I recently wrote an article on my Psychology Today blog about individual resilience, especially during these very unpredictable times. I explained how to improve your ability to recover by building connections and staying hopeful, among other things. But how do organisations and teams build resilience? Much of the unpredictability we are facing on an individual level is reflected (even magnified) at a corporate level. Inflation and supply chain issues have made the cost of doing business (literally) skyrocket. The Great Resignation has brought new challenges to employee hiring and retention, and the lingering effects of the pandemic and ongoing war in Ukraine remain.
Resilience within organisations is more important than ever. Here are ways to improve it:
Verbalise your views. One of the ways to become more resilient is to eliminate the surprises that you can. That includes unknown or unexpected differences in opinions on what is happening in the larger context. In other words, as a team, you should share your views not only on topics immediately relevant to your business goals and industry, but on the macro environment. This may feel uncomfortable for those who try to draw a bright line between personal (or political) beliefs and professional insights. But the reality is that organisations must see the whole picture these days, not just their immediate landscape. This year, the focus has largely been on organisations doing business with Russia. And I imagine many internal conversations within those companies revealed different views that had to be reconciled on a very short timeframe, putting additional pressure on an already complex decision. While it’s nearly impossible to predict how an external crisis will affect a particular business, as a team, you can recover more quickly when you can anticipate each other’s perspectives.
Mix it up. We are a globalised economy and the last few years have illuminated our interdependencies like nothing before. One of the ways to improve resilience within organisations is to have a team that has a diversity of strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to balance your team with those who have experience, and those who can bring fresh perspective. Understand who is a strong communicator and who has a particularly adept analytical mind. (I’m not suggesting these things cannot co-exist!) Accept that the future will continue to be uncertain for some time and the best way to accommodate any eventuality is to have a well-built team that supplies every possible tool. There is extensive research that diverse teams are better teams (in the context of representation), and that is critical in a new world order where a team that can respond to a variety of perspectives, cultures and identities will rebound better.
Health is wealth. Self-care may have once been the purview of gurus and spa brochures but the stressors of a global pandemic, rising inflation and falling markets have taken their toll. If you’re not fatigued, you’re not paying attention. Teams are only as strong as their weakest member. Make sure that your team members take care of themselves, and each other. Support efforts by individuals to indulge in healthy practices, whether it is better diet and exercise or working from home when necessary. This isn’t about being kind; it is in the interest of organisations to build teams that are healthy and strong enough to keep adapting and recovering from the setbacks and uncertainties of a global landscape that keeps shifting.
Work on weaknesses. Team leaders should take a hard look at any underlying team issues. Now. If certain people are not performing at the level they ought to be, address it as soon as possible. You cannot recover from the latest crisis at the pace you need to if certain contributors are unable to meet team goals. Resilience within organisations means that traditional skills like technical capabilities must be complemented with soft skills like communication and empathy. If the world gets any more complicated it will simply put even more pressure on those weaknesses. Make hard decisions before you have to do it in a difficult context. Replace a team member, add new talent, do whatever you need to in order to strengthen or repair what is missing in your team.
Resilience within organisations is a strong antidote to uncertain times.
The questions facing leaders right now are not only daunting and new, but they are also difficult to anticipate. How to plan during an ever-changing landscape? How to recover and rebuild when a key team member leaves? How to respond to new market challenges? Resilience might be second only to communication as a key skill set for organisations in 2022. Planning and preparation is difficult when you don’t know what you are preparing for. But you can build a team that can recover from . . . whatever is next.
In terms of my background and expertise, I have spent my entire career working as a trusted advisor to senior leaders wanting to improve the effectiveness of themselves, their teams and their companies. Prior to starting my own consulting firm, I led the global executive assessment and development team for Cisco. Earlier in my career I held leadership roles with RHR International, PepsiCo, Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School and the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.