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Two Minute Drill: Adversity in the Nick of Time

November 29, 2016

5 ways to ensure your company doesn’t get too comfortable

This is the first post in the series Two Minute Drill, written by GSVlabs’ CEO Marlon Evans. In these posts, Marlon will discuss the challenges he faces as a leader, and strategies for meeting them head-on.

No CEO wakes up in the morning hoping today is the day their company faces a series of challenges that will rock its foundation to the core.  More broadly, CEOs and leaders are inclined to create an environment immune to adversity. Who could blame them?  When adversity knocks on the door of the organization, typically unannounced, pain, uncertainty and loss are not far behind. Under those challenging circumstances, organizations struggle to survive, much less thrive.

Most people do not want to be a part of an organization that is in a constant state of adversity, putting out one fire after another. However, the most successful organizations view adversity as truth serum, revealing its true constitution. Why didn’t we see this coming? Have we been a good steward of our financial and human resources? Are we built to last? It is one thing to ask these questions in the comfort of a board room or in between team building activities at a staff retreat. It is an entirely different proposition when these questions are asked and answered in real time amidst the crucible of true adversity.

There is a reason why coaches of elite athletes place their pupils in difficult situations during practice. How will the quarterback react, and by extension the team, when they can barely hear themselves think due to crowd noise? How will the cyclist respond to experiencing a flat tire mid-race? Coaches often use practice to simulate these types of challenges so their athletes are prepared to adapt to the ups and downs of the actual competition. In both business and sports, adversity is inevitable.  So how do you make sure your company is prepared for adversity before it comes a knocking? What is your crowd noise? What is your flat tire?


Below are five tactics you can use to introduce adversity on your terms. While these particular tactics might not apply to you specifically, I hope it helps spark an idea or two that places your company ahead of the adversity curve.

  • Test for fluff in your budget by reducing an indispensable budget line item such that you have to make cuts in other areas in order to supplement.
  • Test your bench strength by asking a key member of the team to miss work without notice.
  • Test your organization’s knowledge of your product or service by giving the customer service team time off and asking your back office to step in.
  • Test your public relations crisis management by creating a fictitious business mishap that requires an immediate and public response from the CEO.
  • Test your ability to respond to competition quickly by creating a new product or service within 48 hours.

As a leader, when you feel complacency permeating your company, let adversity be your guide. Before it is too late.

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