Resilience has become a popular topic within learning and development (L&D), as it has proven to be an essential skill for the current workforce. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties and stay focused despite misfortune or stress. Different individuals and cultures demonstrate resilience in diverse ways; what makes us resilient is not the challenge we face but our ability to cope with it.
Some people are more resilient than others, and often, our capability to recover from adverse events will change over time. Not only can we develop resilience, but we can share it, too. Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story about shared resilience in his book “Being Peace.” Hanh led efforts to rescue the “boat people” fleeing Vietnam on unsafe, overcrowded fishing boats following the war in 1975. Despite storms, sickness and fighting, Hanh notes, if one person on board remained calm, he or she would help the boat survive. The resilience of that one person helped keep everybody else around them calm, enabling the group to cope better with the dangers they faced and saving the lives of many.
We can also see shared resilience in more familiar places, like the workplace, where disruptions and challenges are inevitable. Coping with these issues effectively requires a resilient team that is able to adapt and communicate with and trust one another. Teams with these characteristics can face challenges, learn from them and thrive.
To achieve this shared resilience, there must be a level of psychological safety. Team members should be able to share creative ideas and be honest without fear of being shut down, and managers should encourage discussions that encourage each team member to offer his or her input. When team members trust each another, they can adapt to challenges and find solutions.
Building shared resilience takes time and intentional practice. Research suggests that the behaviors of a resilient team are complex but have one thing in common: support. There is a fine line between guiding a team and micromanaging it, and leaders should know how their team prefers to work so they can support them effectively.
Here are a few ways leaders can show support to their team members during adversity:
Leaders should ask their team members questions about how they’re doing and what they need; open communication is essential in difficult times and can also help leaders identify where they need to improve. Asking questions also gives leaders a bigger view of the situation, helping them identify what they need to accomplish next.
Connecting With Team Members
Connecting individually with team members will build the relationship between team member and leader. Managers should keep them up to date and share their gratitude for their work. Building genuine connections within a team helps to develop a sense of unity, making collaboration more effective.
Demonstrating optimism will set the tone for the rest of the team, and showing confidence in the team can lift morale. Leaders must be pragmatic, however, to manage situations realistically and give their team the tools to flourish.
A resilient organization has a culture that promotes the psychological safety of employees when the business is faced with challenges. If leaders can consistently demonstrate resilient behaviors, they can strengthen others’ resilience, too. Behaviors that leaders should demonstrate to build organizational resilience include:
Leading With Integrity
Honest and trusted leaders keep their word, and their team members have confidence that they will always do what is right. Leading with integrity also means being accountable to superiors as well as their team members.
Communication should be two-way street. Leaders should be proactive not only in keeping everybody in the loop but in listening, too. Checking in and ensuring that all team members understand their role and satisfied with it will help them progress both individually and as a team.
People turn to their leaders when faced with a stressful situation, so decisiveness and responsiveness is key. Leaders should be clear on the direction the team needs to take and empower them to be creative in finding solutions.
Organizations with high levels of resilience look at stressful circumstances positively. They consider whether they have faced similar challenges in the past to find a solution more quickly and even turn challenges into opportunities.
For example, some organizations have found that although they were forced into remote work due to the global pandemic, it was unexpectedly good for their teams and business. These organizations have decided to move forward with more remote and flexible working opportunities in the future, despite their belief prior to the pandemic that it was not feasible.
The time to build resilient teams is now. Leaders who had already cultivated resilient teams prior to COVID-19 have found adaptation and innovation easier. Although resilience can be shared, one person cannot be responsible for it. Instead, organizations should cultivate and reinforce resilient attitudes and practices. Shared resilience generates shared transformation, without which growth and success in the face of adversity would be impossible.