Why Build Resilient Teams

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May is globally known as mental health month, which is why we’re bringing the focus on it today. I’ll be having a closer look at a topic strongly linked to mental health – resilience. More specifically, I’ll be reflecting on why should you invest in resilience at work, and is it possible to build it in teams.

Our environment

Resilience is commonly known as the ability to bounce back when times are tough. When faced with adversity and challenges, constantly overcoming and adapting to stress or even trauma. Unfortunately, challenges, stress, and change are an unavoidable part of life, especially in the business environment. Lost clients, targets or restructuring can even lead to losing your job. The current industrial revolution 4.0 has created the perfect environment to test our resilience, commonly known as VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

Resilience – just for the tough ones?

It’s a common misconception that you can only learn resilience through experience. We get knocked down, and we learn. Or we might believe that resilient people are born that way, that they just happen to be “tough”. The reality is that like any skill, resilience can be learned and developed with practice.

Don’t take the hit

Certainly, building resilience is important, and leaders and organizations should be more proactive about it. When an organization is not ready to deal with adversity, even a small change can lead to stress, disengagement, a drop in morale, and fear. These end up being threats to your business performance. So rather than taking the hit, you can build resilience in your team now.

To help you get started, I’ve summarized a few ideas based on my own experience and knowledge, along with several hand-picked interventions that could help your team become resilient.

1. Build a Support and Trust Culture

Teams are social groups, and so helping everyone get to know each other as individuals should be the most important step. It will bring out everyone’s individual strengths and weaknesses and can help in appreciating the differences that make them special.

Ultimately, for everyone on the team, including the leaders, it all comes down to willing to be vulnerable, showing up and admitting to your mistakes and fears and asking for help when it’s needed. Brene Brown summarizes it brilliantly:

“Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention and full engagement”.

Building open and honest relationships will lead to trust, which in return will help your team immensely. Feeling the collective power of the group, and being able to call on each other and be yourself, will define a resilient team. Moreover the support will help everyone to overcome even the more stressful times. If you’re the leader of a team, show them you care. Show them that their success is as important as any setback, and be there for support.

A few ideas for building stronger relationships would be doing a team profiling exercise, for example, MBTI and talk about embracing the differences, or spending a day building trust and connection.

2. Face Setbacks Together

“Resilient people view failure as evidence that they’re stretching themselves to the limits. They know that if they don’t ever fall down, they’re likely not trying hard enough. Each stumble provides proof that they’re pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones, which is an essential component to self-growth.” Amy Morin

We have been brought up in a culture that only celebrates success. Where we encourage teams to only showcase their best practices. But we all know that growth is not only about the good moments. Growth, the same as resilience, is about dealing with setbacks and failures. Treating failure as a learning experience, rather than a defeat, will strengthen the team’s resilience.

Sharing consequences of failure and learning from it will ultimately lead to not making the same mistakes. Taking the time to debrief a project or a situation that didn’t end the way you wanted it to will help in building resilience. Facing these setbacks will create strength, and this can become a norm within your team.

Consequently, if you’re thinking of bringing a different perspective on failure in your team, we’d recommend doing an internal “Failure Slam”.

3. Raise Awareness of Wellbeing and Resilience

There is nothing better for your team than raising awareness of what resilience and wellbeing are, and what they mean. It’s true that one size does not fit all in wellbeing. And people will look at it from different angles, however, it’s important to emphasize the importance.

There are many great methods and tools to raise awareness. To name a few, WRAW – the Workplace Resilience and Wellbeing psychometric tool, developed in the UK and based on research methodology allowing better self-awareness around factors that impact individual and team resilience.

Here are a few other interventions and ideas for you and your team:

  • Introduce Mindfulness & Self-Compassion practices
  • Get familiar with the science of habits and how they influence us. Building Healthy Habits that Stick.
  • Understand all dimensions that influence your energy – physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. Team energy in Action.
  • Focus on Physical Health & Movement. Rabble is a new way of introducing fitness by playing games.
  • Practising Meditation with apps like Calm and Headspace.

Wellbeing is a matter of self-awareness. As your team learns more about their wellbeing and their individual mental and physical health, they’ll be able to be more conscious of their workload, productivity, and the ability to respond to setbacks. When times are tough, employees will be able to manage their resilience by deploying different coping mechanisms.

In conclusion, helping your team build resilience through trust and vulnerability, having the ability to approach failure with a positive mindset, and educating teams about wellbeing, will help you prepare for tougher times. And remember, if you’re a leader, don’t forget to be a role model too. Rather than trying to do it all at once, I would recommend one or two focus areas and interventions to start with. Go after things that speak to you and that will not come as forced.