Being curious to get more clarity on what a resilient team looks like I asked a number of my colleagues who regularly facilitate team development and coach teams this question and here is what they answered.

They focus on what really matters
A resilient team mobilizes the right expertise at the right time. “Team members do not do or perform for the sake of showing others that they work but focus on what really matters” says Buyçe Tarhan. This means that they will tend to put in place the infrastructure, operation, and way of behaving that facilitates the outcomes that matter. Resilient teams focus on the job in hand, putting aside ego or anything else that will get in the way of doing what they need to do. They have a healthy workload and well defined processes and infrastructure.

Explore scenarios realistically
“They future scan and scenario plan” says Andrew Mackichan. They gather and share data and perceptions of the potential future developments and they plan for alternative likely scenarios.
“They are not hiding but look and talk about the reality of the situation, working on all scenarios (including worst case scenario) and strategies to go through the transition” says Ludmila Kostandova.

Manage team cohesion and purpose
“Resilient teams have clear purpose they believe in (not just the goal but something bigger)” says Andrey Krukov. The whole team has a clear mission and believes that what they have to do is important. If they believe in what they are doing, they will make it happen, even if things get difficult. “In fact sometimes challenges are a helpful way to cut through the extraneous details or the political niceties and just focus on what needs to be done” says Paula Cook. She goes on “interestingly, I think our ORPI model fits nicely here. It is really just a matter of asking “Are we clear on what needs to do be done? Do we know who is doing what? And do we have a process for making it happen in the most efficient way?”“

Team members share values and often are a tight-knit group of people who love to spend time together. “They spend time building trust (activities that are relationship oriented and not only task oriented) and solidarity” says Fabiola Ortiz. This development of the interpersonal relationships makes sure that the job gets done in an environment of trust and mutual support.

Maintain psychological safety
Maturity, care and psychological safety are important. Team members are capable of holding the emotional space for those who “lose it" at a moment, and offer a caring help, helping the person to reconnect to his/her own inner resources and resilience. They actively maintain the psychological safety. Culture and behaviours that advocate empathy, connection and communication are maintained.

A resilient team has an open communication based on authenticity. There is not any hidden information, data or agendas. “Working online actually increases the chance for transparency, as, when used correctly, it can increase communication efficiency” says Andrew.

Recovery skills and learning
Resilient teams take losses as opportunities to improve and not as failures. So while they hate to lose, instead of blaming each other or themselves they learn from it. They are quick to learn/unlearn and do/redo

They do not blame others but they take accountability. Saying sorry does not make them weak or lead to punishment but is rewarded as it is seen as the act of an accountable adult. They highlight and alert each other to mistakes/risks/potential danger and do not cover it up.

They cultivate a learning mindset: what can we learn about our mistakes ? They create a reflective space for team-regulation, moments where the team reflects on how it functions, on learning from challenges, difficulties, and interpersonal conflicts. This creates self-improvement and psychological safety and not witch hunts when something goes wrong.

Optimistic and internally driven
Resilient teams have high optimism and team members fuel each other with an optimism that everything is possible. Their slogan might be the one of Adidas – “Impossible is Nothing”. They get satisfaction out of their achievements not through the approval or reward of an authority but by the satisfaction of achieving and achieving together. Hence they are engaged and committed.

The leader is enabling
The team leader is there to facilitate the culture and as an advocate of that trusting culture that enables the team to operate and perform.  The leader is a humble servant and a part of the glue that holds the team together. The leader provides the role model and example by being authentic, allowing him/herself to show vulnerability and creating psychological safety in the team.

They create meaning
“Resilient teams are capable of creating meaning for themselves and for the employees in the wider organization, reframing and shifting the focus from what is lost, to what is possible” says Ludmila.

Resilience in action
Fabiola shared a personal experience of a team she led while in corporate life. The IT Department of her company at the time had a major accident that ended up erasing four years of accounts records with back-ups that were not usable. The reaction of the Accountancy Department was amazing. They came only with creative proposals to deal with the situation. No time was wasted on finding a “scape-goat” for some mistakes that were certainly the responsibility of the department. Instead they listed the faults and the lessons learned for the future. These lessons learned allowed changes to be made to some of the operational processes.

In order to address the enormous task of the reconstitution of the missing accounts, they came up with a team plan for approval. “I have to say that I was really impressed and that our team faced this event in a very resilient way, capitalizing as well to produce a better future for the company. This ordeal did not affect the solidarity in our team, on the contrary, our team came out of this stronger than ever” says Fabiola.

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.