When faced with a crisis like the one caused by Covid-19, being resilient can be a key factor to bounce back from it. Resilience is the ability of a person to successfully adapt and eventually recover from significant adversity in life. While this concept is usually attributed to the individual, we rarely find ourselves working completely alone. It is therefore also important to understand how teams manage to flexibly change to respond to challenges.
Research shows that resilient teams are more able to face adversities, learn from past hostile experiences and recover quicker than average. So what are the characteristics of a resilient team? A recent study found that they share four main attributes:
- Members believe they can effectively complete a task together and they therefore have confidence in the team’s abilities.
- They have a shared mental model of teamwork, that is everyone in the team is clear on their roles, responsibilities and social dynamics.
- They are able to improvise and find creative solutions and ideas based on their previous experiences.
- Members of resilient teams are tied by feelings of trust and safety, which make them more prone to share their ideas and opinions, without fear of judgment.
Leaders can enhance their teams’ resilience by focusing on these elements. Resilience is indeed made of behaviours and thoughts that can be developed and learnt from the environment, rather than personality traits. However, a RallyBright study found that only 2% of teams analysed were actually resilient. This data is not comforting, considering that the current global pandemic is a major source of stress for individuals, teams and organisations; but also considering that teams’ resilience is directly linked to their performance, especially in the long run.
So how can you turn your team into a resilient one? There are a few steps that can be taken to tackle this issue, and the bright side is that you can do this from home. Scholars suggest you focus on two key things, people and perspective.
In terms of people:
- Identify where your team stands on the key factors that predict resilience: high levels of confidence in their own’s abilities, methodical routines for their work, and social support from friends and family. During this crisis some of these factors may have changed in your team members, therefore, check in regularly with them, investigating how they are getting on with the new way of working.
- Have guided conversations with each team member to foster their resilience. A study on Navy recruits found that having individual coaching conversations led to a 20% increase in people’s resilience level. If time is an issue, foster conversations between your team members. For example, you may assign pairs and schedule weekly calls to discuss problems, solutions and achievements reached during the lockdown, and how these skills are useful to face future challenges.
In terms of perspective:
- Research shows that the feeling of fear we are living in has a negative effect on our ability to see the future and to find creative solutions to problems. To reduce this, as a manager you can help your team to accept the reality as it is, even if they may feel uncomfortable doing so. Supporting your team to imagine remote working may last longer than anticipated is a powerful way of building their resilience and having them ready to bounce back.
- Encourage your team to focus on the learning opportunities embedded within the challenge they are facing, such as the use of technology. For example, you might encourage the team members who are particularly good at telecommunicating to train the others, so that they build their team confidence and resilience together – as well as foster their bond.
Having a resilient team able to adapt and recover quickly is essential to successfully overcome the enormous challenge that the pandemic is bringing to people, and therefore to organisations. Following these simple actions and taking this global emergency as a learning opportunity, your team will not only come out of this stronger than before, but will also be more capable to face and overcome future challenges.
 Stoverink, A, Kirkman, B., Mistry, S. & Rosen, B (2020). Bouncing back together: Toward a theoretical model of work team resilience. Academy of Management, 45(2). https://journals.aom.org/doi/epub/10.5465/amr.2017.0005
 Malik, A. (2013). Efficacy, hope, optimism and resilience at workplace – Positive organizational behavior. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publication, 3(10).