In a large number of industries, environments are constantly changing. Leaders now need to plan for the unexpected as well as the expected. Team resilience is a vital ingredient to being successful so we have come up with 30 behaviours that all leaders should adopt in order to make sure that their team are prepared.

You choose a mood or behaviours that positively impact on others

A leader’s mood has a disproportionate impact on the mood of those around them. It is easy to be confident and optimistic when things are going well. However, it is when things aren’t going well that a good leader will show full control over their emotions – despite how they may be feeling.

You display ‘Commander’s Calm’ in a crisis when things go wrong

Neuroscience proves that hormones are transmitted between humans. Especially those associated with fear and panic such as adrenalin and cortisol. A successful leader must remain calm, especially in times of crisis, whilst still conveying a sense of urgency. A delicate balance that is important to practice.

You confront ‘difficult people’

Research shows, team members highlighted people deemed ‘difficult’ are one of the biggest factors that undermine their resilience. Good leadership and a strong culture should identify this in the early stages. If it is missed, a leader must intervene to prevent long-lasting impact on the team as a whole.

You enable your people to voice personal issues

‘Toughness’ and a leader that tries to instil these qualities in their team can actually have a negative impact on team reliance. It creates a culture where people don’t feel able to express fear emotions from outside of work and become isolated. Instead, by a leader role modelling vulnerability, they make it ok for their team to do the same. This is psychologically helpful and boosts team resilience.

You project ‘Realistic Optimism’

Admiral Stockdale said the first of his fellow Prisoner of War’s to perish were the ‘optimists’ because they had not readied themselves for the worst outcomes. Instead, they continually told themselves ‘it would be alright’, leaving them psychologically vulnerable when things weren’t. On the other hand, a lot of resilience research emphasises the power of optimism. To combat this, it is important to show confidence and control whilst still ensuring that the team has listed everything that could possibly go wrong.

You increase focus on what is critical and improve role clarity

Leading during a crisis causes priorities to shift. It is important to ensure that team members are focussed on what they can collectively and individually control. Playing to individual strengths rather than being distracted by the uncontrollable.

You believe in brutal honesty and acknowledge ‘current reality’

Research shows that a team where the time between an issue becoming known ‘somewhere’ and it being raised in a matter of hours, are incredibly high performing. The longer the delay, the poorer the team performance. A good indicator of how comfortable a team is about being ‘honest’ is the degree of awkwardness people feel when they air issues. The least a leader can do is to create honesty about ‘how honest we are’

team resilience

You foster support and strong bonds among team members

A leader can foster bonds in numerous ways: establishing a feedback culture and spending time together to make sure people get to know each other.  Along with ‘Shared hardship’ experiences, role modelling supportiveness, assigning buddies who look out for their partner’s ’emotional state’ etc. A key habit that leaders can share amongst their team is to be alert to and not allow individual team members to isolate themselves or withdraw

You conduct reviews following all small crises

It is important for leaders to create a culture where team members view any crisis as an opportunity to learn rather than signalling the beginning of a ‘blame game’. Reviews following small crises instils the right habits and build’s confidence in dealing with larger ones.

You distribute leadership and create status equality

A sense of control is also a key to having a resilient team. If the leader is not available it is vital that the remainder of the team has the confidence to make educated decisions rather than waiting for instructions. This can be damaging practically and psychologically.

You create a feedback culture

A team that acts as a strongly supportive ‘social network’, which coaches and nurtures individuals with an absence of personal criticism will be more resilient. Members of the team are encouraged to say when they need help and it is safe to be vulnerable. Feedback is given in a way that is unthreatening to the individual’s sense of self-worth. Especially when things have gone wrong and the pressure rises.

You invite challenges

A powerful habit, especially in safety-critical industries. In aviation, there is the notion of ‘cockpit gradient’ which means the extent to which the crew feels able to challenge the captain, especially if they feel the vessel is in danger. Most airline crashes and near misses are due to ‘human factors‘ i.e. someone knowing the aircraft was in danger but didn’t challenge. If a team develops the habit of challenging when things are steady, they are more likely to challenge a critical judgment call or decision in a crisis.

You foster adaptability and flexibility

A team that has a blind obedience for authority or is a slave to the plan or the process has lost the ability to adapt and be flexible, as well as the ability to think of alternative ways or options for doing things. They also fall prey to ‘Groupthink‘. Practical ways in which a leader can combat this is to force the team to think of fundamentally different ways to perform mundane or routine tasks in order to change planning parameters and constraints.

You create a powerful team identity

Part of creating a strong bond is to create a very strong sense of identity. This can be created by asking the questions “What do we want to be known for?”, “What do we want people to see and say about us?”. The answers to these questions are highly likely to be strongly informed by people’s personal values. Research has found that the closer the alignment between personal, team and corporate values, the more committed people are and commitment drives resilience

team resillience

You ‘break the journey down’

One of the things that reduces resilience is the impression and the sense of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge and the journey ahead in terms of scale, size, time, complexity and duration.  A useful thing a leader can do is to ‘break the journey down’ into more manageable ‘bite-size’ chunks and galvanise team members around conquering those.

You help the team find a higher purpose

If a team is given a ‘higher purpose’, it will mean people will care more about their final objective and will be more committed to the cause. It is important for individuals to look beyond themselves and see how their actions are contributing to a much bigger goal or something that is important to other people’s lives and wellbeing. Even if their everyday roles appear mundane or trivial to the individual

You encourage member to share their individual resilience strategies

People often take inspiration from others’ stories of how they conquered hardship, whether over the death of a relative, a financial loss or bankruptcy. Part of creating strong bonds is to allow people to share their personal stories and strategies of coping with hardship.

You make others understand how a negative mindset can affect resilience

This is about the leader in the role of teacher and coach. If left unchallenged, people can have a tendency to ruminate. This is when we attach a negative meaning to a perfectly random event that has happened. Rumination is an unhelpful evolutionary habit that can be quite effectively challenged by asking the question “What evidence do you have for the fact that that will happen/that you cannot do this/that this is inevitable etc?”

You help team members find ‘their strongest self’

Most people have gone through challenges in life which forced them to ‘dig deep’. In a different context, people at times forget this and it helps them to reconnect with their former selves. Ask the question, “Think of a time when you felt powerful, what is that person saying to you right now?”. It helps team members have self-belief and a positive attitude even if, or especially when, things are not going well.

You ensure team members practice ‘self-care’

It is amazing how quickly sacrificing basic human needs such as sleep, sustenance and exercise impair judgment, agility, resilience and actual physical health. Temporarily, at ‘peak crisis’, they can be put as a lower priority but doing that long term is utterly self-defeating.

You make the team take ownership of newcomers and integrate them quickly

Newcomers can cause temporary dips in resilience. This can become chronic unless they are pro-actively integrated into the team identity, culture and standards. This is the team’s job, not the leader but ultimately it is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that this is a priority.

You appreciate and value team members

In times of crisis and uncertainty, simply keeping going with the task at hand whilst your mind is racked by anxiety is an effort in itself. So, whilst in a steady state, a leader may not recognise someone doing a mundane task or job really well. A leader should go the extra mile by recognising people for precisely doing that.

You ensure information flows freely and fast

In a crisis or toughening circumstances, information gives people something to work on. There will be a tendency for some leaders to hang on to information ‘until it is perfect or correct’. However, it may never get to that point in highly volatile situations. In which case it may be better to raise people’s ambiguity tolerance and get them used to dealing with imperfect information.

You maintain a healthy degree of perspective in crises

In the absence of actual (imminent or catastrophic) loss of life, livelihoods or total destruction, most crises can be put in perspective. A good leader does this sensitively, especially in acute or unexpected crises, rather than flippantly or confrontationally.

You are more decisive in a crisis

A balance must be struck between people feeling empowered and the leader setting clear direction – not being seen as wavering. This balance can be struck by the leader giving clear intent whilst letting people take ownership of the how. The leader constantly re-evaluates where they add the most value e.g. re-allocating resources or coordinating efforts.

team resilience

You impose routine and order in crises

People take comfort from routine tasks. There can be routine tasks that are valuable and instil a sense of order and direction in the midst of chaos. However, they should not be allowed to confuse ‘activity with achievement’ and escape the seriousness of the situation.

You maintain presence and attention control

A leader has to remain present and actively in control when a crisis occurs. Checking themselves against rumination, escapism and learned helplessness and remaining acutely and situationally aware.

You help people understand the difference between stress and pressure

Stress stems mainly from our responses to adversity rather than the adversity itself. The difference between pressure and stress is that stress is what people do with the pressure in their minds. Often, through a process of rumination, where we attach negative emotions to what has happened or could happen.

You help your team conquer ‘human factors’ that undermine performance

This is again the leader as educator and coach. ‘Human Factors’ can be described as a collection of mostly unhelpful habits and unconscious cognitive flaws that come with being a human being. By creating awareness through coaching and educating, leaders develop the team’s defences against these Human Factors

You give meaning to negative events

This can be difficult but extremely powerful if a leader is able to instil the mentality into his team. No matter the size of the crisis it is important to find something positive in the situation, in order to boost morale. This may be a lesson learned that the team can carry forward into their future work.

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog! If you have any questions feel free to contact us.
Check back in next Tuesday for more tips on improving team performance.

Written by
Gerry De Vries

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Our diverse team are all drawn from performance backgrounds. None are professional trainers, all are practitioners in their chosen field.

They bring the lessons from a wide variety of professional arenas to your project. All have a track record of performing in high profile and challenging situations. 

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