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Lessons in Resilience from a Five-Year-Old

Recently my youngest boy Dylan was sick with everything from a mild fever to stuffy nose and upset stomach. During several sleepless nights, my wife and I were up every few hours to get him water, medication, or just to lay with him and provide a backrub.

What I found surprising was that despite the lack of sleep and being under the weather, when I went into his room in the morning to ask how he was, Dylan sat up quickly and said, “Great!”

Really??

If you’ve had children, the one thing you’ve likely learned is that children are resilient. They can be under the weather, but their attitude and personality is often still quite upbeat.

It struck me while reflecting on how resilient children are that there are lessons to be learned from them that can be applied in building the resilience in a team. After all, most of the CEOs, executives, and business leaders I’ve met recently are seeking new and improved ways to help their teams become more self-sufficient, productive, and collaborative.

Enter team resilience.

The term resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Considering our desire to have our teams and the people on them achieve more and do so while working more effectively with their team members, there must be a level of resilience that exists both on an individual and team basis. To put it bluntly, in order to have a team and team members that can achieve higher levels of performance, we must ensure that the environment itself is one that supports a high degree of resilience.

Considering what makes a child resilient, there are a few things that you may not have thought of in the past.

Children primarily focus on having fun in their daily activities. Even when completing tasks or chores, fun is a natural element of getting their work done.

Children are encouraged while in school and through participation in sports to work in collaborative environments and value the input and ideas of others.

Children focus on what they see and experience.

The parents, teachers, and caregivers who work with children are generally patient, seeking to help the child understand through introspection rather than telling them what they should do without an explanation of why.

So what does this tell us when it comes to building resilience in our teams? Well, at a strategic level we need to consider the environment, expectations, and communications we use.

  1. Leaders need to practice being mentors and guiding employees rather then telling them specifically what to do and when they should do it.
  2. Humor and having fun should be on the agenda to ensure that employees are productive. A study conducted by the Journal of Labour Economics found that employees who are happy at work are 12% more productive than those that aren’t.
  3. Cross-training and various forms of interaction amongst employees that help them understand the roles and responsibilities of others is key to ensuring a greater understanding amongst team members and better collective decision-making.
  4. The ability to try new things, learn from failures, and create memorable experiences is a key component to ensuring resilience. If, for instance, failures are avoided or employees are expected to simply remain at their workstations for fear of lower productivity, there is little ability to navigate unexpected experiences.

There are literally dozens of adjustments and changes that can be made that will build greater resilience in team members.  That said, here is something I’d suggest you try with your team. Ask members individually and then collectively to provide a score between one and five for each of the four areas above. The scoring received will suggest to you where you need to shift efforts in order to build more resilience.

Let me know how you make out. In return, I’ll be sure to send you some additional considerations for building resilience in your team. Email shawn@casemoreandco.com

©Shawn Casemore 2017. All rights reserved.

 
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