Start With Yourself And Then Build Resilient Teams
As a leader, you must take deliberate steps for growth every day. This growth can begin with yourself and spread to your team and your organization. Growth means you are evolving, learning, and pivoting so that you can successfully navigate new and unknown contexts. This series of articles titled “Growth Blueprint” explores the key tactics to foster such growth. This article focuses on resilience—why it is important and how to cultivate it at the individual, team, and organizational levels.
What Is Resilience, And Why Is It Important?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, resilience is the ability to recover from misfortune or appending change.  Resilience is important because it enables individuals, teams, and organizations at large to face and manage unprecedented challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has been, and in many ways, continues to be, a great example of testing and forging resilience at the individual, team, and organizational even country and global level. Resilience is like a muscle and can be strengthened by practice at all three levels. 
When leaders don’t manage their own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energies, they tend to be tired, lack sleep, eat unhealthily, feel pessimistic, and generally find it difficult to focus. At the basic physical level, research shows that stress can accelerate the rate at which our cells age. This means that cells are not replenishing as fast. Cultivating your ability to manage your energies can be transformational because it can help you navigate change and bounce back when challenges hit.
Dr. Dennis Charney, who researches resilience at Mount Sinai in New York City, identified ten key actionable strategies to cultivate personal resilience. At a twist of fate, he was shot exiting a deli and had to practice his own research tactics in his journey to recovery. Some key tactics include:
- Being proactive. Taking even a small step every day can help you transform from being reactive to being proactive.
- Identifying your go-to energy replenishers, whether they include exercise, meditation, practicing a hobby, and even napping.
- Being flexible, whereby you give yourself grace as you strive on building your daily habits of wellness and energy management.
- Asking for help when you need it and using resources available to you.
- Practicing “reframing,” where you change your narrative by accepting your past and redefining your future by leveraging these tactics and relying on your support network.
- Celebrating small victories, whereby you revisualize the feeling of past successes and use it to celebrate small victories you achieve each day or week.
- Leveraging spirituality through meditation and prayer in the format that resonates with you.
These are some key tactics you can consider as a leader in your journey to build your personal resilience, and they are foundational to building team resilience.
One of my favorite movies, Miracle on Ice, is a perfect demonstration of team resilience. The movie is based on the true story of the United States hockey team defeating the Soviet hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. The movie tells the story of how the mostly amateur, young, underdog US hockey team, with the leadership, guidance, and hard training of coach Herb Brooks, managed to beat the four-time gold medal champion Soviet team by building the team’s resilience. In the particular scene, the coach makes the team practice on the ice long after the game, pushing their limits beyond the selfish concern of one’s own interest in being on the team, each representing their own college, to the collective alignment as one team, fighting together, representing the United States. As the team aligns, they connect, communicate, and fight together. As a result, they became more resilient. They beat the Soviets and went on to beat Finland in the finals and win the Olympic gold medal for the United States.
According to a Harvard Business Review article by Keith Ferazzi, Mary-Clare Race, and Alex Vincent, there are four key values to building team resilience: candor, resourcefulness, compassion, and humility.  Candor helps the team communicate openly and build trust. Resourcefulness enables the team to rely on each others’ strengths, think differently, and problem-solve together when new and unknown challenges arise. Compassion enables the team to extend grace to one another, show deep care, and support each other. Team leaders need to foster and support psychological safety to engender compassion and grace within the team. Humility enables the team to understand and accept their limitations and seek outside help when they need it. In turn, team resilience is crucial to organizational resilience because it can impact the organization’s culture.
According to McKinsey’s Asia Chairman, Gautam Kumra, organizational resilience is about the organizational ability to play with defense and offense in business.  Playing defense in business may include strengthening processes like zero-trust cybersecurity, realigning supply chains, and cutting costs. Playing offense in business may include hiring the right people, cultivating a strong culture, building new products, and entering new markets. To be able to play offense and defense, organizations need to adopt an agile approach where they center on customer needs, leverage human-centered design to develop new products and services, and above all, create a culture of resilience that centers on adaptive and flexible leaders and team who are empowered to drive the mission, are held accountable to meaningful outcomes and are given the opportunity to grow, and teams that support and elevate each other to achieve the mission against all odds.
Resilience is a foundational growth tactic in this era of constant and exponential change on all fronts. To cultivate individual resilience as a leader, you have to manage your own energy, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. At the team level, it is important to cultivate resilience by aligning towards the mission together and supporting each other along the journey. At the organizational level, cultivating resilience means arming the organization with the people, capabilities, technologies, tools, processes, and data to enable it to withstand change and challenges, as well as leverage opportunities and drive growth.
 Resilience Definition & Meaning
 5 lessons the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about resilience
 7 Strategies to Build a More Resilient Team
 How companies can build institutional and individual resilience
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