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Strength in numbers

Rachel Houghton, Managing Director, Business Moves Group on how training, development and leadership can help build a resilient team

Resilience is a term that can get thrown around to the point we forget what it truly means. It is in fact ‘an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change’. If there’s one positive to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that we’ve all seen resilience like never before. As a business leader, the resilience that I have witnessed among my team is nothing short of astonishing.

Of course, there have been tough days. But if one team member is having a difficult time, there are numerous others ready to step up and help, whether that’s by taking on extra work or taking the time to have a conversation.

Resilience isn’t something that just happens – it takes time and is underpinned by a handful of core attributes. From my experience, the four essentials are trust, bravery, loyalty and communication.

Resilience through leadership
Building a resilient team requires likeminded leadership. Business leaders have encountered the ultimate test of leadership in recent months and have been faced with extremely difficult decisions. The key challenge for many has been deciding where the balance lies between protecting the business and the employees. At times it can feel impossible to do both, as payroll is the biggest cost for knowledge-based businesses.

The Government furlough scheme has helped but not enough to dispel the anxiety and uncertainty that comes with what is essentially a stop-gap measure. Resilience among furloughed staff is just as important for those still working and leaders have a duty to ensure that they instil it across their teams.

At the outset of the lockdown I worked tirelessly with my senior management team to devise a strategy that would keep the business running. This was made all the more complicated by there being so many unknown factors.

We developed a plan that I felt confident with but I wanted every one of my colleagues to know that their input mattered. So, instead of telling people what our strategy was, I reached out to everyone within the organisation to explain our plans and asked if they supported the change – this was even before the Government had announced the furlough scheme.

The feedback was positive across the board. Everyone was supportive and offered to do what it took to ensure that the business could survive the pandemic. The value of involving employees in decisions so crucial to the future of the company cannot be understated and has certainly played a huge role in the amazing resilience that I’ve seen.

Engage and empower
Businesses up and down the country have been asking employees to take on new roles and responsibilities, often in challenging working settings. The sudden shift to remote working has seen thousands working without the ideal IT and furniture set up, and sharing it with partners and children who are also at home.

By demonstrating an understanding of the different challenges each team member faces, business leaders can give their employees the freedom to find a routine that suits them. The result will be a team that is proactive, positive and driven.

Positivity is a huge driver of resilience. People feed off of each other’s energy and a positive attitude is arguably even more important during a crisis. Businesses are having to make tough decisions at short notice. Employees taking on new roles are going to experience bumps in the road. Mistakes will be made by us all. That’s part and parcel of business.

The important thing is that we learn from our mistakes, both individually and as a team, and don’t let them get us down. Part of resilience is the ability to keep going whatever life throws at you, and a positive attitude goes hand-in-hand.

Inspiring loyalty
Like trust, loyalty takes times to develop and it’s a two-way street. As well as explaining what decisions are being taken, business leaders need to explain the rationales behind any proposed changes. And if a decision changes or doesn’t happen, this also needs to be communicated. Employees must be shown that the impact on them is being considered every step of the way, and that ultimately any decisions to protect the business have the dual goal of protecting everyone’s job.

At the heart of everything is communication. Leaders need to set the tone by being honest, open and non-judgemental. At the same time, they must be completely open to feedback and criticism. Being able to adapt to feedback is a powerful attribute that does not go unnoticed by employees. Doing so will demonstrate that it is ok for everyone to be open and honest, which will benefit the business.

Set up for future success
There are plenty of resilience training courses but it may be some time before most businesses can fully ramp up their training budgets again. Personally, I don’t believe that anything can replicate the real-world experience and if nothing else, so many of us will come out of this with a level of resilience we didn’t even know we had.

The resilient teams will not only get through this crisis, but they’ll be so much stronger too.

The four key components of a resilient team:

  • Trust – give employees the freedom to work in a way that suits them; trust yourself when making difficult decisions.
  • Loyalty – explain the reasons behind decisions; involve employees in key business decisions.
  • Bravery – try new things and don’t be afraid of failure.
  • Communication – open, honest, non-judgemental and able to accept feedback and criticism.

About Sarah OBeirne

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