How to Cope in Uncertain Times by Building Resilient Teams

As the business cycle turns, with news of layoffs, restructurings, and all-hands-on-deck strategy shifts dominating headlines, it’s clear that financial turbulence is a reality for businesses across industries. And while seasoned leaders may find these developments energizing, for teams and their leaders, they can be challenging to navigate.

To emerge stronger from such uncertainty, teams must possess deep reserves of resilience. In a recent article, Bradley L. Kirkman and his co-author outlined four critical resources for team resilience: team confidence, teamwork roadmaps, capacity to improvise, and psychological safety. While these resources are attainable, building them requires diligent planning, capable execution, and a willingness to think outside the box.

Moreover, maintaining these resources demands persistence and flexibility in an evolving business environment. But they are only part of a broader set of capabilities that truly resilient teams exhibit. So how can leaders cultivate these capabilities in their teams?

Entrepreneur suggests many ways to help teams be resilient in financially turbulent times. 

These include developing a team culture that fosters resilience, investing in team building, setting realistic goals, embracing change, practicing self-care, nurturing a growth mindset, cultivating diversity and inclusivity, and preparing for the worst.

Team resilience = competitive advantage 

Leaders who prioritize team resilience can create a competitive advantage for their businesses, particularly in uncertain times. 

While individual resilience is built independently, team resilience must be cultivated carefully and deliberately by leadership. With the right mindset and commitment, any team can become more resilient and better equipped to handle whatever challenges lie ahead.

Leaders should start by assessing their team’s present capacity for resilience by scoring each of the four resources identified in their book: team confidence, teamwork roadmaps, capacity to improvise, and psychological safety. 

Having an open, frank dialogue is essential for a resilient team, both internally and externally. Additionally, leaders should break down internal barriers to understanding, integrate teamwork roadmaps into their strategy and workflows, and identify persistent stressors within their team and organization. 

Also, leaders should incentivize self-improvement to strengthen their team members’ credentials and make them more marketable outside the organization. This process will take time but will lead to a more efficient, productive, and nimble team.

No man is an island

When talking about resiliency, though, it’s crucial to point out here that no man is an island. Resilient teams are just as important to businesses as resilient individuals, but while individual resilience is built independently, team resiliency must be carefully cultivated by leadership.

But how do teams build resiliency? In a survey of almost 2,000 NCAA coaches by the Harvard Business Review, it discovered that resilient teams — different from resilient people — have these things in common:

  • They believe they can effectively complete tasks together. Beyond each individual having confidence in their ability to be successful, team members collectively believe that they can effectively complete tasks.  
  • They share a common mental model of teamwork. This model should accurately reflect what needs to be done and when, while also ensuring that everyone is on the same page about their duties. If the mental model is incomplete in either accuracy or shared understanding, the team may struggle to respond appropriately to adversity. 
  • They are able to improvise. Improvisation involves adapting to changing situations in real-time by creatively reconfiguring existing knowledge. Teams that are resilient understand each other’s skills and expertise, allowing them to draw on the right resources when facing setbacks.
  • They trust one another. Resilient teams have a sense of psychological safety, meaning members feel comfortable taking interpersonal risks and sharing unique ideas without fear of criticism or rejection. This allows for more innovative and creative ideas to be shared within the team. On the other hand, teams without psychological safety may only discuss ideas that are already well-known, limiting their ability to come up with novel solutions. When team members trust and respect each other, they are more likely to speak up and contribute to the team’s success.

How to build resilience

According to expert Rajkumari Neogy, developing individual skills can help teams build resilience, but global mobility specialists often need additional development and support to grow and lead resilient teams. Neogy identified three major areas for them to focus on:

First, the ability to empathize is crucial, even in a hybrid work environment. Neogy believes that empathy can be taught and developed, and managers should spend time developing personal relationships with team members while equipping them with tools to handle difficult situations and conversations.

Second, reducing bias is essential for creating a diverse and inclusive work environment. With the new dynamics of hybrid and remote work, there is a risk of introducing additional forms of discrimination, such as denying development opportunities to employees who work from home. Neogy recommends that managers guard against this bias when building careers and working with their employees.

Third, maintaining a sense of humor can help leaders navigate changes and challenges while helping employees develop the skills to lighten tough conversations. Prioritizing moments of levity and fun in the workplace can help employees navigate difficult times with resilience and joy.

Developing resilient teams with the necessary skills to manage during periods of uncertainty and change can help companies navigate difficult times while maintaining productivity and engagement.