We often think of resilience as 'bouncing back' or having 'grit', but it involves much more in reality. Resilience is the ability to face setbacks and then recover from them to live life fully. A resilient team typically displays healthy habits, works together to leverage strengths, and collaborates as a team to achieve the desired outcomes.
Leaders who have built resilient teams are in high demand. The need to manage an ever-changing external environment, adapt to different working conditions, manage the unprecedented pace of change, and remain competitive and innovative relies on having the most resilient teams.
Here we look at seven ways great leaders build resilience among their teams.
They cultivate mental agility.
Mental agility is the ability of an individual to think, learn and quickly absorb new information, systems and processes - ultimately helping us adjust to changing circumstances. Having high levels of mental agility helps teams thrive during times of rapid change - using enhanced problem-solving skills, heightened creativity, effective decision making and their ability to embrace stress.
Encouraging teams to read more helps relieve stress and improves cognitive functioning. Research from the University of Liverpool found that the brain scans of individuals who had recently read poetry showed increased activity and connectivity.
Teams with high levels of mental agility practice finding many possible solutions, which helps when the need arises for quick thinking. A study from 2011 assessed levels of divergent thinking by asking teams to come up with as many uses for a paperclip as they could. Some came up with 10-15 uses. Those with high levels of mental agility were able to develop 200.
To operate at this level, leaders can help teams protect their mental energy. Instead of spending time and energy worrying about things that can't be changed, they focus on those things they can control. These teams are better prepared for the future as their energy is invested in finding solutions and making preparations.
Likewise, they eliminate distractions to enable razor-sharp focus. Teams with strong mental agility get focused on one thing at a time to achieve better, faster outcomes.
They build teams that thrive on change.
One thing we can all count on is that the current pace of change is not easing up anytime soon. Aside from the unpredictable external environment, customer demands for instant service and delivery are driving increased speed and competitiveness.
Despite being written more than 25 years ago, John Kotter's system of change is still highly relevant for leaders today.
Establishing urgency and inspiring the team into action, putting the right team together, uniting the team with a shared vision, empowering people to act and removing obstacles, creating short term wins, consolidating improvements and making them stick are all steps that leaders can take to help their teams embrace change.
The final critical step is to ensure team members feel supported to test, learn and make mistakes. In most cases, change is about striving for innovation in unchartered waters. No longer is there a “process manual” to teach us the ways of the working world, so team members need to know that if they make calculated mistakes, it won’t be to their detriment.
They create learning opportunities.
LinkedIn’s talent research shows that half of today’s most in-demand skills weren’t even on the list three years ago, which means leaders need to prioritise curiosity and learnability – the desire and ability to grow and adapt quickly.
According to Bersin & Associates, "The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organisation's learning culture."
If you want to create a learning culture, there’s no need to rely on external courses or formal learning and development programs. Reinforcing positive learning behaviours, giving constructive and critical feedback to align employees’ efforts with the right learning goals, showcasing your own curiosity, and hiring people with high learnability and curiosity will create a more robust learning culture within your team.
They unite the team in the face of adversity.
Just as sporting coaches rally team morale when the chips are down, leaders should rally confidence among their team to overcome obstacles. There are always periods of stress and pressure in the workplace, and resilient teams can use tension to motivate success.
Developing a resilient culture in the workplace built on empowerment, trust, purpose, and accountability alone doesn't protect a team from failure. However, it does mean that if faced with times of adversity and difficulty, the team can adapt and continue to work collaboratively and productively.
When leaders are faced with adversity, it is a time for brainstorming, trusting and empowering, reviewing resources, deadlines and timelines. Breaking efforts into small wins helps keep the team motivated and feeling confident, which is
important for resilience through adversity.
They create meaningful work.
According to Gallup, around 70% of workers are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work. One of the most powerful drivers of engagement is purpose. Instilling purpose in the team starts with identifying the “why” and helping the team find a personal connection. This can be done in a variety of ways depending on your product, service or values.
Australian hearing aid manufacturer Cochlear consciously strives to connect every employee's efforts with the profound impact they have on their customer's hearing. Visual cues are present in the workspace sharing the stories of people whose lives have been changed due to a Cochlear implant. Whether you work in administration or in the factory, that connection to the purpose is ever-present.
According to Cone Communications, 75% of millennials are willing to take a pay cut to work for a values-driven company. So, when it comes to attracting and retaining purpose-driven talent, leading with “why” may be one of the best talent attraction and retention strategies you can deploy.
They promote a sense of accomplishment.
According to positive psychology, a sense of accomplishment is an important factor in building resilient individuals.Workplaces provide daily opportunities to set personal goals, determine timeframes and be rewarded.
The first step in achieving a sense of accomplishment is to establish clear goals and expectations. Leaders can ensure the goals they set for their teams are personally meaningful (intrinsic), chosen by us (authentic), complementary to other goals we have, and flexible. Leaders should keep in mind that goals involving growth, connection, and contribution make us happier than goals involving money, beauty, or popularity.
The best goals take the form of an “approach goal” – something to pursue, not avoid and an activity, rather than an object or change in material circumstances.
Another driver of performance and motivation is the feeling that we're in control. Those of us who feel this way have an "internal locus of control" and tend to have higher academic achievement, greater career achievement, higher motivation, and better performance and problem-solving.
Believing in our ability increases performance and the likelihood of success. In fact, having leaders who believe in us also improves our performance.
Leaders need to help team members celebrate their successes, promoting feelings of “inclusion, innovation, appreciation and collaboration”. The result of which is more creative, calmer work environments with increased productivity and resilience.
Bill Carmody, founder and CEO of Trepoint, states that "as you celebrate your wins, others look for ways to participate in what you have successfully built." With this in mind, noticing the small things that an employee succeeds at or paying small compliments to staff on their work are great ways to practice gratitude and raise morale.
They encourage positive, trusted relationships.
Recent studies suggest that social support plays an essential role in workplace resilience as it can be a source of guidance during times of pressure. Strong leaders build positive, trusted relationships with their team and encourage healthy bonds between team members. It doesn't have to mean time spent after hours together at the pub or forced social bonding but focuses on building emotional intelligence.
Great leaders observe the emotions in others. They know when to push team members and when to hold back. They recognise when team members need assistance before they even ask. They have difficult conversations and provide feedback in a constructive, supportive way.
To do so, they build a culture of listening and understanding. Listening before speaking or casting judgement can be an effective tool in creating trusted relationships. Leaders can help facilitate this experience in meetings and events by allowing each team member uninterrupted time to speak – should they wish.
Further, positive, trusted relationships are much easier to achieve when the team works towards a set of shared values. They unite the team and serve as a benchmark for expected behaviours. Leaders who observe behaviours that aren't aligned with the values can quickly make decisions for the betterment of the wider team.
· Leaders can help their teams build mental agility through learning, encouraging problem-solving, allowing them to focus and preserve mental energy for the big decisions.
· Teams that thrive on change are likely to be more resilient. Ensuring team members feel supported when they take calculated risks will encourage more creative approaches to change.
· Creating a learning culture by encouraging curiosity and learnability helps to build team resilience.
· Uniting the team in the face of adversity, helping them adjust, pivot and change as needed will help them bounce back quickly.
· Highly engaged team members tend to be more resilient. Connecting team members with the project or organisational purpose can have a direct impact on employee engagement.
· Building trusted relationships between team members creates connection and unity. It encourages a culture of listening and understanding.
· Resilient individuals tend to have high levels of accomplishment. Workplaces provide daily opportunities to set personal goals, determine timeframes and be rewarded.
If you need any assistance with hiring, contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and receive advice from the experts in labour-hire, permanent and contract staff.