How to build a resilient team

Defining Resilience

There are a few different ways to define resilience, from official definitions to our own beliefs about what it means to be a resilient person.

The American Psychological Association (2014) defines resilience asthe process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress“, whereas the Oxford dictionary defines it as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.”

Both of these definitions are important when thinking about how to build a resilient team. Some individuals will naturally exhibit these skills, whereas others will need to work at them.

While it is vital to remember that resilience can protect us from significant life events, it can help us on every level in the engineering workplace. When you have a team full of resilient individuals, the following will happen:

  • They handle challenges better
  • Communication is improved
  • Presenteeism and burnout are reduced
  • Your business remains competitive
  • Upskilling and development is increased
  • Targets and goals are met and even exceeded

Why is resilience being hailed as one of the most critical skills now?

Why is Resilience Important?

Before we get into why resilience is so vital, it is worth noting that to understand its importance fully, you first need to be open to the fact that mistakes and negative things will happen in your business – it’s part of life.

Accepting problems quickly is the first step to moving on from them, and this is what you should aim to create in your engineering team.

There are many personal benefits to becoming a more resilient individual, such as:

  • Increased emotional intelligence
  • High engagement levels
  • Calmness
  • Focus
  • Better decision making
  • The ability to flex
  • Willingness to ask for help
  • A greater sense of meaning in work and life
  • Actively seeking to grow and learn

In our post-pandemic world, the skill of resilience has fast become one of the most in-demand soft skills that engineering employers want in their new recruits. This is because we have all experienced first-hand just how important it is to flex, adapt and bounce back from periods of massive upheaval and threat.

As the engineering landscape continues to shift in the new normal, your business must be full of individuals who can deal with these changes.

So what resilience markers should you look out for?

The Seven Key Resilience Skills

In this section, we will look at the seven essential skills of resilient people. Understanding what makes people resilient will help you develop and grow your engineering team.

Some people are naturally born with these skills, but the good news is that they can be developed too.

There are seven recognised critical skills of resilient people, which are as follows:

  1. Autonomy

Resilient people have greater internalised centres of control. Possessing autonomy means understanding you can only control your actions and not the actions of others; these individuals are in tune with their thoughts, emotions, senses and needs.

  1. High Self-Awareness

Emotional intelligence author Daniel Goleman states that self-awareness consists of emotional awareness, accurate self-awareness and self-confidence.

Self-awareness is the human capacity to recognise ourselves as individuals who are separate from the environment and other beings. It likewise refers to the ability for introspection or the capacity to examine our life and thoughts. “High” self-awareness is a state of mind and is where a person can assess and evaluate their motivations and reactions in relationship to the world and life events.

People with high self-awareness are more in tune with their inner purpose and values, allowing them to make decisions easily and be confident with their actions and choices.

  1. Adaptability

The ability to take on board others’ ideas and see a different perspective is vital to resilience. Resilient individuals ‘bend rather than break’ when it comes to changing plans and will try new methods to achieve the best result, rather than giving up easily.

Being adaptable means working without boundaries and finding diverse and unexpected solutions to problems and challenges in the workplace. Without limitations on your thinking and actions, challenges become something not to dread but to seize and enjoy working through.

Adaptable employees are also willing to engage various people with diverse skills to get the job done, building broad networks of highly engaged and capable people.

  1. Optimism

Focusing on the positive is a rare and valuable skill. Life has its ups and downs, which we all appreciate. But, unfortunately, many people err on the negative side of life and are dominated by their primitive brain, which sees everything as a threat.

Conversely, optimistic people are balanced. When you have optimistic employees on your team, they will solve problems faster as they see solutions rather than unsurmountable challenges.

  1. Pragmatism

Resilient people are highly pragmatic. They don’t ruminate on past decisions that they cannot change; they focus on making positive changes. These individuals are adept at using the right tools and mindset to maximise their resources as they move forward.

  1. Socially Connected

Creating positive, long-lasting relationships is another attribute of resilient people.

They recognise how critical teamwork is to success and can work with individuals from different ages, backgrounds and skills levels to their own.

  1. Self-Compassion and Empathy

Finally, self-compassion is the final of the seven key resilience skills. Self-compassion is the ability to empathise with others and put themselves in someone else’s position to understand different points of view better.

Now we know the essential skills of resilient individuals, let’s look at how to develop and maintain this in your employees.

Yes, some individuals are more resilient than others, but it is a skill that you can help develop in others – in the next section, we look at how.

How to Create a Resilient engineering team

The following are seven ways to develop the critical skill of resilience in your team members.

  1. Get Your Team Involved

Resilience and confidence are closely connected – the more confident your team are in their abilities and their place in the business, the more resilient they will become.

You can instil confidence in your team by trusting them and involving them in business decisions, rather than keeping decisions on a ‘need to know only’ basis.

Involving your whole team in your company in this way is part of a new type of leadership that doesn’t view vulnerability as a bad thing.

Historically, showing any vulnerability as a leader was seen as a weakness that could risk your team’s confidence. But in the changing engineering landscape, all leaders now face new and unique challenges, which present an opportunity for you to be open and honest with your employees.

Acting in this transparent way will build robust and genuine relationships within your team.

  1. Create an Environment of Optimism

Optimism breeds resilience.

While some people are naturally more optimistic than others, it is an attribute we can teach and instil in ourselves. According to NBC News, studies show that optimism is around 25 per cent inherited through our genes, but the other 75 per cent can be learned.

Here are a few questions for you:

  • Do you consider optimism to be an essential trait when you are hiring?
  • Have you covered the topic of optimism in team training?
  • Are you optimistic as a leader?

You cannot expect optimism to flourish in a negative working environment. Therefore, it is essential to cultivate an atmosphere of optimism in your workplace and lead by example.

Be mindful of language – we can use negative language without realising, which can create a scenario where employees find it challenging to feel positive about their work.

Instead of “that won’t work”, use “let’s see if there is a better way to do this”, change “we can’t” to “what if”. Use language that encourages opportunities and ideas rather than shutting them down.

Global business consultancy IDEO highlights the phrase “how might we” as a great example of a positive term to use when brainstorming. These three words can have a powerful effect; ‘how’ gets the creative juices flowing ‘might’ suggests that anything is possible, and ‘we’ highlights the importance of team effort.

Watch your language – are there words or phrases you find yourself repeatedly saying that could be having a negative effect? Can you alter the things you say to create a more optimistic environment? The answer, I am sure, will be yes.

  1. Encourage Adaptability

In any organisation, some employees complete the same set of tasks repeatedly, and in any team, the more skilled the individual, the easier they find it to get on with their daily tasks.

While this seems like a good thing on the surface, it could be stifling the development of resilience.

The ability to adapt is crucial in developing resilience. In your engineering organisation, you need individuals who can easily flex when challenges occur or when things need to change quickly.

Help team members to work on their problem-solving skills in the form of training. Creating a growth mindset in which employees feel that they can tackle any new dilemmas they face will strengthen your team and increase their resilience.

Encourage diversity of thought in your engineering team. When problems occur, ask everyone for their input, and ensure your recruitment drives are focused on drawing applicants from a wide range of backgrounds. Not only does having a more diverse team encourage resilience, but they are also more successful too. For example, a 2019 McKinsey reportfound that companies in the top quartile for diversity were 25 per cent more likely to have above-average profitability.

Working with people of different ages, sexes, races, and backgrounds helps people become more adaptable and ultimately more resilient.

  1. Re-Connect with Shared Values and Purpose

Our values and purpose drive us to succeed at work, and individuals with higher levels of value and meaning will find it easier to overcome obstacles and spring back after challenging situations.

Since the pandemic, have you had a company-wide review of each individuals’ role and where they fit into the overall company vision and mission?

With clearly defined working values, people are more naturally inclined to increase and align their efforts with the rest of the team, which increases our resilience muscle.

It might be that since the pandemic, your company mission, vision or values have changed. Some businesses operated without a mission or vision statement in place even before the pandemic. Still, it is now crucial that you review yours to create a renewed sense of purpose in your engineering team.

  1. Create a Support System

You will have more success in creating a resilient team when you provide them with a support system.

‘Psychological safety’ is a term used to describe a working environment where employees can thrive, as they don’t feel under threat from any direction. Psychological safety was critically identified by Google in recent research they conducted into building productive teams. The study, named Project Aristotle, gathered information from over 100 teams, and they found that psychological safety stood out above all others as a critical tenet of organisational culture.

Not all workplaces effectively provide teams with the support system they need, as employee needs can be individual, wide-ranging and changeable. But don’t let that put you off. Talk to your team about the parts of their role they regularly struggle with or are underconfident in, and then provide them with a framework to support.

Employees are far more likely to be loyal, productive and resilient when they are sure their employer cares and is invested in them. They are more likely to want to be resilient. A good engineering support system will look like:

  • Clear communication between all management and employees – do messages seem to move around your company through the corridors rather than official channels? A transparent communication system is necessary to help employees feel supported.
  • Regular check-ins – do you only review employee progress during yearly appraisals? More regular meet-ups will ensure your team feel supported in their role and enables them to bring up any challenges or difficulties they are facing.
  • Provide help and support with physical and mental health programmes – encourage positive physical and mental health by including a robust wellbeing initiative. Ideas include: get fit schemes, cycle to work provisions and a focus on positive mental health in the workplace.

Support is something that all humans crave and need to function at our optimum. Giving support can come in more subtle ways, such as sharing kind words with colleagues, showing appreciation, and looking out for each other.

When employees feel supported, this strengthens their working bonds, and they will perform better because of it. Better working relationships allow employees to feel more resilient, as they know the rest of the organisation supports them.

  1. Eliminating Barriers for Increased Resilience

As a leader, you should be working towards creating a work environment where your team can perform to the best of their abilities.

Organisational theorist and author Richard Beckhard created the GRPI model to increase effectiveness within teams, and you can use it to increase resilience, too.

The acronym GRPI describes the different dimensions of a team that affect performance:

Goals – the clear objectives shared by all

Roles – clearly defines roles and responsibilities

Processes – the procedures in place to achieve said goals

Interpersonal – a healthy climate of well-respected colleagues

An absence of any one of these core principles will leave your team at risk of poor performance, internal conflict and increased pressure, all of which can challenge and eliminate resilience.

Take the time to plan how you can build an environment that promotes the GRPI framework, and you will remove these barriers to resilience.

  1. Recruiting Resilience

One of the easiest ways to influence new behaviours in your team is in the people you hire.

Having excellent skills is not enough in the modern engineering workplace – high emotional intelligence and resilience are what employers are increasingly looking for.

Resilience might not have played a part in your recruitment programme until now, but there are some ways you can introduce it into your hiring strategy. The aim is to discover how resilient an individual is by asking the right questions. For example, consider introducing the following into your interview questions:

  • What coping techniques do you have/have you used in previous challenging situations?
  • What have you learned from this situation?
  • How did you move forward after this scenario?
  • How well did you cope with previous stressful situations?

Looking for experience, expertise and competence are still essential, but singling out resilient individuals in your hiring process will ultimately lead to you building a highly resilient team.

Next Steps to Take

If you are looking for the next generation of resilient talent for your business, we can help. We have been recruiting in our sector for 25 years, and we can help find you the specific engineering talent you need.

Contact us today to find out how we can help find your next critical engineering hires.

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