If you’re working in a tough industry, project or workplace it’s likely that you’ll want to build a resilient team. Ideally, you want to keep your good people engaged for as long as possible, so you can all succeed.
We’ve seen a lot of news stories of resilience during the Covid pandemic, with health workers battling on the front line. However, I’m sure there have also been many stories of burnout that we may not have seen.
The rate of change in our workplaces is also increasing. This means that we need to be able to cope with ambiguity, uncertainty and stress more than ever before. Resilience is the ability to bounce back, recover from and work through challenges without burning out or giving up hope.
Are You Just Expecting Your People to Be More Resilient?
I have noticed in some organisations that there is a tendency to demand that employees be more resilient. “Resilience training” is often delivered to help people cope with significant change or work demands.
Then people are simply expected to be able to handle the pressure. If they don’t, some leaders just say that they aren’t resilient enough to work in the organisation.
However, building a resilient team is a two-way street. To build a resilient team, employees need to be willing and able to handle some uncertainty, discomfort and pressure. However, leaders also need to foster an environment where people have the best chance of being resilient.
In this post, I will cover some of the main aspects that I believe are really important to build a resilient team. This will hopefully help you have the right conversations and set up the right conditions for your people to perform at their best … and keep going!
Learn More: Why Being Resilient Will Kill You.
Build a Resilient Team by Ensuring Motivations Are Aligned
I have found that one of the major factors contributing to resilience is the alignment between a person’s role and their own personal motivations.
People will be able to withstand more pressure and tend to strive harder when their own motivations are satisfied as part of their work. They will also bounce back from setbacks and be persistent in overcoming challenges.
Examples of Motivation Alignment
For example, consider Chris. Chris loves the prestige, responsibility and authority that progressing his career brings. He strives to obtain more senior roles and is highly motivated to progress his career.
Therefore, Chris is more likely to work hard and be persistent in the face of challenges if he can see that his work is leading him towards his career aspirations.
Now, let’s talk about Monica. Monica has a nurturing personality, and loves helping and caring for people. She works in the Aged Care sector, where she works to make life better for the elderly people under her care.
Monica is highly motivated by seeing her customers thrive, helping them feel happy and healthy in their old age.
Chris and Monica … Misaligned
Imagine that we moved Chris to a challenging role in a new department. He’s likely to be put under pressure and will need to work long hours. Now, imagine if this new role and department starts to take Chris away from the career direction he had in mind.
You’re likely to see lower motivation and engagement from Chris. His needs aren’t being satisfied and the job is hard. Lots of pressure, long hours. Why would he keep striving if he’s not moving towards where he wants to be?
Monica is assigned to a management role, where instead of interacting with customers, she spends much of her time doing administrative work. The work is challenging and hard and some would see it as a step up in her career.
However, there is a good chance that Monica will feel a lack of motivation as she moves further away from seeing the smiles of her customers as she interacts with them.
How to Strengthen Alignment to Build a Resilient Team
So what can you do about this as a leader? There is no doubt that it is a challenging proposition. It will be difficult to cater for the motivational needs of all your people at once.
However, here are some actions to try, to help you build alignment between your team members and their roles.
1. Find Out What Your People Want
The first step is to understand what your people want.
What drives them? Where do they want to go? When do they feel the most motivated in their work? What parts of their job do they dislike the most?
When you have this information, you can better craft the work environment to suit their needs.
You may be able to adjust people’s roles to better align the work with what drives and motivates them.
If you are able to do this, your people should naturally become more resilient as their motivations are addressed. Essentially, you need your people to be able to answer “How are my needs being fulfilled in this role?”
2. Help Your People See the Bigger Picture
Sometimes, it’s hard for your people to see the difference they are making in their role.
From the previous example, Chris might not see how the new role in the new department is helping him achieve his career goals. Monica may not notice how her new management role is helping her customers. Instead, she thinks she’s just updating spreadsheets and looking at financial reports.
You can build a resilient team by reframing the situation for your team members.
For example, you may know that the executives of your company like people who are adaptable and can show they can take on different roles and learn new skills. Highlighting this to Chris may help him to see the link between his new opportunity and career aspirations, which can help to build his resilience.
You may be able to show Monica that when she improves her department through better management, she helps support her customers. If she can optimise staff numbers, create better rosters or introduce other improvements, she may see that she has created these outcomes for her customers.
Try to help your people see the difference they make and how this links to their motivations. This can build resilience by raising their awareness of how their role is fulfilling their needs.
3. Hire for Alignment
You may need to hire someone new to take on a tough role where resilience is likely to be required. If this is the case, see if you can hire people who are already motivated by what the role has in store.
This might mean that you tailor your interview questions, selection criteria and advertising to attract a candidate that is likely to be a good fit.
Getting this right can really shortcut your efforts to build a resilient team, because you’ve already pre-selected candidates whose motivations are likely to be aligned with the challenges that they’re likely to face.
Build Resilience by Showing an Intention to Improve
When your people are stressed, uncertain or under pressure, ideally you want them to persevere and overcome the challenges. One way that leaders undermine this is to expect resilience, without actually taking action to improve the situation.
It’s usually reasonable to expect people to put up with some uncertainty and stress for a short period of time. The problem occurs when leaders expect them to put up with challenging conditions for the long term, where there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Putting improvement plans in place shows your people that you’re trying to help them, reducing the need for everybody to be so resilient all the time. Otherwise, you run the risk of people throwing their hands up in the air and saying “What’s the point?”
Build Resilience by Showing Commitment to Your People
Some leaders expect their team members to be resilient because they expect loyalty from them. However, loyalty works both ways.
In other words, if I am loyal to my team member, then (and only then) can I ask for loyalty in return.
Loyalty doesn’t mean treating someone badly and expecting them to keep coming back for more.
One of the best ways to build loyalty and a resilient team is to show commitment to your people.
You want to show them you have their backs and will help them to succeed and push through adversity.
To do this, try the following:
- Make sure they have the skills and capability. Nothing stresses people out more than feeling like they don’t have the ability to do their work properly. Training, coaching and mentoring can help with this issue.
- Make yourself available. Allocate time to provide support to your people and help tackle issues. When you’re absent, people feel isolated because it’s harder for people to get help.
- Be observant. Have open conversations with your people about how they are coping. Watch for signs of stress or conflict which could tell you they need more support.
- Listen and try to make change. Listening is good, but not when it doesn’t lead to action. Sometimes people will just want to vent to you, but if your people have a problem, take appropriate steps to solve it as best you can.
Why Can’t I Just Expect People to Hang In There?
It may seem easier to just expect your people to put up with whatever their role throws at them. And a lot of people will do just that.
People may stay in their jobs because it’s easier than moving somewhere else. They may also stay if they feel safer in a known environment, even if they continue to struggle.
However, being resilient isn’t just about hanging in there. It’s about continuing to strive, stay motivated and work hard in the face of challenge. In other words, resilience is also about maintaining good performance, not just hanging around.
Hopefully some of these ideas will help you to build a more resilient team. It’s impossible to please and cater for everybody, but you may just be able to make some adjustments that will help your people perform at their best, for longer.