Resilience in Teams

How do you build success in turbulent times?  Here are some ideas.


A colleague and I are preparing to give a talk in a few weeks.  The title of this piece of brilliance is “Finding Your Feet in Turbulent Times.”  We will be exploring what it takes for teams and team leaders to be resilient.  

That is, what makes it possible for them to respond in a constructive way to unexpected disruptions, positive or negative, and the accompanying ambiguity?

You can think about the range of possible responses to disruption as falling along a continuum.  On one end is “rigid”, where responses come in the form of unthinking adherence to a prescription.  On the other end is “floppy”, where the team is overwhelmed by its process and is unable to execute or deliver.

Neither of these is very good.

“Resilient” falls somewhere in the middle.

There are a few key elements to the practice of being resilient.  Perhaps the most important of these is to have an outcomes orientation.

The essential thing about an outcome is that it is not your product or service or deliverable.  Your outcome describes what is different in the world as a result of someone using your product or service. 

Organizations produce outcomes, and so can teams.

Then, there is a set of principles that defines a resilient attitude.  This attitude is the foundation under your outcomes orientation.

  • You have a belief system that comes from answers to questions like: “Who are you?”  “What are you here to do?”  These are the stories of success and failure that give life to your identity and purpose.
  • You tune into the world around you, scanning the environment for information that tells you whether you’re on track, or not.
  • You strive to create a sphere of excellence immediately around you.  Some of this comes from your identity, some from the detailed experience of carrying out your work.
  • You recognize that you always have a choice.  No victim mentality here.
  • You find community in a web of support: networks, partnerships, and alliances.

Finally, there is a small toolkit of practices that will help lead you toward your outcome.  These are actions you and your team undertake together to enhance your effectiveness: Forming, Planning, Reviewing Progress, and Learning.  Each of these actions has a shape and a rhythm that will be unique to your purpose and circumstances.

This is how we see the basic structure of resilient teams.  Do these ideas fit with your experience of resilience?  What would you add or change?