Sticking to a routine no matter what is the only way to grow and strengthen this muscle of ours. Why? Because it is incredibly arduous to stick to a daily routine no matter what. So people who stick to it build character. They grow more dedicated every day, more curious to see what comes next, and if by any chance they miss one day, they go right back at it more engaged than ever.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Hoffmann.

During her career with large corporations and the French Government, Alexandra Hoffmann has developed Business Resilience expertise.

In 2018, Alexandra launched Alexandra Hoffmann Consulting (A.H.C.), which helps businesses build resilience capabilities through Consulting, Coaching, and Training services to quickly and efficiently respond to disruptive events. A.H.C. promotes diversity, synergies and blends complementary professional expertise and background through various partnerships.

Alexandra has an L.L.B. in Criminal Law from Paris University, France, an M.Sc. in Corporate Security from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, and an M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix. Alexandra is also a Certified Coach, trained in Neurosciences, and a Certified Yoga Teacher.

Alexandra often gives keynotes on resilience topics. She has been featured in Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, and Business Insider, and she writes for ASIS Security Management online Magazine.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I have always loved getting outside of my comfort zone for the thrill I get out of it and the lessons I learn from it, even though it is super scary at times. I moved to different countries at a relatively young age, right out of college, and starting a new life in a different city with a foreign language each time (Hanoi, Hong Kong, then New York).

Then, I got into the Security Industry where “routine” is not a word, and every day brings its challenges. Working in the Security Industry is a 24/7 job. We can be called upon at any time for an incident or a crisis. When we work for a global organization, the odds of something going wrong somewhere at some point are incredibly high. A strike, a demonstration, a suicide on-site, an intrusion, a natural disaster, a theft, a plane crash, a supply chain incident, a cyberattack, a pandemic, a terrorist attack, political unrest,…the list is endless.

This constant uncertainty and the need to adapt daily helped me build strong resilience capabilities early. It was an absolute necessity for myself, my team, my peers, and my internal customers.

Today, I have built a more steady life since I have the uncertainty thrill with my two young kids! I am out of the operational Security life and dove right into the new virtual world that 2020 has offered me.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

During my career, I have had to manage a severe crisis, a kidnap case. It was very sudden and unexpected. It lasted several months. This crisis was not the first crisis I helped manage, and certainly not the last, but it was a turning point in my professional life, and by ripple effect in my personal life.

This unusual and unlikely event revealed how critical the human element is in a crisis. Of course, the victims and their families are always the priority. But everyone else may need support too. And by that, I mean the colleagues of the victims at work, the management team, the leadership team, and the crisis management team itself. In our industry, I often find that we take care of and support the direct victims (people, groups of people, or organizations at large), but we tend to leave aside the incident/crisis management teams and other collaterals. We tend to focus on what is directly “visible” and tend to forget what is less visible, less tangible. Yet, a crisis like this takes a toll on many stakeholders at various levels. One should be very careful not to compare pain and suffering. That is not the point. A shocking event can impact many different people, regardless of his/her role during the crisis, or the organization. This kidnap is an example, but suicides, terrorist attacks, or the ongoing COVID-19 crisis are other relevant examples.

Until that crisis, I focused on business administration, process-oriented security and crisis management, and compliance. After this kidnap crisis, I decided to get trained and focus on human-related matters. In the following years, I got certified as a Yoga teacher and as a Coach. Since then, overtly or not, depending on whom I speak to, I use these additional resources I learned along the way. Last Summer, amid the COVID-19 crisis, I got trained in neurosciences to go deeper. That systemic approach is my motto today when I serve my clients. I believe going this extra mile to serve them is a must. At the time, that kidnap crisis broke all the silos in my head. Today, I believe the COVID-19 is doing just that for many others, which is excellent news!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What a perfect transition!

I believe my company stands out in my industry because we are striving for diversity to break the existing silos. We use people from all backgrounds and experiences to serve our clients. Each team is tailor-made. We stand out because our small size allows for a high level of agility. The virtual world has allowed us to expand and thrive like never before. We have embraced working virtually, and we have extended our reach far beyond the French borders. In return, that allows us to connect our clients with other incredible and maybe less obvious resources when they are asking for help we cannot provide. Serving is not a random and overused word for us. It is our D.N.A. We meet our clients right where they are at, as much as possible. I believe the world needs that level of support and deep connection among the multiple actors today.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Presently, I want to talk about and be grateful for my partner. Over the past year, he has been my anchor during this whirlwind of uncertainty. He has helped me challenge what I was doing with my business, questioning whether that was still relevant for my clients, embracing my entrepreneurial ups and downs, and pushing my level of resilience to show up at my best every day, especially for our children. Like he always says: “Alex — If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of anyone else.” This sentence alone is at the core of personal resilience. I know it sounds over-rated, but when we look closely and honestly in the mirror, how often do we really think about self-care throughout the day, every day? Are we truly honoring the people around us, even strangers, by doing the necessary work to remain a pleasant human being?

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is a muscle. An adequately trained muscle allows us to carry heavy objects, to sustain a sudden or long-lasting effort. The resilience muscle will enable us to deal with “heavy” situations when they come our way for short or long periods. It applies to enterprises and organizations as well. Like with our physical body, I came to realize, it is a daily practice and effort. It may sound overwhelming at first, but it is like brushing our teeth every day. Practicing should be done daily before the crisis hits, during the crisis, and once the crisis has passed, no matter what.

When I was exercising my expertise inside companies, we used to “practice” going through crises once or twice a year, with what we call simulation exercises or tabletop exercises. Yet, as mentioned above, we would deal with incidents and crises monthly, if not weekly.

To embody the need for daily practice, I actually had to become a CEO. Like him or not, but as Tony Robbins rightfully says: “Repetition is the mother of skills.” Today, in my crisis management training, workshops, and even keynotes, I encourage participants to build this daily resilience routine for themselves, for the sake of their businesses, their teammates, partners, and their families. It is the only way to build and strengthen a long-lasting and reliable resilience muscle. For us, crisis management experts, it is a complete paradigm shift. Training this muscle once a year is superfluous at best if deep measures are not implemented to allow this “daily practice.” It represents a cultural shift.

Building this daily practice requires several traits, but for the sake of this interview, let’s highlight three of them: 1) a growth mindset, 2) real dedication, and 3) relentless curiosity, especially outside our comfort zone. A resilient person will see failure as an opportunity to grow. That is an example of a growth mindset. Resilient people are also genuinely dedicated to their daily practice because they know and understand in their core what is at stake for them, for the people around them, for their company. Finally, resilient people know how to thrive outside their comfort zone because they know there is always something special to learn. That loops right back to the growth mindset.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My sister. She is a true warrior. She got sick some thirty years and was never able to walk again. To this day, she is the closest role-model I have had when it comes to personal resilience. She developed paraplegia when she was 14 years old. She was a swimmer, a good one. She loved dancing. And one day, she woke up and could never walk again. She never gave up despite major difficulties along the way. Today, she has a life. Like some people say, she has a “normal” life. She is a super-mum, she is the CEO of her own business, and she goes with the flow of life like anyone else does.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Absolutely! What I am doing with my company today! When I first started my company in late 2018, my vision was to focus on business resilience for all the reasons mentioned above, yet many people told me it did not make sense. They wanted me to pick an organizational silo at all cost! From peers and clients, I would hear: Do you do crisis management? Or business continuity? Or physical security? Or Travel Security? What exactly do you do?

And the rest is now history, right. COVID hit, and the whole world now talks about business resilience, teams’ resilience, and personal resilience. Today, I get requests to speak about this topic every week. I am grateful for these opportunities, and I hope this crisis allows individuals, teams, and businesses to build lasting resilience habits.

From a business perspective, I believe it is a core responsibility. When an enterprise falls because of a crisis, people lose jobs (and more). The stakes are incredibly high. They must pay close attention to this topic, whatever their size, revenue, and industry.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Allow me to pick a major professional setback. A couple of years ago, before launching my business, I had a perfect and comfortable position as the Head of Resilience of a significant global brand. Things were going well then. Six months into the role, I had an opportunity to do and learn something different for another major brand. They were interested in my skills and competencies to structure and grow their internal University. I was extremely excited by this role because training and awareness are the cornerstones to any resilience-related topics. I figured this was an incredible opportunity to go deep into the Learning & Development industry, learn the latest trends, and gain as much expertise as possible to later infuse it in my resilience topics. So, I accepted the role.

That was a complete mismatch. I did not fit in at all. I did not know how to fit in in this particular environment. After trying so hard for three months, losing myself, and driving everyone crazy, I ended up, one day, outside the office, crying my eyes out and literally unable to set one more foot through that revolving door. I left and never turned back.

I am happy I can spontaneously talk about this setback. That was not always the case. Today, I can barely grasp how much stronger I have grown from this experience. Sometimes, I have even thought of sending an email to my boss back then to thank him for this “perfect” mismatch. You see, I am proud, really proud. When I took this role, I told my entire network that I was on this new adventure and wanted out of the operational security roles. So, when I left, after three months, it was out of the question to call people and to ask them to take me back. I take responsibility for my choices. That was precisely when I decided to launch my business. I wanted change. I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to build a new way of living for myself and my family. I had learned so many skills and competencies, and I had created a significant network. So, it was time for me to launch my business, and here I am today, being interviewed by Authority Magazine to talk about the topic which I think is so critical for any living being.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

The most apparent story I can share is the one I shared about my sister above. Growing up with her as a model, I think I developed strong resilience capabilities too. But that was only the beginning of my journey. I keep on learning about resilience to this day.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

A few minutes ago, I mentioned three traits that I think are critical to be resilient: to have a growth mindset, to be truly dedicated, and to be curious. I also talked about creating a daily practice. I don’t think there are five steps, or even three or ten. I think we ought to practice being resilient day after day, step by step. We start small, and we start fresh every morning.

If I summarize, we first identify one routine that makes us feel great, not just good or OK, but great and strong. A true warrior. It can be singing. It can be a set of songs. It can be a chat over a cup of coffee. It can be reading. It can be a run. It can be striking the hero pose. It can be hugging someone we love. It can be anything.

Then, we repeat it daily, keeping in mind that we do this, no matter what (rain, fatigue, argument, frustration, backlog, busyness…) to grow that resilience muscle. Like with any sports, sometimes we make tremendous progress, sometimes we reach a plateau, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, sometimes we get injured, but we get back to it, differently if necessary, but we get back to it.

Sticking to a routine no matter what is the only way to grow and strengthen this muscle of ours. Why? Because it is incredibly arduous to stick to a daily routine no matter what. So people who stick to it build character. They grow more dedicated every day, more curious to see what comes next, and if by any chance they miss one day, they go right back at it more engaged than ever.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It is not news that we live in a fast-paced environment. This environment leads a lot of us, including myself, to focus on what is urgent. We are in constant firefighting mode. When dealing with crises, this firefighting mode becomes second nature. It is perfectly fine. When there is a fire, we evacuate, and we call the Fire Department. Yet, beyond what is urgent, we need to focus on what is important as well. Sadly, the important is often forgotten. I recently came across a study conducted by RallyBright, back in 2019, that says that only 2% of teams are actually resilient. It would be interesting to run a similar survey on Crisis Management teams themselves (expert and non-expert teams).

What percentage of these teams responsible for leading companies and organizations through the fire is actually resilient?

In the private sector (and in the public sector), it is about time that we take this question seriously because people’s lives are at stake, and the COVID-19 crisis is only a catalyst. It is OK to be vulnerable, fragile, and fail. Let’s face reality and make the extra effort to focus on what is important. True leaders (organizations and individuals) will reveal themselves by going this extra mile.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Jamie Kern Lima, C.E.O. of I.T. Cosmetics. I just bought her book, “Believe it,” and I attended her event, “Becoming Unstoppable,” on March 22nd. This woman is a powerhouse! She invited many other inspiring speakers, such as Sara Blakely, whom I mentioned in my last interview. I would love to have a Zoom chat with Jamie to get to know her, to congratulate her for what she built, and to soak her business acumen up 😊

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ahoffmann/

My website: https://www.alexandrahoffmannconsulting.com/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Alexandra Hoffmann: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Recommended Posts