When you’re knocked off a horse, you’re often encouraged to get back up. In the office, if you lose a job or a client, or you fail in any other way, you’re told to keep going. Try again, and never give up. This is the definition of resilience: overcoming and adapting, despite stressful — even traumatic — incidents.
The reverse of that, however, is the devolution into toxic behaviors. In the case of your work environment, even small missed chances or structural changes within the company can slowly lead to a toxic work environment if a team is not prepared to handle adversity. People will become disengaged over time, adapt poorly to stress, or simply give up. That is why it’s so important to build resilience. But first, how can you teach resilience to a team of people? How can groups of people be prepared for failure or trying times?
Unfortunately there’s no way to know how your team (or your company) will handle adversity until it rears its head, but there are ways you can prepare everyone for those difficult moments.
Build a Culture of Support
One of the biggest deterrents or remedies to severe stress actually lies within group culture. Humans are social animals, after all, and having a social group that supports each other through hard times can help your team overcome almost any obstacle.
Especially as a leader, you can make an impact in how your team interacts with each other and with yourself. Instead of focusing on results, you can turn inwards and focus on your relationship with your employees and their relationship with the company. Be transparent about their role within the company. Empathize with them when they’re having rough days, or provide them with perks that help keep them motivated in the office.
Pepperdine University boils down the aspects of a supportive and positive culture to three easy-to-remember words: play, purpose, and potential. Play emphasizes the importance of including activities in the office that allow workers to de-stress and get a creative boost of energy (some offices even offer video games for their employees). Purpose highlights the importance of showing how each employee has an impact on the company, their local community, or even the world. It helps drive and engage them. Potential also plays into purpose, but focuses on more immediate goals such as: career growth, professional development, or a change in career goals.
Overall, the “three P’s” can help leaders grow closer with their team and provide your team with the fuel to navigate through difficult times at the office. Employees will be more motivated to stay with the company and continue work if they know they have a manager supporting their choices, providing them with relief when they need it, and cheering them on to a more successful future.
Additionally, when team members are struggling or having a hard time completing work, find ways to turn those failures into teachable moments. Identify personal strengths, and work one-on-one with those people to build and enhance their performance. The support you show them when they’re in a personal bind will help them overcome more stressful times when the whole company is struggling.
Encourage Mindfulness in Stressful Times
There’s a reason mindfulness has been all the rage in recent years. For one, long-term stress can have a detrimental impact on your ability to properly evaluate decisions or solve problems, and can also lead to serious health issues and disengagement. Stress is a chemical response in our brain that can trigger your body’s “fight, flight, or freeze” response. Mindfulness can help reverse that.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness for yourself, but teaching others to be mindful can be a bit trickier. One contributor for the Harvard Business Review stated some of the best methods for teaching mindfulness included: “a combination of mobile learning, onsite training, webinars, and peer-to-peer learning networks [and …] Integrating mindfulness into core talent processes such as onboarding, manager training, performance conversations and leadership development is also critical.”
Implementing mindfulness into the office can be as simple as encouraging employees to go on regular walks or having a “quiet space” where employees can go to unwind and meditate. Additionally, you can provide them with online learning tools (such as the Calm app) that help employees focus and enhance their attention span. Team workshops — such as Time Management Workshops — can also help facilitate discussions around positive habits and inspire workers to slow down, relax, or learn to step back from stressful scenarios while still remaining productive employees.
As your team learns to facilitate more mindful behaviors, your team members will also be able to be more conscious of their workloads and their emotional state. If they’re overwhelmed by work, they can be more aware of how that is affecting their productivity. If something happened within the company that is causing them personal strife, they might be more aware of how to adapt to the change.
This cognitive awareness is a key to building resilience, as it helps individuals and teams to be better prepared for handling stress in a healthy way.
Show Your Employees That You Trust Them
Every manager’s leadership style can have a different effect on employees. Some will be more invested in the long-term vision for the company and might be more open to changing circumstances. Others will be more interested in how their employees can work on bettering themselves and how they adapt to changes.
No matter what your leadership style may be, there’s nothing more damaging to employee morale than a micro-manager. Having a second person hover over your shoulder, telling you what to do, and telling you how you’re doing it all wrong is a surefire way to get even the most seasoned employee to leave a job. Just as every manager is different, so is every individual in how they go about their day or complete a project. This is why employee autonomy is so important: it can help you build a mutual respect with your employees while also allowing them the ability to choose their own path.
When building resilience within a team, autonomy and trust can go a long way. Although newer employees might still need some guidance and assistance, the seasoned workers will know how they can best handle stress and where they should focus their effort during trying times. They will already know how to manage their time and how the company might adapt. They will be less productive during hard times if they have someone directing their every move or hovering over their shoulder. Additionally, they might be more likely to experience severe burnout and become disengaged if they are micromanaged. Sometimes the most supportive move for your team can be stepping away while still remaining available if they need you. If you put trust in your team to overcoming a difficult period at your company, then they will not let you down.
Although not every day at your business will be a positive one, these steps to help build resilience can help any team overcome organizational stress. It is through the trust you provide your workers, the mindfulness you instill in them, and the support that you provide them that will help them carry on.
By Katie McBeth
Katie is a freelance writer out of Boise, ID. She enjoys reading teen novels, eating mac ‘n cheese, and attending indie concerts in small bars. Her love for reading is only trumped by her love for cats, of which she has three. She also has a dog, and he helps keep her grounded. You can follow her animal and writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth
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