Build Resilience Alongside Productivity as Teams Return to Work

Jun 8, 2020 | Coach's Questions

As many of us return to work, so much still seems strange and uncertain. How do we, as leaders, help our team members get things done?

Now is a time to choose to build resilience along with or perhaps even ahead of productivity. 

This isn’t an either-or situation. Teams can be resilient and productive, but a focus on resilience-building will help everyone to be able to come back from this whole COVID-19 situation stronger.

Folks have been dealing with a range of emotions through this crisis, from self-separating and learning to work remotely to managing grief and anxiety and working on the frontlines.

Difficulties and challenges can be draining, so building resilience will help your team members deal with changes and ongoing uncertainty about the COVID crisis as they heal emotionally and focus on their work goals.

What helps us to be more resilient?

According to psychologists, some of us innately have qualities that make us more resilient. These include:

  • Being optimistic
  • Having a positive attitude
  • Being able to regulate emotions
  • Seeing failure as an opportunity to improve

The good news is that skills that help to build resilience can be learned. As leaders, we can try to build resilience in ourselves and with our team members. 

Ways to build resilience include:

  • Breaking negative thought cycles: While limiting beliefs can hold you back, it’s possible to ignore negative self-talk and change the script to enabling beliefs. It can be very helpful to find a supportive friend, mentor or coach to help you find the courage to think and act differently. Similarly, you can use a coach approach to help your team members to ditch limiting beliefs during this difficult and trying time. Another technique to try is to imagine your best friend was dealing with this mistake, this defeat, this distress or depression, this feeling of being beaten. What would you say to a friend in this situation?  What would you say to honestly and genuinely help them see that they’re better than their belief? Now tell yourself.
  • Choosing to set healthy habits: All of us are better able to cope with stress and change when we’re well rested, eating healthy, exercising and finding meaningful social connections. Leading by example and encouraging your team to make physical and mental health a priority is particularly important during this time. Try just one habit. I’ve set a goal of going to bed earlier than I used to before. It’s easier than I thought since I seem to be so tired all the time nowadays. I don’t achieve success every night but when I do, it has had a noticeable improvement on the following day.
  • Focus on what we know and what we can control: It’s easy to get swept into worst-case scenarios during a crisis, especially when we don’t have all the answers. As a leader, part of your role right now is likely pushing back against catastrophizing. That means being open and honest when the answer to something is, “I don’t know right now,” or “I don’t know yet,” and following that with a “but.”  “But, we can do X,” or “But, we can try X,” or “But, we’re doing okay right now without knowing that yet.” It also means helping the team plan for the future when the future feels very uncertain – setting hypotheses to work toward rather than fixed goals. It could be having to acknowledge that, “given what we know now, our plan will be to do X” and then accepting that plan might need to shift or change, as circumstances change (for better or worse) and that’s okay.
  • Learning from mistakes: How we approach errors and setbacks can make a huge difference for how our team members handle things. Review our tips for how to find the emotional courage to make mistakes (and learn from them) so the folks you lead can roll with the punches and get back up after any bad knocks. Particularly now, in an uncertain time, we have to be willing to hypothesize about where we want to go, where we expect to be in the future and then roll with the punches as we move forward.  
  • Listen with an open mindset: If you follow our blog, you know that one of our common mantras at Padraig is, “listen to understand.” During this time when people are dealing with emotions around the pandemic and uncertainty in different ways, it’s helpful to be able to vent and express emotions without judgement to someone who listens with compassion. As leaders, we can listen mindfully and acknowledge difficult thoughts and feelings as part of the human experience. When people feel helpless, it can be helpful to consider the values that are important to your team and figure out ways to align current goals to those values rather than “reacting” to the reactions people are having.
  • Redirect scarcity thinking to abundance thinking: Some members of your team might default to scarcity thinking (which you’ll hear in comments like: there will never be enough, we have to hoard our skills and knowledge and fear the competition, if we don’t get this contract we’ll never make it, etc.) because they’re worried and feel anxious about all the unknowns. Model the seven ways to have an abundant mindset and try to lead your team members toward collaborating, trusting in their skills and abilities, thinking big and embracing risk.
  • Practice having an attitude of gratitude: When you as a leader express gratitude to your team members (individually and collectively), it helps your team feel hopeful and appreciated. When you privately express gratitude for all that you have, you become kinder, gentler and happier (not just with others, but with yourself, too). Being grateful can have a ripple effect, inspiring the same attitude in others so that it’s helpful for the well-being of everyone.
  • Pause when you need to: What’s that saying? You can’t pour from an empty cup. As leaders, we need to really make sure that we’re in the right headspace to make good decisions around planning and demonstrate effective leadership. You’re not mistaken – you are being asked to do a LOT. Make time for self-reflection and resting your mind because not every decision needs to be made instantly. Go for a walk without your phone or connect with a good friend to boost your mood, and then come back to work refreshed and ready to be proactive, not reactive.

Coach’s Questions:

What has been most unsettling for you and your team during the last few months? What can you do better to build your own resilience? How can you help your team members be resilient?