Building team resilience, part 2

Part 2 of our series on building team resilience.

Jess Christopher
Building Team Resilience, Part 2

Now, type: entry-hyperlink id: 4AWCiQjxrGOouqRjiMSrxa, you should have an idea of what resilience is, how it affects performance, and what some of the lead indicators are to improve it. Here we’re going to break down for you the more nitty-gritty details and – hopefully – leave you with enough knowledge that you can employ some of these strategies in your workplace. Without further ado, let’s get down to it.

Inspire, motivate, and challenge to perform

Now here is where some of that transformational leadership comes in from the last episode. Here is where you want to focus on getting the team into the correct mindset. During the season, the rugby team’s members and coaches would frequently emphasise and remind each other of the high expectations they shared, focusing on their performance and development more than the immediate outcome of a game, as even if they achieved a win, they had in the past been told their performance wasn’t what it should have been given the expectations they set together.

They created team goals to commit to, and would define and reinforce team protocols during stressors, so that nothing was a surprise, and everyone knew what to do – a good example of having a shared mental model – and this, in particular, is imperative in teams that are under high stress. Finally, the players reported that their three coaches having different approaches and skills acted as complimentary, and if the players needed comfort, feedback to improve, or the passions in them stoked then there was the perfect coach for each of those needs, depending on what the situation called for.

What to do:

  • Build complementary strengths and roles:

    Identify who in the team has a particular strength or skillset, and allocate them the role of applying that to the team.

  • Establish goals and build a shared commitment to them:

    Ensure individual goals align with the team’s goals, and frequently remind each other of what those shared goals are.

  • Remind each other of the expectations and team values:

    Even if you get a job done, if it’s not done to the standard that is expected, address the fact, and encourage them to achieve that.

  • Communicate with enthusiasm and express confidence to the team during stressors:

    Remind team members that even if things aren’t working out, you have the confidence – as a member or manager/coach – that they have what it takes.

  • Lead by example:

    Lastly, but most important. Unless you are clear on personal expectations for yourself, and being honest about your performance and if you’re filling your role, you won’t be able to help others

Develop a team-regulatory system based on ownership and responsibility

To maintain your team’s ability to withstand stressors over time, it needs to be self sufficient and able to function without constantly being managed. Each member – managers included – need to monitor their individual and team performances, actions and responses to difficult periods. Ensure the role of leading the team is collective, because, to paraphrase the captain of the rugby union team, the more people you can involve in the leadership of a team under consistent stress, the more likely that team will be to overcome challenges, highlighting nicely the concept of shared leadership.

An important aspect for this to work is honest feedback. When the rugby team weren’t being fully honest with their feedback, their coaches started holding regular briefings, encouraging the team to share honest feedback following setbacks. They explained that this helped them avoid any finger-pointing or blame, which is extremely detrimental to building resilience. In this time, the coaches would provide individual feedback to the team members, which encouraged them to be accountable for their contribution.

Finally, the coaches began to transition the role of managing, problem-solving and responsibility to the team, reporting that “the more they come up with the answers when things aren’t working, the better decisions they’ll make on the field,” which left the coaches stepping in only when things weren’t working, allowing the team to gain experience with solving their problems.

What to do:

  • Individual self-monitoring:

    Get each member involved in the team to monitor personal performance, what actions they’ve taken, and how they respond to stressors.

  • Share the load:

    Even if there’s an allocated team leader, it’s important everyone plays a part in the process. Assign tasks or roles for individual members to be in charge of, and ensure they communicate with each other so everyone’s on the same page.

  • Honest feedback:

    It’s important to be as honest as you can with feedback, both good and bad. Honest and constructive feedback will help build mutual trust and improve the team’s performance through information sharing and error reduction. Hold regular (weekly) briefings with the team that encourage this feedback, both for individuals and the team as a whole.

  • Transition responsibility:

    Once your team has their systems and routine in place, as the manager, start to pull back. State concisely that you’re leaving them to solve the current problem themselves, prompt them to remember their goals, values and role, and they should sort themselves out.

Cultivate a team identity and a togetherness based on a selfless culture

Here is all about building positive relationships with your peers, and leaving your ego at the door to put the team first. Display a strong commitment to the team and others will follow suit. To strengthen their team identity, rugby teams often perform team rituals like singing their team song or huddling up. Building these emotional ties to each other means you’ll strive to perform not just for yourself, but for the team as well.

What set the UK Rugby Union champions apart from their competitors, as told by a newer member, is that they truly cared for each other. When the newer member suffered an injury, he said that every member called to see how he was, whereas, at other professional clubs he’d been, he’d only get one or two.

Knowing that whatever happens, when you look over your shoulder your team is with you bolsters people’s confidence, bonds, and willingness to put aside their personal strife for the best interests of the team.

What to do:

  • Create a team ritual:

    Whether it be a weekly/fortnightly lunch, the occasional outing bowling, or a morning stand-up where everyone reports what they did last week and how they’re feeling, find what works and stick to it, include each other, and work on cultivating those relationships.

  • Remind everyone of team achievements:

    For rugby teams, it’s articles of wins up on the locker room walls. For the workplace, it could be a quote of positive feedback from a customer/colleague, or it could be an image/logo of the most successful projects you’ve undergone. Let it be a reminder that it happened because the whole team worked together as a unit.

Expose the team to challenging training and unexpected/difficult situations

At the end of the day, as much as we try, we’re going to end up under stress and pressure at some point in the workplace. With each setback or challenge, your team will learn and gain experience, ultimately improving how well they deal with the next challenge. Unfortunately, the process of waiting for issues to arise then learn from is inefficient and time-consuming, so anticipating problems, or creating practice scenarios to have your team solve will act as training to prepare them for when the real stressors roll around the corner.

This process will provide your team with practice-informed plans already in place in preparation for the real scenario to occur, which enables members to react quickly, efficiently, and cohesively together. 

What to do:

  • Practice or plan for difficult scenarios that haven’t happened yet:

    What are some of the issues common in your field? A problematic customer, a delay in production, a lack of or loss in resources needed to complete a job? Try to recreate these scenarios – even in hypothetical discussion – so your team is better prepared and already knows what to do should these scenarios come to fruition.

  • Reflect on what actions worked or didn’t during stressors/practice scenarios:

    After your practice scenarios, reflect on them to see what actions produced the best results by each member. Have a team debrief after the practice scenario to discuss what worked and what set things back – be as honest and detailed as possible!

  • Develop a shared understanding of protocols in place to deal with pressurised situations:

    After you’ve practiced scenarios, and reflected on them, you should have a clear idea of what the best course of action would be to take. Once you’ve established your ideal protocol, ensure the team has a shared understanding of what this entails, so nothing is a surprise if the day comes where it’s put into play.

  • Hold regular discussions about errors to encourage learning/problem-solving:

    Errors are unavoidable at times, but they needn’t be repeated. If errors have occurred, hold a team meeting reflecting on why the error happened, and encourage your team to learn from their mistakes. There must be no blame and there needs honesty during these, if someone’s on the defensive, they’re not focused on improvement.

  • Reset the team’s focus following challenging situations:

    Whether it’s during a stressor, or after a setback, it’s important you can reset how team’s focus. For many teams, they’ll stress about how to achieve their shared ultimate goal and lose focus of what they’re trying to achieve right now. Remind them to work one day, one project, or one game at a time and trust that they’ll gradually work their way to their goals together.

Promoting enjoyment and keeping a positive outlook during stressors

Now this one would appear to be pretty simple, but it’s often disregarded and undervalued in the workplace. Mental health and wellbeing is a big factor in work performance, and it’s just as important to look after your sleep and diet as it is to get your reports in by the deadline. Without enjoyment in the mix, thoughts can easily become self-critical, looking for the mistakes and the problems, and performance will dip as a result. Without enjoyment, motivation and positive mood decrease, and that can easily spread to the rest of the team.

On a positive note, though, a positive outlook and promotion of enjoyment can rub off onto others, and the effects of this on stress are invaluable. Humour reminds your team not to take themselves too seriously and enables them to enjoy their work and perform the role they’re skilled at without stress slowing their progress and quality of work.

What to do:

  • Promote the importance of enjoyment and well-being during challenging situations:

    For most of you, I’d hope you’re working in your field because you love what you do. That you enjoy your work. Whenever your team finds themselves slipping into the age-old trap of work being a chore, remind them of why they like their job, what they enjoy most.

  • Use humour and encourage banter during challenging situations:

    Try to relax with your team. You may be under stress, so falling back onto humour can be helpful to dig yourselves out of an impending rut. Whether it’s changing a colleague’s screensaver to something funny or simply cracking a joke or telling a story, it helps lift the mood and deal with stressors.

  • Organise social occasions during setbacks or fatigue:

    Now, this may sound counterproductive if you’re under stress to meet deadlines, but remember that it’s not always about working a lot, so much as working well, and research has shown that you're more efficient if you take breaks. Allocate some time to have a team outing to just relax, have fun and forget for a couple of hours what’s waiting back in the office, and you’ll find everyone rejuvenated and refreshed, ready to tackle the task ahead.

You’ve made it to the end! Congrats, and thanks for bearing with us on this one. I hope now that you’re here you’ve learned a thing or two, and know where you’d like to start with improving your team’s ability to tackle the challenges ahead and come out victorious.

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