We are going to constantly need the ability to practice resilience for quite some time. Change is a constant and trying to manage the roller-coaster effects of change is tiring.
Over the past three years, we have been researching the characteristics of resiliency and we have been able to focus on four behaviors or skills that can aid in creating a resilient team.
First and foremost, resilience is not something you are born with, it is a characteristic you can develop. Secondly, you already possess the four needed skills. It comes down to how you use them together.
I’m not going to bore you with the lecture notes of this post, I’m going to give you the four skills upfront and here they are.
4 Skills used to build resilience
- Find a purpose – When faced with a challenge try to focus on the things you can control and proceed with purpose. Make a plan and stick to it.
- Build connections – Prioritize healthy relationships within your team. Build a social support network to assist each other and develop your social awareness. Be alert to the needs of the team and have a dialogue about them.
- Embrace healthy thought patterns – Work to maintain proper perspective (things you control). Practice realistic optimism (I’ve heard this expressed as practicing courage) even when the outlook might be challenging. Your staff looks to you to be their navigator through rough waters. View change as an opportunity for growth and in the process embrace humor, a good laugh is very healthy, as long as you are not using humor at someone else’s expense. Tell a good clean dad or mom joke or pun, or better yet, be able to laugh at yourself, that keeps everyone out of trouble and helps others to see you as your authentic self.
- Foster Wellness – Take care of your mental and physical health. Practice well-being for you and your staff.
I’m going to start with number four. A post I wrote titled, It’s what you’re not telling your staff that makes them run away screaming, deals with the issue of establishing weekend well-being. One of the worst things you can do to your team is to leave them wondering what they don’t know, especially on a Friday.
At some point in our careers, we work(ed) for an organization that thinks the best way to communicate is to tell staff only what they need to know. Wrong. When you do that you leave them to fill in the blanks and write their own horror story over the weekend creating a manic Monday. This is not well-being on any planet and it’s weak leadership.
People would rather know the truth or the reality to mentally prepare for a challenge or change. Believe it or not, this is much better to tell reality than letting them create their own scenario and dealing with raging personal or team anxiety. Allowing your staff to write their own weekend horror story for Monday is not healthy, for any of you.
Number 1 has always been the prime directive of working through change or conflict, focusing on the things you can control and proceeding with purpose.
One exercise I would do with teams when they get stuck is to do what I call a toxic dump. On a whiteboard, I would write a synopsis of the problem, challenge, or change issue to keep everyone focused on the real challenge and minimize the rabbit holes.
Then I would ask everyone to tell me what the issues are and I would write them on the board. We then looked at the list, issue by issue, and determined what we had no control over and erased that issue.
The first time I tried this, I was a member of a team that was suffering from poor performance. We got together in a conference room with our manager present, concessions were made to ensure there were no repercussions for anything anyone said, and listed out everything that we didn’t like about the job, the processes, and our manager.
We wrote down 32 line items. We then erased every item we had no control over, which left five items that we had control over. I had a plan, it was titled, cleaning up my own yard. I focused on improving the five items for myself, which were actually behaviors. Almost everyone on the team started to do the same thing and several months down the road we were making improvements in performance both individually and as a team.
That’s because we focused only on the issues we had control over and let the other issues go for now.
If you try a toxic dump, you might be surprised at how much time, effort, and energy we waste trying to control things we have no control over. By the way, this also helps to reduce the anxiety on the team which can support number 4.
Numbers 2 and 3
If you get really good at numbers 1 and 4, numbers 2 and 3 can become a natural by-product of your efforts. Having honest, open, transparent conversations with your staff helps them to build trust with you and helps to create healthy relationships on the team. Team members realize that everyone is in the same boat. There are different storms we get caught in but people begin to understand the idea of safety in numbers. We may experience challenges differently because of our unique perspectives, but the challenge is there, never less.
We possess these four skills, individually they are important characteristics of leadership, used together they become powerful allies to help establish and practice resilience.
Exercise | Deliberate practice
When faced with a challenge, change initiative, or conflict, make a list of all the items or issues that are influencing the attitude or behaviors of individuals or teams. Then erase or move those issues you have no control over to a parking lot for future reference.
Start with practicing this with yourself first. Look at a challenge and see if you can reduce the number of issues and then link all four resilience skills together when facing or approaching a challenge, crisis, or some other issue. When you get good at doing this for yourself, it will be easier to lead your team through the practice.
Even though you may not have any control over certain items, someone else will. Don’t ignore them altogether, just be aware of the challenges you don’t have control over so you don’t constantly revisit or spend valuable resources on them.
Practice all four skills as a bundle. When a challenge emerges you and your team can discuss what the best approach as a team would be to manage the looming issue or challenge. Start with having a transparent conversation and look at what you have control over. Discuss how your team can practice well-being as you address the challenge. Ask them how they can support each other and keep a positive outlook. Make sure you check in with the team from time to time to assess the team’s well-being. You do this as a team and the team takes ownership of the approach you decide to practice together. This will help in sustaining a plan over time.
Deliberately practice open, healthy, and transparent dialogue with your staff and team. It is better that people know what’s going on than to let them create their own scenario which in many cases is worse than reality.
Deliberately practice active listening. Master this skill because the ability to ask questions and listen to people helps to develop strong relationships, empathy, and trust with you and your staff or teams.
Building residence teams is the same as building muscle. The more you do it, the stronger you and your team will become.
Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. What you have is today and this is the best time to begin anything.