What is resilience?

 In Leadership

Resilience is a word much in use at the moment. We hear it from business leaders, politicians and pundits. Now, all companies are going through shifting states at present, and the future is uncertain, so resilience is critical as organisations change.  Working as a Collective, we’ve helped many teams build resilience over the years. We can demonstrate what resilience is at its core, and show you how to develop it within your teams.

What is resilience? 

Our understanding of the word ‘resilience’ is significantly influenced by our language and cultural background, as Making Change Happen Collective member, psychologist, Katharina Wittgens explains: 

“In English, the word ‘resilience’ is usually attributed to the Latin resilire to mean ‘spring back’. And if we look at the French and Spanish languages, they have similar words which reflect this literal translation. 

However, this is not the case in most other languages. In Arabic, for instance, it means to ‘withstand’; the Chinese translation is to ‘resist disaster’; in Russian, it translates as ‘viability’; and in Japanese, the equivalent word means ‘the state of being tough and supple’.”

Those nuances continue down to work team level. When we talk about resilience with our teams, we must understand how each team member interprets its meaning. Since the words we use to discuss how we cope with change shape how we react towards it. In turn, our reaction will influence how we collectively feel about that change and therefore, how we approach it.  All of this is considerably influenced at the team level. 

How does resilience work in today’s workplace? 

resilience in todays workplace

Teams need resilience as they return to the workplace. They may not be able to ‘spring back’ to their old ways of working, or even their job roles. In this context, your team will need to be supple, able to adapt to new ways of working and possibly new team structures. 

Returning to work and processing the changes over the last half of this year, teams will need to make sense of what has changed, how it impacts them in their jobs, and how they can work together as a unit.  In addition to this, we face many unknowns in when or how a second wave of the pandemic may modify the world of work. Thus it is important to have a bank of resilience ready for future challenges. 

The situation is all the more demanding for leaders and teams as everyone’s Covid experience is different. For example, some of the team may have continued to work through the lockdown, while colleagues are on furlough. Equally, there will be those who have embraced remote and flexible working, while others will have missed office life. 

High levels of resilience give your team the ability to balance the many outcomes of lockdown. 

Resilience is not an island

At Making Change Happen, we see the word ‘resilience’ being used to cover a range of psychological dimensions that work effectively together, helping teams to cope well with change. 

Resilience levels are heavily influenced by the social support that exists between team members. Where the team ties are strong, and trusting relationships exist, resilience will be high, but getting a team to that high point depends on several factors.  Resilience is not an island. To get the most out of your teams’ resilience, they need to have the psychological support of other team-based dimensions.  

Resilience allows your teams to withstand the stress and pressures of adverse situations. With the addition of Psychological Safety, Wellbeing, and Emotional Connect, your teams will be able to thrive. 

It’s the difference between coping and recovering.  Dealt with alone, the hard work in building resilience in the team will soon start to unravel. As Katharina explains, “Building team resilience cannot be a tick box exercise in times like these. Most leaders understand resilience is too crucial to ignore as it quickly shows if a team does not have the resilience it needs.” 

Let’s take a look at some of the other dimensions needed alongside resilience. 

Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is what enables your team members to speak up, to say when something isn’t right and to contribute ideas. The best performing teams have high levels of psychological safety.  They can innovate and come up with new ways of working that best suit the jobs they carry out. 

Research by Amy Edmundson and the teams at Google demonstrate that psychological safety is a determining factor in a high performing team. If you want to find out more about how this can help your team, have a read of our article here and our 12 tips to help you put psychological safety in place here. It’s the factor that has been shown to make the most difference to teams – that ability to speak up and say when something isn’t working, or when you as a team member need help. 

Team Wellbeing

We understand that many organisations do consider the wellbeing of their staff. Having team members who are happy to be part of the company and happy to be part of a strong team make a significant difference in work output. 

You can have the resilience to cope with change, but if your team is unhappy with the outcome of that change, then this can become problematic.  Caring for your team’s wellbeing after this crisis is essential as you will need to balance the feelings of the team, especially if some members have continued to work and others have been furloughed. 

Emotional Connect

Finally, you will want your team to feel emotionally connected to the organisation. You have invested in your team, and as a leader, you need to be confident that they feel part of the company. 

The lockdown has given workers another perspective on their work-life balance. Many have had more time with their families, and they may decide they want a more flexible approach to work.

Likewise, if people have had significant time away from their job roles, there may be a disconnect between them and your organisation. They can feel less connected to the work team as a result of how contact was carried out during the lockdown, and how often that personal contact happened.

Even those still working may find that without the tea room chats or natural office socialising their team connections are weaker. 

Again, focusing on resilience will help people adapt to these changes, but resilience will not maintain an emotional connection, for that we need new narratives. As Sandie Bakowski, founder of MCH and business psychologist, says:

“People live their lives through the stories we all tell, and we need to create new stories around the different world of work. These stories will allow people to find real purpose in what they are doing even if they aren’t physically in the office. How we talk about the workplace will change, and we must help to create the narratives that give space for employees to connect.” 

Nurture resilience 

nurture resilience

A team returning to the workplace in September may be able to cope with the changes, but if they are not connecting, or if they feel they can’t speak up, then they will not be meeting their full potential. And at a time when we need to get the most out of our teams, that will be challenging.

By nurturing resilience with all these dimensions, you will be able to rebuild your teams, making them stronger than before. 

How we can help teams 

How we help teams with resilience

With all the changes that have happened, this can seem overwhelming. 

Here at Making Change Happen, we believe in focusing on the areas that need the most support. We work at understanding your team’s health and how people are feeling at work before you start spending on the ‘doing’. 

Our Team Chemistry tool does just that. It measures each of the four team-dimensions (resilience, psychological safety, wellbeing and emotional connect). It then provides a basis for conversations across the team, about where they are and where they need help. This provides teams with a valuable and much-needed stopping point where they can step back, look at where they currently are and think about how they want to rebuild. The Team Chemistry tool offers the chance to discuss what the team needs to equip it with a culture to cope well in an ever-changing world of work. 

If you are ready to build resilience within your teams, we can help. Head this way to book an informal chat about where you’re team is at right now and what you need.  

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