Have you ever contemplated team resilience … How do you create supportive teams that thrive and that foster, rather than compromise, the resilience of individual members?
Much of the literature around resilience focuses on the individual and overlooks that we operate within a system. Unless there is alignment between group norms and practices and what each person needs to maintain their resilience, the best actions of the individual can potentially be negated and even decimated.
What we know is that team resilience is not the sum of the resilience of the individual members1, it is a construct on its own. It can be measured and improved to enhance the experience of team members and the team’s results.
Let’s define team resilience so that it’s clear what we’re talking about:
“Team resilience is the collective capacity to perform optimally while maintaining wellbeing, adapting to change and setback and positioning for sustainable success in challenging work.” – Kathryn McEwen, Working with Resilience
As teams regroup coming out of the pandemic, or confirm different models of working together in the new world of work, it is timely, even necessary, to take stock of team resilience.
The evidence-based R@W Teamwork model (refer image below) can assist your teams to understand the available levers for improving team resilience.
I’ll now expand upon the domains as this will allow you to use them as a foundation for assessing and improving team resilience.
T1 – Robust: Having shared purpose, meaning and goals. Being adaptable to change and proactive when issues arise for the team.
T2 – Resourceful: Harnessing team member strengths and resources and building a culture of continuous improvement. Developing effective team processes that enable a clear focus on priorities.
T3 – Perseverance: Persisting in the face of obstacles and having a solution, rather than a problem focus.
T4 – Self-Care: Promoting and deploying good stress management routines and being alert to signs of overload in members. Supporting life-work balance.
T5 – Capability: Continually building capacity through accessing networks and supports. Seeking feedback and building on what works well.
T6 – Connected: Being co-operative and supportive with each other.
T7 – Alignment: Aligning to create the desired outcomes. Being optimistic, noticing progress and celebrating success.
Three steps to improving team resilience
Using the R@W Team model you can develop a plan to improve resilience with a few easy steps:
As a group create a list of what the that the team currently does well. What are the team’s strengths? An example might be that the group celebrates the completion of a project, or in the current environment, perhaps it’s a matter of celebrating the project milestones. Maybe you have a valuable process for debriefing after a challenging client or day.
Strengths are a great starting point because they make us more conscious of what we want to keep doing and some may be transferable to opportunity domains.
Once you’ve generated your list create a two column table – one for the activity and the other headed up “R@W Team Component”. Next map the activities to the R@W Team domains, eg. Celebrates project milestones – R@W Team T7.
Are all the domains represented? Are some much stronger than others?
The next step is to assess how well the team invests in each of the domains, with 0 being not at all and 6 being always. Create a three column table headed: The R@W Team component / Rating 0-6 / Rationale for the rating.
This activity can be undertaken together for the team, or initially individually as an input to creating an agreed rating for the team.
Now you should have a real sense of the team’s strengths and opportunities.
Identify actions that the team can take to invest in each of the domains. For some components this might be reinforcing what is already in place, whilst others may need real attention to get back into balance.
Once this is complete prioritise the actions and choose up to three to focus on as a starting point. When these are in place, you can identify the next actions to focus on.
The very process of engaging in these discussions can support the team to understand each other better, build team harmony and improve team resilience.
If you would like to go deeper into the process self-directed, I can strongly recommend the book “Building Team Resilience” by Kathryn McEwen.
Contact Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or to discuss how to build resilience in your teams.
1McEwen, K. (2017) Building Team Resilience. 2nd Edition. Mindset Publications.
Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience and founder of Mentally Wellthy. An accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor, and Resilience at Work Facilitator, Donna has a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her upcoming workshops here.