7 Top tips to help develop team resilience during uncertain times
The starting point is culture
In the current volatile and uncertain times that we find ourselves in I hear more and more often the need for greater resilience.
What is resilience?
Here’s the textbook answer:
1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
When you hit an obstacle or challenge in your life how well do you spring back?
Resilience is the ability to recover and bounce back from adversity and hardships, feeling stronger and more capable to cope than ever before. In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world being resilient is a key to long-term success. It is not just about using buzz words - it is about creating a culture of long-term resilience in your team.
Get the culture right to create stronger resiliency, both in individuals and as a collective. Strength in numbers but only if those numbers are made up of the right people with the right mind-set. If you set your team up for perennial success rather than quick fixes or easy wins then you will be more resilient as a team.
Here are my top tips that are a great starting point for building long-term resilience:
1. Create the right culture
What is culture?
It is one of those words that gets banded around a lot, especially in the corporate world. It is certainly up there in the top five things that clients talk to me about when they approach me for help (along with lack of effective communication, inflexibility of processes, lack of bonding in the team and struggling with problem solving and strategy planning). So why is culture such a buzz word?
Well, firstly you should not consider it as just a buzz word. It is the absolute bedrock of a successful team/business. Culture is a 360-degree, organic thing. It is made up of individual and collective behaviours, the myriad of micro-languages used during interactions and conversations, the psychological contracts between employer and employee, the ritual habits that you observe and the ‘brand’ of who you are as a unit. You are not separate from it, you cannot point at it and say ‘that is the culture over there’ – you are immersed in it and the things that you do every day either change or perpetuate the culture you are in. This goes for every member of a team. Culture is partly made up of history – what has been before and that is either changed or perpetuated by you, the team members. The actions and behaviours that you choose to adopt make your culture what it is.
If the culture you have is not working for you then only you (the team) can change it. No excuses! I have heard hundreds of times that, ‘we don’t have time’, ‘it’s not my/our job’, ‘there is too much resistance from above’, etc., etc…THESE ARE ALL EXCUSES! If building a high performing team is your goal, then let go of these excuses and start acting – take action!
“Have the courage to see what is wrong with your culture and then do something about it.”
2. Know who you are
Knowing who you are and having a level of self-confidence play a key role in helping you to cope with stress. Understanding yourself is one of the first things that we teach leaders. This means reminding yourself of your strengths and the things that you have achieved (not just concentrating on the things you haven’t). Think about a time when you have handled a difficult situation or crisis – what things do you think you did well?
One great technique I use that is similar to some NLP tools is to imagine a time in your life when you were confident, assertive and resilient. Visualise this situation as if you were watching a film of it. Play the film to yourself and see your behaviour and imagine your thoughts at the time. If you cannot think of a situation that involves yourself, think of a person you believe is confident, assertive and resilient and picture their situation and behaviour. Play the film (visualisation) repeatedly and use a trigger word to remind you of the feeling and the situation. Your trigger word could be any word – but let us say it is the word ‘resilient’. This
is a great way to help reframe your thinking and see things in a different way.
The more confident you are about your own ability to deal with challenges means that you will tackle issues head on and continue to build more resilience in the future. Challenges can be seen as learning or losing – It's just a matter of how you choose to see them and how much confidence you have to overcome them. The key with knowing who you are is complete honesty with yourself. There is no point in fooling yourself and trying to be someone you really aren’t.
A snippet of the poem ‘Man in the glass’ by Dale Wimbrow sums this up rather nicely.
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years, and get pats on the back as you pass, but your only reward will be heartache and tears if you‘ve cheated the man in the glass.
3. Smash the glass of negativity
Is your glass half full or half empty? Staying positive during challenging situations can be difficult but it is important to maintain helpful thinking. Being an optimist does not mean being naïve and ignoring stuff. It means understanding that challenges/bad times don’t last for ever – they are transient and you have the skills and abilities to tackle them (sometimes with a little help from others). There is a risk during challenging periods that you fall into a pessimistic loop. You start to believe that everything is bad and fail to see the good. This is about choosing how to react. For more on this see my previous article on changing thinking. Much is debated within the topic of resilience but it is widely agreed that how you choose to react to situations and having a helpful or optimistic perspective will most certainly lead you in a more helpful or positive direction.
4. Choose emotional control
Having a good level of emotional intelligence (being emotionally aware, recognising how you react in certain situations and considering how your reaction can affect other people) will help you to take more self-control of your emotions. Here are a few helpful tips:
Observe how you react to different people. Do you rush to judgment before you know all of the facts? Do you stereotype? What are your biases? Look honestly at how you think and interact with other people. Try to put yourself in their place, and be more open and accepting of their perspectives and needs.
Look at your work/life/social environment. Do you seek attention for your accomplishments? Humility can be a wonderful quality, and it doesn't mean that you're shy or lack self-confidence. When you practice humility, you say that you know what you did, and you can be quietly confident about it. Give others a chance to shine – put the focus on them, and don't worry too much about getting praise for yourself. This is a definite trait of true leadership.
Self-evaluate (and do it honestly). What are your weaknesses? Are you willing to accept that you're not perfect and that you could work on some areas to make yourself a better? Or, you could choose to not waste energy trying to change to something that you are not (see point 1). Have the courage to look at yourself honestly – it can change your life. Remember that sometimes ‘good enough is just that’.
Analyse how you react to stressful situations. Do you become angry or frustrated every time there's a hiccup or something doesn't go quite how you planned it? In the current slightly chaotic environment we find ourselves in do you blame others? Do you become angry, even when it's nobody else’s fault? The ability to stay calm and in control in challenging scenarios is a highly valued trait – both in the business world and outside it (sport for example). Don’t forget that one of the body’s internal chemical systems actually shuts the logical part of the brain down during fight or flight mode – learn to recognise when this happens.
Take responsibility for your actions. If you hurt someone's feelings, apologise directly – don't ignore your actions or avoid them. People are usually more willing to forgive and move on if you make a genuine attempt to make it right. Before you take any action – THINK – how will it affect others.
5. All Change, all change
We are now all living and working in very Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous times. The world of work (and many aspects of our personal lives) is full of change as organisations constantly reorganise, restructure, venture into new markets, create new products and services in an effort to firstly stay afloat in these challenging times but also to retain a competitive advantage for the future. The pace and frequency of this change can sometimes leave people bewildered, insecure, uncertain and resentful.
“I like change!” “I loathe change!” Sound familiar? It’s not the case that we are born this way. Instead, individually we respond to change based on the degree to which we invited it to happen and the benefit vs. loss we associate with the change. Being positive about change is a really good way to help develop resilience. You cannot control or change every circumstance; however, you can absolutely change your attitude.
Being rigid doesn’t work too well in today’s world. Flexibility is the key and will enable you to manage change more effectively. By learning how to be more adaptable in different situations you are taking the pressure off yourself (and your team) because you are not relying solely on plan A. Don’t forget that if plan A doesn’t work there are 25 other letters in the English alphabet. Taking an agile approach (particularly to things like project management) makes you much better equipped to respond to challenges you experience. While some people may crumble when hit by abrupt changes, highly resilient people and teams are able to adapt and push forward.
6. Have courageous conversations
The ability to tackle difficult conversations is a key skill for developing resiliency. When having difficult conversations it is important to maintain a level of empathy and to be very clear on what the conversation is about – i.e. what is the real issue. Ensure that you back up your stance with evidence and facts and present your points in a clear, calm way and always ensure that you are looking for solutions to issues and not just moaning or criticising.
For more information on this topic here is a great article How to have courageous conversations
7. Love yourself and make real social connections
Learn to treat your body and mind well. If you had a beautiful Aston Martin car you probably wouldn’t choose to top it up with vegetable oil so why not make the same choice for your own engine? After all, your body and mind is an amazing machine.
To stay in tip top condition ensure that you get enough exercise, natural light, good food and are well hydrated. This is all possible even with certain restrictions in place. In addition, the importance of social interaction should not be forgotten. By this I mean real social interaction and not just via a screen on social media. Sometimes we find strength in numbers. Building your network of key relationships is a very useful support/safety net in tough times (both physically and mentally). It is of course slightly more challenging at the moment due to social distancing restrictions but it isn't impossible. When you are able to safely meet others - do so and talk about how you are feeling.
Resilient people with high vitality demonstrate great flexibility, high energy, and mental agility and consistently perform at their highest level. They have strong relationships and support networks that help them to amplify their productivity and results.
Start by getting the culture right to create stronger resiliency, both in individuals and as a collective. Strength in numbers but only if those numbers are made up of the right people with the right mind-set. If you set your team up for perennial success rather than quick fixes or easy wins then you will be more resilient as a team.
Some of the content in this article is from the forthcoming book Team Foundations.
Remember to keep smiling and keep going!