How resilient is your leadership team?

What does it mean?
There has been much researched and written about individual resilience. It is a subject that has received a lot of attention and there are many good approaches available for individuals to tap into and boost their personal resilience. You can read here how we approach helping individuals to do so.

The subject of team resilience is less well researched and developed. It is particularly important now as leadership teams have had to adjust to significant disruption of their business and in many cases their own way of working. It will continue to be important going forward.

What is team resilience?
A useful way of answering this question is to review “ are we maintaining and developing our viability?” says Andrew Mackichan, consultant and team coach. Viability has two dimensions. Firstly, are we equipped to deliver the role and tasks expected of us by our key stakeholders both now and going forward in an increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. Have we thought through what it means for our effectiveness in delivering the business or task dimension. Secondly, are we equipped as a team with solid interpersonal working that provides psychological safety while enabling robust conversations and adaptability to challenging business and organizational developments. The impact of covid 19 has brought the nature, immediacy and disruption of these developments into sharp relief. This can be labelled the behavioural dimension of the team. This can often be invisible to team members. However it does impact the team effectiveness and the results the team produces.

Where should we start?
A good starting point is setting specific time aside to “reflect on how we have done”. This is always valuable for any team but is particularly valuable when navigating a real, direct, immediate VUCA situation.

This reflection should start with the performance or business dimension. What outcomes have we produced? How well are we doing? How are we positioned going forward? An extra element coming into this reflection now is do we have to significantly rethink our business as a result of the market and economic developments? For many senior teams this may be challenging but as it is based on information and facts it is easier to visualize and discuss.

The reflection also needs to encompass how well, as a team of people, our way of relating and interacting (the behavoural dimension) enables us to do what needs doing. Do team members have psychological safety in the team? Do we have team care – protecting and supporting one another?  How flexible and adaptable are we as a team to mental and emotional pressures confronting us now and potentially emerging going forward? 

Why is the behavioural dimension particularly important now?
We have all been disrupted and thrown into a situation with potential to produce trauma. There is the likelihood that we will need to cope with people returning to social distanced face to face work with emotional issues to manage. People suffering from fatigue, frustration, anxiety, disappointment, etc. have underlying emotional issues and might be more volatile as a result. This we will need to support and coach. As leaders we now need to be prepared for this in our colleagues as well as in our direct reports. Everybody has been through an unexpected and difficult set of circumstances. We need “to provide the opportunity for people to verbalize” their feelings says Ludmila Egorova individual and team coach. Leaders need to be prepared to support acute breakdowns in others with diplomacy and a careful touch.   

Re-establishing relationships is important at key transition points. It is important to show appreciation for people who have supported us both inside and outside the team. It is also important to show appreciation for people who have continued to deliver in difficult circumstances.

What will help the team in this process of resilience building?
It will be valuable to analyse our way of working and determine what is missing. Here is a simple model that will help in this process. It consists of a number of steps and forms a repetitive pattern as it spirals upwards with increasing levels of understanding and complexity.

1. Structuring or Contracting. What makes us a team? What are the boundaries, authority, roles and tasks? This is very much setting our team norms, making them explicit and bringing a feeling of control.
2. Connecting. Building the relationships, creating connection and creating the space for safety to share emotions, fears and anxieties.
3. Exploring. What is possible? What can we achieve? What should we aim for?
4. Transforming. Establishing our sense of identity as a team. With this connecting with our stakeholders and developing a further understanding of their expectations. This brings us back to structuring and contracting especially where something significant has changed in those expectations. And we repeat the process through a new and more informed iteration.

The critical question this process is answering is “what can we achieve together that only we can do?” This is the essence of viability.

What can the PPI Network provide?
This process will benefit and produce better outcomes when supported by expert facilitation and team coaching. We accompany the team through a clearly bounded process providing inputs and coaching as needed. The process usually involves a series of workshops to collectively explore issues given the unique context of the team with the potential to act and review. In parallel individual coaching is also usually beneficial to support team members working on their individual behaviour and contribution.

Team Resilience

About the Author

Gerry Buckley

Gerry Buckley

Gerry Buckley is a Managing Partner of Performance Plus International (PPI) and a founding member of the PPI Network. He has a depth of experience in management development and training built up over many years, initially in Ireland, then in Africa and for the last 25 years in Europe based in Belgium.