The CEO Roadmap to Resilience: How to Recover From Setbacks, Deal with Roadblocks, and Bounce Back from Adversity


Setbacks and roadblocks are unavoidable in both life AND business. You probably know that only too well as a CEO, business leader, or entrepreneur. 

We’ve all been there, whether it’s a lack of financing, production delays, tech issues, or other challenges. But what happens when you’re faced with a crisis and your pulse is racing, your adrenaline is elevated, and your stress levels are higher than Mount Everest?

Do you panic? Freeze? Start going a million miles an hour?  


The key to surviving, thriving, and bouncing back from those moments is knowing HOW to navigate adversity once it hits. 

The secret to dealing with adversity? → Develop resilience. As a CEO, resilience is essential.

Navigate Adversity Like Walt Disney

Let me tell you a story about resilience. About 100 years ago, in 1920, Walt Disney was just dipping his toes into the world of business. Everything that could go wrong DID: 

  • His business, Laugh-O-Gram Studios, went bankrupt;
  • He moved to Los Angeles to become an actor without success;
  • He created and then lost the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbi; 
  • When his big idea struck for Mickey Mouse, he was rejected 300 times before obtaining the financing he needed.

These days, of course, EVERYONE knows The Walt Disney Company. 

So what’s the lesson to be learned here – what does it take for business leaders to overcome adversity, setbacks, and roadblocks like the crushing ones Disney experienced? 

How do you maintain your motivation, minimize your losses, and resolve problems to become a more resilient leader? 

The secret is in following the proper steps. 

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
Walt Disney

Resilience, Defined

Resilience is the ability to bounce back, recover, or adapt in the face of challenges, setbacks, and adversity.  

 Picture a sturdy tree with a thick trunk and strong root system. No matter how hard the wind blows, that tree doesn’t break. That’s resilience.

 A resilient leader is likely to:

  • Maintain their composure in times of stress
  • Identify solutions to errors or bottlenecks
  • Adapt quickly to uncertainty or adversity
  • Show clear and sound reasoning during a crisis

 What if that doesn’t sound like you- is there no hope? Or are these characteristics you can develop?

The short answer is this: Yes! You most certainly can develop resilience. Like a muscle, it takes practice. 

A study from several years ago examined resilience in leadership. The main finding is this: for some, resiliency comes naturally. For others, it’s developed through experience.  

"Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems."
Gever Tulley

Types of Adversity: Is it a Setback or Roadblack?

When dealing with adversity, it’s always a good idea to first identify: are you dealing with a setback OR a roadblock? The 2 may sound similar, but they are actually very different…


Think about one as slowing you down and the other as stopping you in your tracks! 

Knowing what you’re dealing with will help you handle the situation, particularly when combined with my five-step guide below. 

"For every failure, there's an alternative course of action. You just have to find it. When you come to a roadblock, take a detour."
Mary Kay Ash

Now that you know what resilience and adversity are, it’s time to talk about overcoming them! 

Creating Resilience Amid Adversity: a Five-Step Guide

These five steps will help you become a more resilient leader → bouncing back from setbacks, dealing with roadblocks, and recovering from adversity.  

Embrace a Growth Mindset

It all begins by replacing your FIXED mindset with a GROWTH mindset.

 What is a growth mindset? It’s one that:

  • WANTS to learn;
  • welcomes challenges because they inspire growth;
  • recognizes that excellence is achieved through effort; and
  • views criticism and feedback as valuable learning opportunities.

 In short, a growth mindset lets you replace your fear, overwhelm, or frustration with a sense of motivation and optimism for the opportunities it creates.

Stop and Assess

As soon as a setback or roadblock happens, pause and assess. As an example of both, a setback could be a team member who suddenly resigns, whereas a roadblock might be losing a supply source. Whatever happens, don’t panic. Instead, think about this as the “info gather” step. Ask yourself and your team:

  • What happened?
  • Who was involved?
  • What caused it?
  • What are the steps forward?  
  • How can we test it?
  • How can we plan for it?
One Word: Triage!

Now that you know more, it’s time to DO something. 

Let me paint a picture of what this step is like. When you check in at the Emergency Room, the nurse asks about your symptoms and triages the situation. What

Create and Implement a Long-Term Plan

Once the immediate triage is complete, you’re ready to dig in.

 Create short and long-term plans to address the roadblock or setback and, if possible, to ensure it doesn’t happen again. 


  • What are the solutions?
  • What steps are required?
  • Who will be involved?
  • What resources are needed?  
  • What are the procedures for each team member?
  • What’s the communication plan?
  • Is outside help needed, such as PR, legal, marketing, or more?

 Remember that you’ll need an interim plan to ensure that all essential business functions continue while you navigate your crisis. 

 Finally, establish a plan for the post-setback phase, such as rebuilding business operations, team morale, and consumer trust.

These plans should all be part of your SOPs. Don’t have one? NOW is the perfect time to develop one – when you’re not in crisis mode!

Maintain Frequent Communications

You must maintain frequent communications with your team throughout your response process. 

Communicating with them is vital. I can’t reiterate this enough! As the head of the team – and not just the CEO – you are ultimately responsible for ensuring clear and open communications with all necessary team members. 

Something else to consider: their advice or evaluation of a situation may be critical to working through it.

So keep the communication going!

"There is no education like adversity."
Benjamin Disraeli

Don’t Forget to Question Your Assumptions!

Building resilience involves a great deal of self-awareness and reflection—one big step forward – whether you’re currently facing adversity or not – is to challenge your assumptions. 

 No matter where the assumptions arose – from your team, you, or external factors- you MUST take a look at them and challenge any that affect your business. 

 Do this: 

This advice is huge because prevention is the best way to deal with a setback or roadblock!

This is important because our behavior is affected by our assumptions or our perceived truths. We make decisions based on what we think we know."
Simon Sinek

Resilience is not inevitable. You can face a thousand crises and still make the same mistakes that you made with the first one. If you want to become a better leader and handle adversity with resilience, these five steps are here to guide you. 

If you struggle with crisis management and need a co-pilot to guide you, I recommend scheduling a discovery call. We’ll chat about the issues facing your business and how I can help you overcome them. Get unstuck from the roadblock or setback that’s holding you back by scheduling your call today!


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