There is a misconception that a resilient team is a collection of resilient individuals – but people don’t function in isolation. There are a myriad of variables that impact the resilience of a team. From an individual perspective, resilience can buffer against stressors in the environment, is important for well-being and is critical for performance. Team resilience is a different component of effective organisations, because it is a prerequisite for high-performing teams. Challenges are all around us; how the organisation absorbs, copes, recovers and learns from the experience will shape current and future success.
1. Establish the team identity
For a team to be resilient, members should fundamentally view themselves as one unit. Jeff Polzer, a Professor at Harvard Business School, traces cohesion to two critical moments: the first moment of vulnerability, and the first moment of disagreement.
When faced with the possibility of appearing vulnerable, does the team value appearing strong? Or is there a collective belief that they are exploring the business landscape together? In a heated engagement, does the team value winning interactions, or learning together?
These interactions often set the trajectory for the team moving forward. If the team appears fragmented, active listening skills is paramount for course correction. As a leader, modelling this behaviour can be infectious, and closing barriers and nurturing group cohesion helps to form an aligned identity. When individuals begin measuring their success beyond their own performance and considering it in the context of the team, a clear identity begins to form along with the bonds that will create resilience.
2. Nurture collective efficacy
Collective efficacy is made more relevant with greater levels of interdependence required for the team to reach desired levels of performance. Danny Meyer, founder of Shake Shack and CEO of Union Square Hospitality, delivered his first Ted Talk which was later played during a staff meeting. Afterwards, Meyer said, “Did you see my legs shaking?”. He then put the spotlight on his colleagues, saying he was surrounded by such remarkable people who “made the whole thing work”, and attributed his Ted Talk’s success to his peers, Chip and Hailey, thanking them profusely for all their efforts [Coyle, D (2017): The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Chapter 12].
Understanding and appreciating the role everybody plays not only helps cement the purpose of the team, but also builds confidence in the group’s ability. Meyer could have easily basked in the success of his Ted Talk, but chose to uplift his colleagues instead. Exercising a shared belief in the collective capabilities of the team fosters team resilience, and will serve as the primary driver of group behaviour in good times – and in bad.
3. Foster meaningful relationships
Joe Maddon, former baseball coach for the Chicago cubs, is an exemplary example of fostering relationships in his teams. In his office, he kept a glass bowl filled with slips of paper, each inscribed with an expensive wine. When a player violated a team rule, Maddon would ask them to pick out a slip of paper, purchase that wine and uncork it with their peer. In other words, Maddon linked the act of discipline with reconnection.
Resilient teams are built on the foundations of strong connections. For a team to be adaptable and show strength when faced with disruption, team members must know how each other function best, taking time to understand preferred working styles or natural behaviours, and have a respect – importantly, a need – for each other’s skills and knowledge.
4. Nurture commitment to team process and discipline
Resilient teams have clear, shared goals. They know where they are heading and what the plan is to reach their destination. IDEO’s leaders make the organisational goals explicitly clear – and foster a culture of collaboration. CEO Tim Brown incessantly repeats his mantra that “the more complex the problem, the more help you need to solve it”. The little book of IDEO is made available to every employee, with the message simple: collaborate, and make others successful.
By creating shared clarity and an alliance in the group, teams will be more open in being honest about reviewing their progress, evaluating and course correcting if needed.
Team resilience is a critical asset to any business, especially in the current challenging environment where no one can confidently predict what the future holds. Developing team resilience ensures the team is functioning in a healthy way and can sustain collaboration and innovation, adapting to adverse or unpredictable circumstances as a unit, stronger than the sum of its component parts.
Blackmore Four are an independent Essex-based consulting company, offering specialist advice and tailored solutions to businesses looking to improve business performance. Our approach is based on a deep understanding of human behaviour at work and an ability to identify and address the specific leadership and organisational development needs of your business.