Five Tips to Cultivate Resilience Within Your Team
We’ve all seen a news reporter in a hurricane — wet from the rain splattering their face, palm trees bent sideways from the wind, debris flying in the background causing untold destruction — just trying to do their job without getting injured.
The uncertainty in today’s world might feel like we’re that news reporter, doing our best just to make it out of the storm alive. But as it turns out, withstanding adversity may be easier than we think. I had the opportunity to discuss strategies to build resilience within teams on April 21, 2020 with a panel whose experiences spanned from healthcare and leadership to mindfulness.
The lessons discussed can likely apply to you right now.
We defined resilience as “an adaptive system which enables an individual to rebound or ‘‘bounce back’’ from a setback or failure.”  According to the literature, there are a few key themes found across resilient individuals:
- Inner strength – A deep belief that life is meaningful, guided by faith, morals or values
- Open heart and mind – An understanding that physical, social, emotional and mental well-being are connected and a strive for overall wellness
- Adaptability – Being creative and flexible in the face of challenges
- Autonomy – A focus on one’s locus of control, or what actions can be taken in the face of challenges
So how does individual resilience translate to teams?
According to one definition, “...Team resilience serves to provide teams with the capacity to bounce back from failure, setbacks, conflicts, or any other threat to well being that a team may experience.” 
Common challenges teams face are resource gaps (time, funding, personnel), managing stakeholder expectations, communication issues, navigating changing environments and more. Certainly we’re all facing team setbacks in needing to adjust to new working environments and communication patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, what should teams do to cultivate resilience?
- Build safety. Unpredictability causes teams to feel vulnerable. Teams can create safety by hosting a regular team meeting at the same time and place each week, approaching work in predictable ways, or helping team members feel safe in their environment by welcoming kids, pets and others (particularly in work-from-home situations).
- Practice cognitive restructuring. Like Thomas Edison’s quote regarding his trials and failings at creating the lightbulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” teams need to cultivate their ability to reframe situations and increase their optimism and learning. This can look like a team talking about lessons learned from an experience instead of emphasizing what was imperfect, or identifying opportunities to continue to learn from a situation rather than thinking of an experience as a failure.
- Increase your team’s locus of control. The N-A-C method can help your team identify what they can do to productively move forward when things feel out of control. Teams use this method by Noticing (N) and naming what’s going on in their environment, accepting (A) it as reality and choosing (C) to focus on what they can do to change the situation for the better.
- Be a positivist. Teams who understand that their challenges are temporary can better maintain optimism and find hope in the future. Traditional means to build optimism, such as keeping a personal gratitude journal, may be extended to teams. Consider structuring opportunities to share gratitude within a team meeting or by encouraging team members to send one another e-cards.
- Make life easy. Simplifying work expectations and processes will go a long way for making it easy for team members to be resilient. Teams who can show flexibility in structuring their work to make it easier for their members to navigate more significant challenges.
And if you need just a little more motivation to implement some of these strategies, a 2019 survey completed by over 3,500 Americans nationwide found that only 57 percent of people surveyed have high levels of mental and physical resilience — meaning that nearly half of those surveyed were more susceptible to stress, illness, depression and physical health problems than they thought.  However, we can build our personal and team-level resilience to better withstand times of adversity.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite moments from this conversation — the last two lines from William Ernest Henley’s Invictus poem that can serve as a mantra as you build resilience personally and in your teams:
“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
- William Ernest Henley, Invictus, 1873
 Coutu, D. (n.d.). How Resilience Works. Harvard Business Review, (May 2002).
 West, B. J., Patera, J. L., & Carsten, M. K. (2009). Team level positivity: investigating positive psychological capacities and team level outcomes. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30(2), 249–267.
 Melnyk, B. M. (n.d.). 10 ways to be more resilient in tough times. Retrieved from https://www.osu.edu/alumni/news/ohio-state-alumni-magazine/issues/spring-2020/resilience-tips-nursing-ohio-state.html?utm_source=Watson&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=umar_alumni-newsletter_fy20_osam%20%20B&spMailingID=32130838&spUserID=MjMwODA3NzAxNTgwS0&spJobID=1683654073&spReportId=MTY4MzY1NDA3MwS2
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