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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in resilience

This blog continues the discussion on how to create a resilient team culture that is able to respond positively to the inevitable changes in the internal and external environments that characterise modern workplaces.

In the previous blog we discussed the key elements for leaders to:

1. Demonstrate their leadership by building self awareness and role modelling positive behaviours

2. The importance of communication as a tool to create resilient teams.

Following on from this, the below details the importance of delivering on your promises, ensuring continual development and nurturing of relationships.

DELIVER

10. Navigate the path forward for your team. Work together to identify the key challenges, risks and milestonesahead. 

Break major goals down into manageable steps and manage the risks through analysis, scenario-planning, tracking and other sensible responses. Having a plan, particularly in periods of uncertainty, reduces anxiety that undermines team resilience.  Even where you are part of a larger organisation, as a team leader develop a plan with your team that they can focus on.

11. Help people get back to work, doing what they do best. 

Business continuity is important not just for the organisation and its customers. Routine and familiar tasks can be comforting in times of stress or adversity and help to restore a sense of ‘normality’ and self-confidence within your team.

12. Celebrate the wins when you do deliver.

Even small wins can be beneficial – remind yourself and everyone else in the team to reflect on what has been achieved.  Celebrating successes can increase motivation and remind everyone of their contributions and abilities to perform – even under pressure!

DEVELOP YOURSELF AND YOUR TEAM

13. Be creative in identifying opportunities to develop your own skills and that of your team. 

Encourage mentoring within the team and/or offer ‘stretch’ assignments to team members.  The most resilient teams often have overlapping skills sets which creates capacity and flexibility.  Flexibility in role leads to flexibility in thoughts and approaches which will strengthen your team.

14. Provide opportunities for team members to undertake additional learning and encourage them share it with everyone else. 

It doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming. Look for a return on the investment for the whole group, particularly where they bring new ideas to the team. You might ask some members to do some internet research on a pertinent topic. Other development options can include project work, relieving and formal training.

15. Encourage diversity of thought – it is the key to innovation. 

Cultivate a team culture of sharing new ideas and providing respectful feedback. Encourage members to challenge assumptions that aren’t evidence-based to foster different and creative ways of thinking and doing things.

INVEST IN RELATIONSHIPS

16. Actively nurture internal and external networks, including support networks for the team.

People need time out to feel socially connected in tough times. Celebrate team and individual achievements and other happy occasions through informal get-togethers.

17. Identify opportunity to collaborate with other teams and stakeholders and deliberately construct ‘buy in’opportunities

Cultivate as many positive relationships as you can to build support for your team.  Being able to connect with others is critical and strong and constructive relationships need to be a priority investment.   Building relationships and maintaining the ability to connect with others, particularly during difficult periods will role model positive workplace behaviours that will sustain your teams through both good times and challenging periods!

For more great ideas about how to team build team resilience, please contact us.

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As I’ve travelled around Australia this year, one of the most common questions I’ve been asked by   middle and senior managers (with varying degrees of desperation) is: ‘How can we build more resilient teams?’

It’s a good question and in response here is the first of a 2-part blog specifically focusing on how to build and maintain resilient teams. 

This year I have worked with organisations that have undergone significant organisational change processes, economic downturns, leadership changes, major IT implementations and even rapid expansion. 

Each factor has had a significant impact on the workplace and has put teams under pressure.

Undoubtedly, teams with low resilience can cost organisations many thousands of dollars in lost revenue through missed opportunities, more frequent and serious errors, increased sick leave and greater staff turnover.  

Sometimes poor team resilience causes internal divisions and personal resentments that go on for weeks, months or even years. Not surprisingly, the quality, creativity and timeliness of the team’s output suffers and the negative cycle continues in a downward spiral.

So what can you do to create or strengthen team resilience?

Here’s some practical ideas that can help:

LEAD

1. Start with your own resilience.  

Be self-aware of your own level of resilience. Understand your triggers and proactively monitor how well your own strategies are working. Identify and develop positive habits that will support you during challenging periods.

2. Role-model the positive behaviours you want to see in others.  

You set the standard of behaviour for your team, so demonstrate your ability to keep your own emotional responses to challenges under control at work. Use positive communication and demonstrate problem solving techniques that are optimistic and constructive. Role model flexibility and agility in decision making and show pride and accountability in your work. Don’t just talk about it. Do it. Show you team that you don’t just bounce back – you bounce forward!

3. Encourage flexibility and autonomy wherever possibleso your team members feel moreempowered.  

Times of change can make people feel like they have lost control over their future,so devolve decision-making wherever you can*. Show your team that you trust them, have faith in their abilities and want them to be resourceful so they can grow and succeed. Encourage team and individual problem-solving to enhance their self-confidence, accountability and job satisfaction.

4. Recognise and reward people who experiment and show initiative.  

If a team member tries something new and fails, be supportive. Ask them what they learned from the experience and what they’d do differently next time. Don’t underestimate the power of these opportunities to build trust.

COMMUNICATE

5. Help your team members adapt to change, by actively listening.

Engage in honest and open discussion with team members, individually and as a group. Invest time really listening to your team during tough times. Focus on your verbal and non verbal communication.

6. Use positive language and humour (where appropriate) to build team cohesion. Discourage negative language, snap judgements and black-and-whitethinking patterns.  

Challenge undermining behaviours such as defensiveness, gossip, eye-rolling or finger-pointing.  Develop the confidence to have those difficult conversations with team members who undermine individual or team resilience.  Ignoring or turning a blind eye to destructive communication habits is very dangerous!  

7. Meet with your team often.  

Be visible and present! Team members need and want to hear from their leader when they are facing uncertainty or adversity. Clarify roles, priorities and goals of the team. In times of significant organisational change or upheaval, calmly share whatever new and relevant information you can, as soon as you can. Ditch the management-speak. There’s no need to  ‘drill down’, ‘climb the strategic staircase’ or ‘cascade relevant information’ – just talk in plain English.  

8. Deal with issues as they arise.

Resilient teams work collaboratively and are characterised by mutual trust and support. They are not afraid to admit weaknesses and mistakes and ask for help when they need it. Encourage team members to talk through any current or emerging issues before they start to catastrophise and snowball matters to impossible levels.

9. Acknowledge even the small achievements of team members and look for opportunities to acknowledge progress. 

Remember to say ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’. Everyone needs to feel valued and that their work has meaning and purpose, no matter how junior their role or seemingly mundane their task. Remind all team members, individually and together, how their work helps the organisation, community and/or customers.

* Research undertaken by Blessing and White and published in A Study of Voluntary Effort in the Work Force (1996) found that old-fashioned ‘command and control’ work environments don’t encourage people to think for themselves and create ‘learned helplessness’ in staff.  Ten years later, another study of 320 small businesses conducted by researchers at Cornell University found that businesses that gave their staff autonomy grew four times faster than those that didn’t. Source: http://www.workingatmcmaster.ca/med/document/facilitating-resilience-in-the-workplace-1-37.pdf

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Some workplace roles involve managing potentially or actual heightened or volatile situations on a regular basis. 

Circumstances can arise when behaviours extend past ‘difficult’ and into challenging conduct which requires more sophisticated skill sets in order to positively respond and manage. Unfortunately, managing situations that involve elevated emotions and potential physical harm in workplaces is increasing.

Challenging behaviour can be described as ‘those behaviours that threaten the quality of life and/or physical safety of an individual or others’.* It sometimes exists on a continuum and may include one or more of the following:

  • open or passive aggression
  • physical or emotional harassment (e.g. verbal abuse or threats, bullying, racism, stalking)
  • refusing to co-operate with authority figures
  • refusing to comply with organisational codes of conduct, policies and procedures
  • theft or property damage.
  • self-harm, including alcohol or drug abuse

* Source

So how do you cope with these types of behaviours, reduce potential harm and restore calm in the workplace?

The key is in developing the skills to respond rather than react.

This is much harder than you might think because like all animals, humans are hard-wired to react in either a ‘fight or flight’ mode in threatening situations. Overriding our instinctive reactions takes skill, practice and commitment. 

Here are our top ‘DOs’ and ‘DON’Ts’ for de-escalating heightened situations in the workplace:

1.  DO stay calm so you can think rationally and use your professional judgement to assess the risks.

2.  DO focus on your communication skills. Use a calm, neutral tone of voice and be very conscious of your language so as not to inflame the situation.

3.  DO listen respectfully to the person. Ask open-ended questions to identify the issues and reply using ‘reflective listening’ skills to show that you are paying attention. Allow the person ‘vent’ and don’t interrupt them.

4.  DO be clear, concise and unemotional about what you are seeking from them. Using simple language, outline the impact of their behaviour(s) on others and the workplace as a whole.  Calmly explain the boundaries for behaviour and the consequences of non-compliance in terms of simple choices.

5.  DON’T be afraid of silences in the conversation. They may feel long and awkward to you but they are giving the other person breathing space and time to think about what you’ve said, reflect on their current situation and make decisions about what they do next.

6.  DO focus on your non-verbal communication skills. These are the most critical skills in a heightened situation – be very conscious of the signals you may be (inadvertently) sending.  In particular, using some eye contact (if culturally appropriate) to communicate during heated situations is vital.

7.  DON’T ever turn your back on someone behaving erratically or aggressively. If possible, try to put some kind of physical barrier (e.g. a desk or chair) between you and the other person.

8.  DO stand at a slight angle away from the other person, rather than facing them head-on which could be construed as confrontational.  

9.  DON’T respond to challenging questions or personal provocations. If the person questions your authority, redirect the conversation to the issue at hand.  

10.  DO respond immediately if you feel physically threatened. Use an open-handed pushback with your hand out at shoulder level in front of you.  Include clear verbal instructions, e.g. ‘Stop! Get back!’

11.  DON’T be a hero and physically intervene unless it is completely unavoidable.

12.  DO de-brief with others involved after the event. It may help you to deal with the stress of what happened, get a better understanding of how the situation unfolded and plan more effectively for the future.

For more information on options to develop skills in managing challenging behaviours for yourself or your teams, please contact us.

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PSW HR Solutions have been working with several clients recently who are seeking to enhance the resilience of their teams. 

Significant and sustained organisational changes, negative media attention for an organisation and leadership changes have resulted in the resilience of team members being tested. 

People are worn down by the moving goal posts, ever challenging targets and uncertainty about their role and even their long-term future in tough economic environments. 

Workgroups with low resilience are often evidenced by the following HR challenges;

  • conflict in the workplace
  • low morale
  • staff turnover and absenteeism
  • low innovation and productivity

The good news is that people can always improve their capacity for resilience at any time in their life! 

Further, successfully leading your teams through challenging periods is actually an opportunity to build a culture of resilience and can strengthen the team – if it is managed well.

So how can we get our teams to move from the victim/blaming reaction to the learning/coping reaction?

Here are some strategies to help you create a resilient work culture

Evaluate Workload

Across public sector and private sector people are being asked to do more with less and it is critical to clearly discuss and clarify organisational expectations and priorities. You also need to ensure you carefully and objectively assess a healthy level of pressure versus unmanageable work demands. 

Many people thrive in challenging work environments but where this balance is out people quickly feel anxious and defeated. The key is open communication with your teams regularly about their workload.  Leverage the opportunities offered through the structured performance discussions processes.

Empower your people

Where people feel they have little control to influence decisions or events, particularly where they affect us directly, we become very stressed. We often do not know all the facts and that adds to the pressure. 

Where reasonable involve your teams in decision making at all levels, consult wherever possible to solve problems and offer a variety of ways for teams to provide feedback. 

Keeping people informed about decisions and providing opportunities to contribute builds engagement and creates a resilient culture.

Resource your teams

People managers have an important role in ensuring teams have adequate resources, training and technology to do the work required. It is vital to make a conscious effort to fix niggling problems quickly as they amplify our frustration in pressured environments.  Save the stress for the big-ticket items, not annoying technical or process problems!

Prioritise expenditure on creating improvements that enable people to meet their goals as easily as possible.  Focus on continually developing skills in your team and consider ways they can grow their capability with incremental challenges. Growth builds confidence which underpins resilience.

Create positive work relationships

People’s relationships with their colleagues and their managers can often define how they feel about work. Lack of support, aggressive and/or disengaged management styles will quickly demoralise the team.

To counteract this, build in routine  practices that actively create positive relationships within the team as part, for example open communication processes.  Communicate appropriate workplace conduct and ensure the standards around positive behaviours are maintained. You should also monitor your own leadership style when under pressure and reflect on whether you need to adapt your style to meet the current circumstances.

Create positive strategies to support change

Change is an inevitable part of our lives yet it is constantly recorded as one of the major triggers for stress. It is helpful for your teams if you acknowledge how stressful and challenging it can be. You can then build engagement in the process by celebrating even small wins along the way where you can. 

In addition, regular updates on progress are critical to keep teams energised. You can also role model positivity about the changes and consciously use positive language. This serves to encourage people to shift their thinking from focusing on what is lacking or going wrong towards what is working well and how they can build on it to create new opportunities.

For more information on options to develop a resilience culture in your organisation, please get in touch.

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