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Resilience is not just for Individuals

The term resilience has certainly more recently come to the fore in the Organisational Development and HR departments of organisations and given recent worldwide events I suppose this is not surprising. Change has always been ( and always will be) with us, but the present COVID-19 pandemic and other world events have caused massive organisational and employee upheaval with restructures, redundancies and role changes. The effects on employee well being that are associated with such considerable change can be massive and unfortunately not always positive. So the focus in many OD & HR departments is on both ensuring that the well being of employees is paramount but also that individuals and teams are resilient not only in tackling present change and challenges but also in 'futureproofing' their teams to ensure they tackle ( and even predict) future challenges positively and confidently.

But actually what is this term ' resilience'? Many managers think of 'tough mudder' type events and training with the Marines when you mention the term resilience, but it is simpler than this. Resilience is simply the ability of individuals and teams to respond positively and to bounce back from challenges, adversity and change. In fact I would go further and suggest that true resilience is not just the ability to respond to adversity and change but to proactively predict change and be prepared to respond proactively even before the change actually takes effect. It's more of a 'bounce-forward' than 'bounce-back'. Too many leadership teams are guilty of 'knee-jerk' reactions and as such do not produce the most effective decisions and as a result can have a huge demoralising effect on the entire workforce.

What are the key components of resilience? Firstly let's look at individuals. There is no doubt that resilience is in our genes and that some individuals do tend to be more resilient than others. Resilience will also be shaped by one's own life experiences both positive and negative. We can build our resilience by having role models and be encouraged and developed by their experiences and behaviours. We can also develop our resilience by working with resilient colleagues and in high performance teams where constructive challenge, peer support and continual learning through regular formal review is the norm.

It may be useful to assess individual team members' resilience through a resilience assessment questionnaire. I recently did my own assessment with resilience coach , Emma Hossack and found it illuminating. Using an assessment tool called the WRAW Index , Emma produced an individual report for me, which highlighted my areas of strength and those that needed some work, across five areas of resilience; energy, future focus, inner drive, flexible thinking and strong relationships. Emma coached me through the assessment report and the outcome was a robust action plan to develop my overall resilience. I found the experience very empowering.

In terms of teams, it is becoming very evident through all the research that there are some specific actions teams can take to ensure resilience is built and sustained throughout the team.

  1. A good starting point is to complete a resilience assessment of each of the team members and share the results and action plans within the teams. This builds awareness and mutual support for everyone to move their action plans forward.

  2. Purpose. Ensure that everyone in the team fully understands and 'buys into' the team purpose. This is the team's 'reason for being'. When all team members are committed emotionally to the team's specific purpose then we start to see commitment, accountability, responsibility and resilience grows as a result.

  3. Psychological Safety. This is a must for all teams if you are to ensure high performance let alone resilience. Psychological safety is simply the need for all team members to feel included and to feel that they can express their opinions, hopes, fears, concerns and ideas without fear of being judged, reprimanded or dismissed out of hand. Giving team members a degree of freedom in decision making (within the organisational rules) and ensuring they feel valued and rewarded also ensures psychological safety and thus builds up resilience right across the team.

  4. Clarity. When team members have absolute clarity about the team's specific aims and goals and they have similar clarity around their roles, responsibilities and objectives, then this builds commitment and resilience. Sharing each team members' roles and responsibilities also builds awareness and resilience.

  5. Structure. In this context , structure relates to the team having a framework that allows the team performance basics to be worked on. Too many teams simply 'fly into task' without due consideration to the essential basics of team performance and as such end up not fulfilling their full potential due to ongoing conflict. Giving the team a framework such as the PARTNERS™ team development process, allows them to build a Team Charter, a Team Development Plan and a Stakeholder Plan, all which will allow the team to gain clarity, focus and build the requisite behaviours, attitudes and capabilities to succeed. Again this builds resilience right across the team.

  6. Finally, there is formal, robust, Review. Without a regular formal review of the team's performance, the team development plan and the team charter, the chances of any team enhancing their overall resilience and reaching true high performance is limited. By building in robust review you are allowing the team to reflect on its successes, its strengths, its development areas and thus ensuring it continues to develop its processes, behaviours and results. This review process is vital to building strengthened resilience across the team..

If your organisation is focused on employee well being and building their resilience then good on you. Remember though that a group of resilient individuals doesn't automatically make a resilient team. Teams have to be worked on - they don't just magically appear. By paying attention to the basics of team performance and ensuring regular robust review of performance, the team development plan and team charter, you will not only build enhanced resilience within your team, you will build a true proactive, positive, high performance team that tackles present and future challenges with vigour, confidence and capability.

To know more about our 'Resilient PARTNERS' team development programme then simply message me through LinkedIn or via email at . Alternatively call me on ++ 44 (0) 776 416 8989. You can also contact Emma at if you are interested in doing the WRAW Resilience Assessments.

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