Resilience is simply the capacity to withstand difficulties or to recover quickly from them. It can apply to people, communities, materials, organizations, and—yes—teams within an organization. Resilience in a team reflects not only the resilience of its members, but the ability of the team as a whole to communicate, adapt, and problem-solve.
In fact, resilient teams have been shown to achieve goals more often, solve problems, and innovate better than their opposite—“fragile”—teams. If your team is not as resilient as you would like, we have good news: Resilience is something individuals and teams can improve upon.
Much of a team’s resilience hinges on the traits of the talent on the team. Team norms also build resilience. Leaders who model clarity, candor, and respectful interactions lay the foundation for resilient teams.
Some people on your team are more resilient than others. Training can be a great equalizer here, helping all team members develop the skills needed for resilience. Team leaders, for their part, can also benefit from training on building resilient teams. Once leaders know what resilient teams do better than fragile teams, they can prepare their teams for tackling the next challenge, and future challenges, with ease.
Why focus on resilience? It improves performance
Deloitte asked 700 executives about their approaches to strengthening the resilience of their companies. Eighty-three percent of senior leaders surveyed in 2022 expect to increase their investment in the resilience of their people over the next five years. Why? Because they see the value of resilient teams:
- Companies see a reduction in absenteeism due to stress and stress-related illnesses.
- Employee retention and recruitment increases.
- Resilient teams are more productive because they know how to overcome challenges and focus on the task at hand.
- Team dynamics improve with better collaboration and conflict resolution strategies.
Research published in the Academy of Management Journal sums up well the benefits of resilient teams: “Energetic, interdependent team member activity leads to goal attainment during challenging circumstances.” Researchers go on to say, “We further theorize that team resilience strengthens over time through mastery experiences, functioning as a self-reinforcing gain spiral.”
Simply put: Resilient teams manage to achieve their goals, even in challenging circumstances, and only get more resilient with time.
The difference between resilient teams and fragile teams
There are glaring differences between resilient teams and fragile teams. If you were to watch a resilient team in action, you would notice the following dynamics:
- Cooperation: Team members work toward common goals and support each other when obstacles arise.
- Confidence to speak candidly: Members of resilient teams know their opinions and feedback are valued, so they speak up. They give each other honest feedback that supports continuous improvement.
- Psychological safety: Resilient team members feel empowered to take risks and make mistakes. Their sense of safety encourages them to be creative and innovative.
- Support: If one team member is overwhelmed, others pitch in and help. They recognize everyone has limits and help those in need.
Fragile teams, on the other hand, are often missing one or more of these dynamics. In fact, in his bestseller, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni describes the traits of fragile teams, and they look exactly like the kinds of dysfunctions that would prevent, or even crush, resilience:
- Absence of trust: Employees are afraid of being vulnerable, and thus are not able to build trust with one another.
- Fear of conflict: Team members are more concerned with keeping peace than speaking frankly.
- Lack of commitment: Employees do not have enough clarity or buy-in to make decisions or stick to the ones they do make.
- Avoidance of accountability: Team members are so intent on avoiding conflict, that they do not hold each other accountable for their performance.
- Inattention to results: The team’s success is threatened by individuals pursuing their own goals and/or seeking attention.
Turning a team from dysfunctional to resilient can seem like a Herculean challenge. As with any major endeavor, start with one foot in front of the other.
Building a resilient team
First, resilient teams tend to be made up of individual team members with resilience—people who adjust well to adversity, trauma, and other stressors. Some of your team members might be unaccustomed to dealing with these challenges in a resilient way. The first step in building a resilient team, then, is finding ways to support the growth of those who need help. One way is to offer microlearning lessons on resilience as part of your training.
Blue Ocean Brain’s microlearning lessons can help your people grow their skills and expand their thinking with topics like:
- Building Resilience: A Team Sport
- How Increasing Transparency Builds Trust
- The Value of Productive Conflict
Along with training, leaders can implement processes designed to help bolster the qualities of resilient teams. Some ideas may include things like…
Candor breaks: Develop psychological safety by calling a “candor break” when it seems like team members are holding back. Any team member can call for a candor break. The breaks support a new way of being in which anyone can speak their mind without fearing retribution.
Independent observers: Ask an outside expert to watch your team in action and review your work. Your team will receive feedback from an independent, objective source, which allows it to make progress without negative reactions to the feedback.
Story sharing: Spend time sharing personal stories to build trust and engagement. Sharing stories also leads to more empathy among team members. Humility and celebration are both welcome here.
Temperature checks: Ask your team to share their energy level at the beginning of every meeting on a scale of one (low) to five (high).
Resilience in both individuals and teams is a combination of skills and mindset. When your team has both, members can draw upon collective strengths, knowledge, and support to weather the unexpected and continue to perform well during tough times.
Contact us to learn more about how to get on the road to building a resilient team with our award-winning microlearning solution.