How to build resilience at work: Tips for leaders and teams
An essential skill to have during challenging times, we'll show you how to strengthen your team's resilience so they're ready to take on anything that comes their way.
We could all do with a little more resilience right now. After over a year of lockdowns, restrictions and isolation, something that helps us bounce back from unexpected changes and challenges is definitely what we need, especially in the workplace.
That’s where resilience comes in. Unfortunately, building a resilient team doesn’t just happen overnight; like any other skill, it takes time and effort to properly strengthen.
Luckily for the leaders among you, there’s a whole host of resilience-building tips your team can use to handle the challenges in front of them. Think of these strategies as mental gym workouts designed to build adaptability, motivation and focus – the best of which we’ll show you below.
What is resilience?
When we talk about resilience, we’re often describing the ability to bounce back and carry on after experiencing adversity, both in and out of the workplace.
When you’re resilient, you can stay in control of your thoughts and emotions. And instead of viewing challenging situations as a threat, those with resilience in their skillset see change as an opportunity. That means resilient people are less prone to being knocked back by what others may view as obstacles.
And rather than positivity being the key to resilience, it’s really the opposite which is true. Resilience allows us to maintain a positive attitude, which we can apply to work and other areas of our life. This improves important workplace attributes such as problem-solving and motivation, and stops us from allowing challenging situations to get on top of us.
Building a resilient team at work
Be a role model for resilience
If you’re hoping to build a resilient team, then that resilience should start with you. When you lead by example and demonstrate your resolve and motivation during difficult times, your team are likely to follow.
So how can you do that? People don’t suddenly wake up one day and become resilient – it has to be nurtured. To start with, try reflecting on how you’ve dealt with previous challenges. Did you have the answers ready to rectify the situation? What approaches and behaviours can you show your team to help them when they’re faced with new situations?
Your team will look to you to help them. By being open about your own challenges, and the emotional responses you had, your team will be more receptive to improving their own resilience.
Optimise your team’s culture
By putting it at the centre of your team’s culture, it’s easier to instil resilience as a group. We mentioned demonstrating certain behaviours above, but what specific examples can you present to others? And how can you reinforce such behaviour amongst team members?
Reinforce resilience throughout your team by encouraging them to:
Share bad news early, so that potential problems can be flagged before they worsen
Stay composed during stressful work periods
Seek out expertise, rather than relying on other colleague’s seniority, when they need further support
Make information easily available to everyone in the team
Offer support to colleagues before, during and after challenges
Express when there’s a need in the workplace to switch to and from emergency modes of operating
Thank team members for their help, and discuss any other challenges that may be coming up
Create a support system
Another key method to build long-term resilience into your team is by setting up a strong support system. By supporting each other, team members can build more trusting relationships, increase their morale and motivation, and feel more like a valued part of the company as a whole.
And when these things happen, employees are far more likely to improve their resilience as a result. But like resilience itself, support systems don’t just spring up out of nowhere; they take time and effort to create and implement. If you’re interested in the health and wellbeing of your team, you’ll find more information on workplace support systems, including their benefits and how you can establish your own here.
Have a backup plan in place
The thing about emergencies and unexpected changes is that they’re difficult to predict. They may happen at any time, but there’s no telling when they’ll happen. So, the next best thing is simply to plan for such events.
Whether it’s family emergencies or other unplanned team member absences, by having a backup plan in place, you can keep the team’s operations up and running with little disruption to regular order. Your plan should include information on who can sub in for other team members, so that absent team members can delegate their responsibilities if needed.
The benefits are two-fold: not only do you maintain business continuity, the team will be far less stressed out knowing that they have backups in place if they have to take some unscheduled time out.
Take time out to be optimistic
It goes without saying that some of us are naturally more optimistic than others, but we can still enhance our individual optimism levels in our own ways. And although staying positive in all circumstances might not be advised, it’s still possible to promote optimism in general.
Encourage others to focus on the things that are in their control, rather than what isn’t. This way, we can take ownership of the way we approach difficult situations and create the most positive outcome with what’s available to us.
Hold debriefing sessions
Keep an eye on team members after the situation has been resolved. Adversity doesn’t just end, it creates a ripple effect that can continue to affect team members after the fact.
That’s why it’s a good idea to hold debriefing sessions where the team can reflect on their experience, discuss particular issues they encountered and how they coped with these problems. It also gives team members the chance to support one another, and allows them to think about creating a plan of action if similar circumstances arise in the future.
And don’t just save these sessions following large or especially stressful events. Team debriefing is highly valuable after a series of small challenges, which can often be a drain on your team’s energy when they happen in quick succession.
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