Why teams and leaders need a different approach to resilience

Resilience is part of the framework for modern organisations – drawing on an increased awareness of the importance of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Resilience has come to be known as a pull together of many different strands, including general wellbeing, ability to cope with change, and helping people identify what it is they need to do to maintain their mental health or to ‘bounce back’ after a difficult spell.

Individual resilience is like a muscle that can be flexed and strengthened. Taking an individual approach to building one’s resilience can be straight-forward – once there is awareness of one’s own resilience levels and what needs to be done to strengthen that muscle.

Dealing with team resilience, however, is a whole different ball-game. Complex dynamics, organisational agendas, and varying degrees of leadership skill can alter the environment, so no matter how resilient individuals are, if team or leader resilience isn’t in place – all teams will struggle to achieve their potential.

For leaders, most approaches take individual resilience and scale it up for a leader, in a kind of ‘resilient behaviour role-modelling’ approach. This doesn’t get to the essence of leadership however.  it’s not enough to model individual resilience – the responsibility is there to ensure the whole team is resilient, and they have what they need to achieve that – bringing different considerations into play.

For example:

  • Things that the individual may do to improve their own resilience could buffer against the team’s success. (i.e. they may seek to keep space between them and a colleague who “presses their buttons” and therefore make it harder to collaborate)
  • The leader can get in way of teams’ resilience if they are modelling individual resilience but not promoting team resilience.
  • To achieve systemic resilience, interventions need to be made on a number of different levels, thinking strategically not just tactically.
  • A forward-looking aspect is needed to ensure that the team that is resilient now remains that way when other factors change.

The Resilience at Work (R@W) framework developed by Dr Kathryn McEwen goes deeper than other models on resilience by explicitly drawing out this distinction between personal, team and leader resilience. The team questionnaire, when completed by a whole team, maps across team values, goals, ability to adapt and change and overall robustness. This, along with a well-facilitated feedback session, can help a team develop its own self-awareness of team resilience in a much more holistic way than a focus on personal resilience.

The leader framework includes aspects that relate to the leader’s ability to create the right environment for teams to develop and maintain resilience, and can help a leader to:

  • Manage themselves and their resources to ensure that they are resilient and ‘managing their stuff’
  • Coach and lead the people in their teams to be able to manage their own resources and resilience
  • Teach the team how to support each other, bounce back and move forward as a unit.
  • Ensure that the systems in place do support the team’s resilience and ability get things done / prepare for the future

The R@W tools, for individuals and leaders,  when used together, can help provide a holistic approach to resilience that is sadly missed by many looking to build in resilience across their business.

For information on the R@W framework and how it can be used in your organisation contact us!


Click here to sign up for our blog mailing list, and get our next blog sent straight to your inbox!