1. Coping Ability
Perseverance and inner strength mark the resilient team. Challenges are seen as opportunities to grow. Members believe the best in each other in spite of weaknesses, and recall the many examples of endurance and success in the past. They work through communication impasses and try alternative approaches to work when necessary. They also minimize distractions to stay focused on their work, and regularly use resources outside of the team for ongoing training and coaching.
When times are tough and the pressure is on, it is easy to get irritated with one another. When you notice this in your team, it can be really helpful to see it as a sign that the team needs a break from their everyday pressure. Great examples include:
- Take an afternoon off together to do something that includes everyone;
- Have lunch together away from your desks and chat about what is happening for the team;
- Start the day with something that makes people laugh. Laughter is great for resilience because it gives us a boost of endorphins, and that fosters trust and closeness.
Aim at everything and you'll hit nothing. Resilient teams have specific goals, clear strategies, and defined relationships into which they invest themselves. Members are resolutely dedicated to each other’s well-being and to accomplishing the team's purpose. Members feel like they belong to and can influence their group. The goals of the team are highly valued and prioritized, yet with due regard for members' responsibilities to family, friends, the local community, and other groups.
When things are crazy it is easy for the team to get scattered and for them to lose sight of what is important – each other, the most important goals, their purpose. It is important for the leader to notice this. Get everyone off the treadmill for a short while and do a bit of a reflection. This is one of my favourite agendas for this:
- What are we trying to achieve?
- What is actually happening?
- What is working well?
- What isn’t?
- What are the lessons to be learned?
- What do we need to do now?
Team members regularly and easily express their appreciation for each other. Thanking one-another and acknowledging each other's contributions add much to group cohesion. Appreciation is both an attitude and a behaviour, so cultivate both!
The leader sets the tone here. If you are consistently appreciative, and cultivate an environment where appreciation is a two-way street, you will ensure that your people always feel valued.
Members of strong teams have good communication skills, including conflict resolution. They listen well and can empathize by reflecting back what they hear, and they validate others' feelings. They value self-awareness, taking time to step back and reflect in order to step forward and connect with others. Genuine efforts are made to explore and relate together in culturally-sensitive ways. There are also clear written and verbal channels for exchanging information and updates about life and work.
This is another category of behaviour where the leader models the way. It is important to become aware of your communication habits and consciously work on being a good all round communicator.
5. Time Together
Teams need quality time together, and a lot of it. This is especially true during significant transitions: when teams bring in new members, during crisis situations, or during the early stages of team life. Intimacy with a few members but congeniality with all is a reasonable goal. Resiliency also results from periodically having "fun" times together - simply enjoying one another's company - plus from building mutually supportive friendships.
Remote working has created real challenges for teams to have time together. If you do spend time in the office, be mindful of creating opportunities for the team to spend time together as a team. This is an even greater challenge when you are working remotely, but it is important to have team get togethers where you can chat, share, laugh and be more relaxed. Perhaps once a week you “have lunch” together in a Teams meeting; or Friday afternoon “drinks”. It is worth the effort.
Henri Nouwen observed that one of life's hardest realities is that "love and wounds are never separated". Healthy teams will experience tensions and hurts. There are times when our darker sides will emerge. And there are times when our just being different will create friction. To lessen the impact, team members look at their different "styles" and preferences: personality, leadership, decision making, learning, work, communication, and spirituality. Focus is more on "fitting together" than on identifying someone's weaknesses. Team members thus try to genuinely understand and accept one other's "way of being", while also being free to give one another feedback. They are able to let go of things and move on rather than bearing grudges.
I believe it is really valuable for a team to take the time to know and understand one another. You can use personality profiles as a basis for understanding one another’s styles, preferences and sensitivities. I also love the idea of everyone writing and sharing their “Personal User Manual”. First of all it creates self-awareness as a product of answering the questions. Then it becomes something you can use to help team members understand each other better.
Resilience requires regimen: clear roles for leaders and other members, well-defined decision making methods, agreed-upon accountability and conflict resolution guidelines, and in many cases a written agreement or "memo of understanding". Everyone has designated and chosen responsibilities, so people know how they fit and where they belong. Structure brings a sense of security.
Clear indicators that you need to pay attention to structure include:
- Disagreement about roles and responsibilities;
- Missed deadlines and rolling over of action items from one meeting to another;
Resilient teams are learning teams. They take the time to learn from both their mistakes and their successes. When they address problems, they do not look for blame, they look for real causes – and they address these causes. They share ideas with each other and regularly brainstorm options for doing things better.
Once again I draw on my favourite review method outlined in Number 2 above.
Also, when things go wrong (as they sometimes do) it is helpful to take the time to explore:
- What happened?
- What made this possible?
- What do we need to change to fix this for the future – so that it won’t happen again.
- Share this article with your team.
- Ask them to assess how resilient they think they are as a team.
- Discuss this as a team and make some decisions about what you collectively will do to enhance the team’s resilience.