Stacy Brookman on How To Bounce Back Stronger in Business
Stacy Brookman is a Leadership and Resilience Coach and founder of Real Life Resilience. She knows what it takes to face challenges in business and bounce back stronger. She took some time out to share her insights with The Industry Leaders.
Can you start by telling us a bit about your journey as an entrepreneur, focusing particularly on your experiences with setbacks and challenges? How has this shaped your understanding and mastery of resilience in business?
My entrepreneurial journey has been a series of highs and lows, each one teaching me something invaluable about resilience in business. When I first started, I was fueled by passion and a strong sense of purpose. But as the saying goes, "You don't know what you don't know." The reality of how much work and financial investment goes into building and sustaining a business was eye-opening, to say the least. One particular experience that stands out is my foray into podcasting. I launched a podcast in 2015, filled with enthusiasm and great expectations. The reviews were fabulous, and I was thrilled. But a year in, I had to make a tough call. The amount of work it took to maintain the podcast was more than I had anticipated, and it started to take a toll on the core of my business. So, I paused it, pivoted my business focus, and then started the podcast again. But even then, I had to make another difficult decision to stop it. This experience was a lesson in both humility and resilience. It taught me the importance of protecting the core of my business and giving myself the runway to explore new ventures. It's not that the podcast was a failure; it's that it became a learning opportunity on how to better align my time and resources with my business goals. I still have plans to re-start the podcast, but this time, I'll approach it with a more strategic mindset, ensuring it complements rather than competes with my core business. These experiences have shaped my understanding of resilience as an ongoing process. It's not just about bouncing back; it's about bouncing back smarter, more informed, and better aligned with both my professional and personal goals.
In the world of entrepreneurship, failure is often seen as a stepping stone rather than a dead-end. How do you perceive failure, and can you share an instance where a failure led to an unexpected growth or success in your business?
In the entrepreneurial world, failure isn't the villain; it's more like your personal trainer in the gym of life. It's tough, it makes you sweat, but it's all designed to make you stronger, more agile, and ready for the next challenge. Think of failure as the seasoning in a dish; without it, the experience just isn't as rich or fulfilling. There was a time in my business when I was laser-focused on helping women leaders "speed their trip to the C-suite." I had the tools, the strategies, and the roadmap. But it fell flat. Not because the tools weren't effective, but because I realized many women leaders couldn't even fathom themselves in those high-powered roles. They didn't believe they deserved to be there. That "failure" was my wake-up call, my personal trainer pushing me to dig deeper and refine my approach. So, I pivoted. Now, I focus on comfortably confident leadership, helping women cultivate that inner sparkle of genuine confidence. This isn't the hollow "fake-it-till-you-make-it" kind of confidence; it's the real deal. And this pivot has been a game-changer, not just for me, but for the incredible women I work with. In my book, failure is not a dead-end; it's a detour sign pointing you towards a more scenic route.
What strategies have you employed to cultivate a culture of resilience within your organization? How have these strategies made your team more adaptable and innovative, especially during trying times?
In my line of work, the "organization" extends beyond just me and a few contractors; it's a community of empowered women leaders. Cultivating a culture of resilience isn't just an internal goal; it's the core of what I offer to my clients. So, how do I do it? Well, it starts with leading by example. Just like you can't teach someone to swim if you're afraid of the water, you can't foster resilience if you're not practicing it yourself. One strategy that's been incredibly effective is open communication. Whether it's a contractor working on a project or a client facing a leadership challenge, I encourage candid conversations about setbacks and struggles. Whatever you’re going through, it is what it is. Let’s call it out and deal with it rather than hide it, which we’re taught as children when dealing with tough authority figures. Kindly calling it out and dealing with it, with self-compassion, creates a safe space for innovation and adaptability because people aren't paralyzed by the fear of failure. Another strategy is continuous learning. I'm a firm believer that every experience, good or bad, comes with a lesson attached. I share these insights with my community through various channels, be it one-on-one coaching, group sessions, or digital resources. This not only makes us more adaptable but also fosters a mindset of turning challenges into opportunities. During trying times, these strategies have been invaluable. They've helped my clients pivot their leadership approaches, and they've made my contractors more agile in their roles. So, while I may not have a traditional "team" of employees, the culture of resilience I've cultivated has a far-reaching impact.
You've spoken about bouncing back from failure, but I'm curious to know if there is a methodology you follow to analyze what went wrong and how to correct it. Could you describe your process for assessing and learning from mistakes?
Absolutely, learning from mistakes isn't just about bouncing back; it's about bouncing back smarter. My methodology is a bit like detective work, but instead of solving crimes, we're solving the mysteries of setbacks and failures. Step 1: The Debrief First things first, I take a step back and look at the situation objectively. What were the goals? What was the outcome? Where did things diverge? This is the "crime scene investigation" phase, gathering all the facts without judgment. And by ‘without judgment’, I mean the outcome is totally neutral, not good or bad. It just is. I love helping people get to this place! That itself is so freeing. Step 2: Identify the Gap Next, I identify the gap between the intended outcome and the actual result. This is where you find the "clues" that point to what went wrong. Was it a lack of resources, poor timing, or perhaps a misalignment with the target audience? This is where brainstorming comes into play (my favorite superpower to use). Step 3: Consult the Team Even though I don't have a traditional team of employees, I do have a network of trusted contractors and a community of clients. I often seek their perspectives to get a 360-degree view of the situation. Sometimes, the most valuable insights come from unexpected places. So this is where you’re open to any crazy points of view that aren’t like yours. It’s kind of like the Medici Effect - other people who might not have been involved in your decision, and aren’t even experts in this field, just might have incredible insight. Step 4: The Pivot Plan Once I've gathered all the information, it's time to create a Pivot Plan. This is the "case-solving" phase where I outline actionable steps to correct course. Whether it's tweaking a program, adjusting a marketing strategy, or redefining goals, the Pivot Plan is the roadmap to recovery. Step 5: Implement and Monitor The final step is to put the Pivot Plan into action and closely monitor the results. This is the "court trial," where we see if our new approach is guilty of success or needs further refinement. I always say that “Business is a series of experiments.” Let’s experiment with this new approach. This methodology isn't just a set of steps; it's a mindset. It's about turning setbacks into setups for future success, and it's a process I share extensively with my clients to help them become more resilient and adaptable leaders.
Many entrepreneurs fear failure to the point that it paralyzes them. How do you balance taking calculated risks with the fear of failure? What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs who struggle with this?
Fear of failure is like that backseat driver who's always shouting, "Watch out!" It's distracting, it's nerve-wracking, and it can make you second-guess every turn you take. But here's the thing: you're still the one in the driver's seat. You control the speed, the direction, and ultimately, the destination. Balancing calculated risks with the fear of failure is about tuning into your inner GPS. It's about knowing your goals, understanding the landscape, and being prepared to make detours when needed. For me, this involves a mix of intuition, data, and a healthy dose of self-compassion. I give myself permission to make mistakes because I know that each one is a stepping stone on the path to success. The real culprit behind paralysis isn't failure itself; it's our thoughts about failure—or even our thoughts about the necessity of success. Holding on too tightly to a particular outcome can freeze us in our tracks. The key is to become aware of these thoughts, be curious about them, and then choose whether they serve us or not. If this sounds like a tall order, don't worry—I've got you covered. I've created a free resource called the Remarkable Resilience Routine that walks you through this process step by step. You can get it at: https://www.realliferesilience.com/remarkableresilience It helps you identify and manage your thoughts, turning them from roadblocks into stepping stones. It's not a quick fix; it's a toolkit for sustainable change, designed to help you navigate the emotional rollercoaster of entrepreneurship with more ease and confidence.
Sometimes, resilience requires knowing when to pivot or even walk away from an idea. How do you recognize the difference between a challenge that requires persistence and a situation that necessitates a change in direction?
Ah, the age-old question: to pivot or to persevere? It's like standing at a crossroads with no signposts, trying to decide which path will lead you to the treasure and which one to a dead-end. The trick is to know how to read the landscape. Firstly, I assess the alignment with my core values and mission. If a challenge is making me compromise on what I stand for, it's a red flag that a change in direction might be needed. It's like your internal compass telling you that you're veering off course. Secondly, I look at the ROI—Return on Investment, but also Return on Impact. If the energy, time, and resources I'm pouring into overcoming a challenge aren't yielding the impact I aim for, it's time to reevaluate. It's akin to digging for gold; if you've been at it for ages and all you've got are rocks, maybe it's time to try a new spot. Lastly, I tap into my network of trusted advisors, contractors, and clients. Sometimes, when you're too close to a situation, it's hard to see it clearly. A fresh set of eyes can offer invaluable insights and help you gauge whether you're facing a mere bump in the road or a sign to take a different route altogether. Knowing when to pivot or persevere isn't just about gut instinct; it's a calculated decision based on a variety of factors. And it's a skill that gets honed over time, through trial and error, and a willingness to learn from each experience. As I mentioned earlier, understanding what your thoughts are telling you about your options is crucial. Thoughts play a pivotal role in our decision-making, which is why having a framework like the Remarkable Resilience Routine can be so helpful for evaluating your options.
The global economic landscape is always changing, and recent years have seen some extraordinary disruptions. How have you adapted your business to overcome unexpected global challenges? What were the key factors in your successful navigation of these waters?
In my experience, an uncertain global landscape is actually an ideal setting for becoming a more genuinely confident leader. The reason is simple: external forces are always going to change. What remains constant is your ability to respond to them. I firmly believe that circumstances are neutral. It's our thoughts about those circumstances that shape our feelings, actions, and ultimately, our business outcomes. When you manage your thoughts effectively, you can turn any challenge into an opportunity and any uncertainty into a catalyst for growth. This approach has allowed me to adapt and thrive in a variety of situations. Instead of being swayed by external disruptions, I focus on what I can control: my own perspective and reaction. This not only makes my business more resilient but also helps me become a more adaptable and genuinely confident leader. So, if you find yourself daunted by the ever-changing global landscape, remember that the most powerful tool at your disposal is your own mindset. Mastering the art of thought management can make all the difference in how you navigate challenges and seize opportunities.
Resilience in the face of failure is often linked to personal growth as well. How have your business experiences shaped you personally? Can you share a moment where your professional resilience translated into a personal transformation?
My business journey has been more than just a professional endeavor; it's been a catalyst for personal growth. The resilience I've cultivated in the face of business challenges has had a profound impact on who I am as a person. One moment that stands out is the one I mentioned earlier when I pivoted my coaching focus from helping women "speed their trip to the C-suite" to fostering "comfortably confident leadership." This wasn't just a business decision; it was a personal revelation. I realized that if I was going to help others build resilience and confidence, I needed to embody those qualities myself. This led to a transformative period where I became my own best client (as coaches often are). I applied the same resilience-building techniques and thought management strategies that I teach my clients to my own life. The result was a deeper, more authentic form of resilience that not only fortified my business but also enriched my personal life. I became more adaptable, more grounded, and yes, more resilient, not just as a coach but as an individual. So, in a way, my professional resilience has been a mirror reflecting the personal transformation I've undergone. It's shown me that the qualities I strive to instill in others—like resilience, adaptability, and genuine confidence—are the very qualities that I've been able to nurture in myself. And it's worth noting that this journey of resilience and growth is always ongoing; it's a path, not a destination.
Your insights on resilience have been incredibly enlightening. For our audience who might want to learn more about you, your business, or perhaps even reach out for mentoring or collaboration, where can they find more information or get in touch with you?
I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to share my insights on resilience in business. If you're interested in learning more about me, my business, or even exploring potential mentoring or collaboration, I'd love to connect. I'm most active on LinkedIn, where I regularly share content and engage with my network: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stacybrookman/.
Feel free to reach out to me there. For those who are curious about how coaching could benefit them, I offer a no-pressure Explore Coaching call here: https://bookme.name/StacyBrookman/resilience-coaching-consultation. It's a safe space where we can discuss your challenges and goals to see if coaching is the right fit for you. It's all about discovery and alignment, ensuring that we can create meaningful change together. I'm passionate about helping women leaders become more resilient, confident, and effective in their roles. So, if any of this resonates with you, I'd be delighted to hear from you and explore how we can collaborate to bring about the change you're seeking.