Are you helping your team develop resilience?

Written by
Mark Winwood

09 Aug 2017

09 Aug 2017 • by Mark Winwood

Resilience isn’t about being seen to act tough or pretending everything’s fine when it’s not. Nor is it about avoiding risk. It’s about being brave and having the inner strength to take stock of a difficult situation, decide what’s needed to tackle it and take decisive action to do so. It’s also about learning from experience, including failure, and recognising and embracing new opportunities as and when they arise.

We recently undertook a survey which found that half of respondents agreed that workplace performance can be adversely affected by a low level of resilience. There's an appetite to be more resilient – nearly two-thirds of respondents (62%) said they felt this way. They also identified general motivation (56%) and ability to respond to change (51%) as the things most likely to be adversely affected by having a low level of resilience. 

While we’re not necessarily born with an ability to deal effectively with life’s setbacks, as with any capability, resilient traits, beliefs and behaviours can be developed and strengthened by making subtle changes to our lives, our relationships and our thinking. Not only can supporting employees to do this help them to survive and even thrive when faced with challenges such as a takeover or re-organisation, it can also help to give them an inner strength and confidence to deal with – and even embrace – the trials and tribulations they may encounter in progressing with their careers.

So where to begin? Creating an open, supportive workplace culture where employees feel safe to talk about their innovative ideas, wellbeing and concerns should go a long way to helping them to be aware of, understand and take positive steps to strengthen and maintain their resilience so that they are flexible and bend rather than break when confronted by adversity. The following five areas are key to success:

Emotional intelligence matters

Being attuned to and able to manage their emotions are important qualities for employees to cultivate for a successful working life. Similarly important is an ability to be able to see both sides of an argument using curiosity and enquiry and be mindful and respectful of the viewpoints and feelings of others.

Demonstrating to employees the benefits of this approach can pay dividends – both for making your organisation a great place to work and for ensuring that, when faced with difficult challenges, your team will be well placed to pull together to overcome them.

Stay energised

Taking a break from the workplace during working hours (for instance, getting out for a lunch-time walk), keeping hydrated and curbing caffeine intake after lunch are small but important steps that can help to improve employees’ alertness and quality of sleep. Encouraging business leaders and managers to model this approach to employees can help boost their confidence and motivation to follow suit. 

Nurture support networks at work

Having a strong collegial network helps employees feel connected and valued. It can be a considerable source of comfort and practical advice when facing awkward or difficult situations. Having a mentor within or outside of your organisation can also help to strengthen problem solving and coaching skills, either as a mentor or mentee.


Promote a flexible perspective

When faced with a challenging situation, encourage employees to step back (mentally and physically) and pause for a moment to get the measure of it. Seeing the bigger picture can help to provide a reassuring sense of proportion and enable employees to concentrate on dealing with the things that they can control. Similarly, framing change as a positive opportunity can help employees to deal with and progress through the ‘change curve’ more effectively.

Prioritise and play to employees strengths

A good way to help employees to grow and develop is to ask them about the tasks they enjoy doing most and seek opportunities to increase and develop them further. It’s an approach that can help to make the most of their talent and ambition both in their current role and their future career. None of us can do everything perfectly so encouraging employees to play to their strengths can help keep them engaged and productive while boosting their self-esteem and confidence – and, in turn, increase their value to your organisation.