delayed and to bear with them. Ask ChatGPT: “Look at this email from a prospect for [describe the product]. Is this prospect a serious buyer?”. Similarly, if you’re in Customer Success, you could ask, “Look at this email from my customer. Are they completely happy with our products and services?” It will give you an analysis that might help you get an objective view, which can help you make strategic decisions. You may even take it a step further by generating transcripts of your demo recordings or your meetings with existing customers and ask ChatGPT to analyze sentiment or even the distribution of talk time, which will likely provide good teaching moments.

Help with tone

One of ChatGPT’s biggest strengths is to analyze and write for a specific tone. For example, when you send a customer a response to a complaint or even if you just send them a renewal notice, you could ask the tool to write it in a friendly, empathetic tone. Compare your current version with ChatGPT’s response, and you may be pleasantly surprised. You may also use it for responding to Support tickets, inquiries from prospects, or for handling challenging communication with co-workers. Remember that you don’t want to rely on the tool to mimic your sincerity and personality. Use it as a learning tool to improve your interpersonal skills. 

Create customer surveys

If you’re just getting started building your Customer Success department, you might need some help asking your customers the right questions that will give you action items. Be as specific in your ask as possible and include the type of persona that will receive the survey and the type of product or service you provide. Note that ChatGPT’s first response might be more generic than you would like, in which case you can ask it for either a more in-depth first questionnaire or a follow-up questionnaire, as seen below. 

Generate content ideas

Coming up with fresh content ideas can be harder than actually writing a piece of collateral. ChatGPT can crack your writer’s block. You can simply ask, “Give me content ideas for…” or start with titles, add the desired characteristics, and go from there. The more specific you are, the more usable the results will be. For instance, instead of saying, “Give me titles for blog posts on marketing”, go deeper with “Give me humorous titles about email marketing. My target audience is the marketing manager of a small to medium-sized business”. 

Generate content for demos

If your business requires any demonstration to customers or prospects, whether it’s a website, landing pages, or emails, you always want the content to be as realistic as possible and targeted to your prospect instead of relying on “lorem ipsum”. ChatGPT can save you a ton of time!

Practice your demos

If you have junior sales reps on your team, you will likely spend much time coaching them. You might know your target personas exceptionally well, but your reps may not. Why not empower them to practice their demos using ChatGPT? Teach them the right prompts, such as “Pretend that you are [describe the buyer persona]. I am showing you my product, which is [describe the product]. What would you like to know?”

These are just a few ideas on using ChatGPT to your benefit. The key is to be mindful of how you’re using it, to learn how to give it the right prompt for what you’re looking for, and to keep learning, just like ChatGPT keeps learning. 

What about you? How are you using ChatGPT? 

Diversity in diversity

My previous post outlined some thoughts to consider when hiring career changers. One of the benefits of this approach is that you’re bringing fresh perspectives to your company. If you limit your team to individuals who have only worked in your industry, you’re missing out. Of course, relevant experience is highly valuable, but so is diversity and a rich set of experience, which is why more organizations are moving away from the concept that “cultural fit” means building a hyper homogenous company.


Even just a few years ago, having a degree from a prestigious university was considered a massive advantage. Don’t get me wrong – graduating through a rigorous program is no small feat and should be rewarded. But don’t discount someone who might have been a late bloomer, someone who simply didn’t have the financial means to go to an ivy league school, or whose life circumstances just took them in a different direction. Don’t discount the non-traditional learner. We recently hired one, and he’s got all the hustle, attitude and smarts needed to excel. 

Career paths

Some people know early on what they want to be. And of course, you have to admire someone who clearly has a passion for a specific field. Not to mention that for certain roles, it’s important that a candidate has had a clear and steady career trajectory. For other positions, you may be able to widen the pool of applicants. Don’t just look at the hard skills required, but also the soft skills, such as communication skills, impeccable time management, a high degree of emotional intelligence and adaptability, and the ability to provide outstanding customer service. 

Levels of experience

Let’s be honest – ageism is real. Yes, we can call the more mature candidates “overqualified”, but why wouldn’t you hire someone who is so qualified that they will allow you to raise the bar? Aren’t you sick of hearing about the boomer versus millennial versus Gen Z battles? You’re doing your employees a disservice if they don’t get a chance to work with individuals from different generations and with different levels of professional experience. In fact, offering diversity across generations is the only way to create an environment that mimics the “real world” – and your customers’ world!

Cultural backgrounds

One of the biggest gifts that you can give your employees is the ability to be immersed in a stimulating environment that fosters open-mindedness, provides a multitude of perspectives, and is a microcosm of the diversity that makes us better. Every individual, regardless of their background, brings a unique perspective to your organization. Leverage this, provided that the person embodies your company values and has the aptitude to succeed in their role (and that you have the willingness and bandwidth to train them!). 

Our founder, David Cummings, recently published a blog post about how certain challenging life experiences can be an important characteristic for an entrepreneur. I couldn’t agree more. I’ll add to this the struggle of being an outsider due to ethnic, social, or economic background, physical challenge, gender, or any of the factors outlined above. And if you’re looking for an entrepreneurial spirit in all of your employees, keep that in mind.

One of the most important things to consider when hiring is your company’s core values and how a candidate embodies them. For us, it’s being adaptable, scrappy, positive, supportive, self-starting, to focus on the things we can control, and to put our customers first are what matters most. And that’s what we’re looking for when recruiting. If your main focus is to hire great people, you will likely have a more diverse team.  

What about you? What are your thoughts on organically fostering diversity by hiring the best people and giving them a chance, regardless of their background?

Hiring career changers

Since the outbreak of the pandemic more than two and a half years ago, people have been quitting their jobs at a never before seen rate. Last year, more than 47 million people left their employers in order to pursue something new. Many of these seekers are looking for a career change. At Hannon Hill, we have been fortunate to be able to hire several of them, and they’ve already made a huge positive impact. As we’ve said before, “you can teach someone how to do something, but you can’t teach them how to be”. If you come across someone with a great attitude, strong work ethic, and some of the other traits that you deem important, consider giving them a chance, even if they don’t have some of the role specific experience that you were looking for. Here are some thoughts to consider in order to make sure that you’re setting those new hires up for success.

Don’t rush the hiring process

Hiring a new team member is a monumental decision, not just because the wrong fit can damage your company culture and lower morale, but also because the individual trusts you with their career and their livelihood. You want to be sure that the candidate really wants the job, that they have a realistic picture of what’s expected and what joining the company will be like, that they have the aptitude to excel, and that they are an exceptional fit. Most of the time, it’s impossible to make this determination after just one interview. Don’t rush into a hire just to fill the position or for fear of missing out on a candidate. 

Be sure that you’re equipped to train them

Every new employee deserves a top notch onboarding experience, but it’s even more crucial for career changers. No matter how self-starting someone is, they will need proper training. If their manager and their team members don’t have the time to invest in thorough knowledge transfer, you’re likely not setting yourself or the career changer up for success. In addition to providing on the job training, make resources like online courses and books available, and, whenever possible, help them find a mentor.

Note that the training also needs to cover how your organization works. Sometimes, it’s not just a new skill set and job that the new employee is learning, but a whole new environment and organizational structure. You can’t expect acclimation to happen overnight, and you need to ease them into this new way of working. One of our most recent hires is a former teacher who had not worked in the corporate world. Imagine what a big change this was for her! (BTW, she is doing great!)

Plan to fill knowledge gaps

Don’t rely on the new person to figure out what they need to learn and how they’ll acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. Collaborate with them to clearly identify how and when the knowledge gaps will be filled, and set benchmarks so you both can see if things are moving in the right direction. Encourage complete honesty. What do they feel confident or excited about? What is causing apprehension? Where do they think they can make a big impact? What is their preferred method of learning? Also note that honesty goes both ways. Be realistic about expectations, professional development and potential career trajectories. Don’t overpromise. 

Provide immersive onboarding

One aspect of learning how your company works involves learning the inner workings of each department. That’s where an immersive onboarding experience is quite valuable. Schedule time for the new hire to shadow team members in other departments and to have Q&A sessions. Some learning can be done by osmosis, by listening to calls with customers and prospects or overhearing conversations between co-workers. Of course, this is much harder to do in a remote only environment. You should also consider some scheduled cross-departmental learning and “getting to know each other”s. 

Be open to new perspectives, and encourage input

By bringing someone from a different background into your organization, you are giving yourself an excellent opportunity to listen to fresh perspectives. Encourage your new hires to share their first and second impressions, as well as any new ideas they may have. Just because you’re new doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t speak up. Some of the best innovations and ideas come from looking outside your industry. 

Ditch the acronyms

Be mindful of the fact that not everyone knows what an SOW, RFP, or PO is, let alone know the specific technical terminology that you use in your products. Get into the habit of speaking in terms that everyone can understand, as it will make your company more inclusive to your team members, customers, and prospects. Also: if you must make inside jokes, explain them to the new hires.

Check in regularly

Quality onboarding does not happen in a week. Check in with your new hires regularly, especially when they’re career changers. What’s been going well? Do they feel that you’ve held up your end of the bargain? Note that those check ins don’t always have to be scheduled. Sometimes a simple “how are things going?” when stopping at their desk can be just as effective. 

Not all positions lend themselves to hiring career changers with little or no experience in the field, but please don’t discount someone who is looking to make a change if they are great cultural fits, have a strong drive, and the right aptitude and soft skills. You could be missing out on gems. That said, not every company is prepared for those types of hires. That’s why transparency on both sides is so crucial.

What about you? What are your thoughts on hiring career changers?

When your behavior doesn’t match reality

In order for you to achieve both your short term and your long term business goals, you have to have a deep understanding of who you are as an organization. It’s imperative to have ambitions and to envision what you ultimately want your company to be and to look like, and it’s just as important to understand where you are currently and to act accordingly. Failure to understand the current reality or to have a false sense of self will make it much more challenging to get to where you want to be in the future. Here are a few examples.

Automating too much

If you count on customer service to be a key differentiator, ensure that you are giving your customers the individual attention they deserve. As you are growing your customer base, there might come a time when your team starts to think too much about scaling up, prematurely, and doesn’t focus on the personalized service they should be delivering. If you spend more time on automation than on actual service, reconsider your approach. Don’t automate yourself into indifference, but instead analyze how much personalized outreach and attention you want and should give each customer and find a way to make it happen. 

Delegating too much or too little

As a manager, you may worry about delegation. Are you delegating too much? Too little? Once again, it comes down to critically assessing who and where you are as a company. This is particularly important when it comes to interacting with customers. As a company with several hundred enterprise customers, do you think upper level management should engage with individual customers? I do. But the threshold is, of course, different for each organization. The key is to act according to your reality and not your aspirations. Does your VP of Product need to be involved in certain levels of UX decisions, or would it make sense to empower team members to make the call? If it’s the latter, what do you need to do to make it so?

The “I shouldn’t have to” trap

Another example of potential incongruence between your reality and your thoughts can be found in the “I/We shouldn’t have to trap”. If you catch yourself thinking “I shouldn’t have to tell them to make calls”, “We shouldn’t have to tell them that this issue needs to be resolved immediately”, “I shouldn’t have to remind them how important response times are”, or “We shouldn’t have to postpone the release” (you get the picture), stop for a minute to re-think, because clearly, you have to right now. Instead of an internal eye roll, accept that you are not where you want to be, analyze the reasons for it, and identify the steps necessary to improve the areas that are causing you heartburn.

Misreading your culture 

Your company culture can be one of your biggest, if not your biggest, assets. It’s how people feel after interacting with one of your team members. It’s where the company handbook leaves off and how people act when nobody’s watching. A great culture spawns a sense of pride, and rightfully so. It’s only natural to brush off things that aren’t quite perfect, or to overestimate or underestimate certain parts about your team. Your team may be such an integral part of you that you may be blind to certain shortcomings, but if you are, you don’t empower yourself to help them improve and become even more successful. 

Being realistic about where you are and who you are is a necessary step towards moving towards your goals. Be sure to always take inventory, self-reflect, and make adjustments, not just when the results don’t match your expectations.

What about you? Can you think of situations in which not being brutally honest about your reality could adversely affect your company?