With the change and pressures facing the workforce, resilience has been a frequent topic amongst the leadership. Being resilient is an individual characteristic, a personality trait that is used to describe that person who never gives up. But how much of an individual’s ability to be resilient can be attributed to the group in which they belong? Let’s explore.
Many of us remember the challenges faced by the NSW Rural Fire Service during one of its most challenging bushfire seasons in Australian history. Back in 2019, all firefighters—including volunteers—showed formidable resilience and shared commitment to protect their communities and gave Australia an exemplary model of teamwork in response to a crisis.
Faced with unpredictable, widespread fire fronts, the RFS became a lifeline for communities right down the eastern seaboard in a high-stakes situation that showed how vital open communication, rapid decision-making, trust in one another, the value of training and knowledge sharing were crucial to saving life and property. The collaboration extended to other agencies, such as local authorities, weather agencies, urban firefighting units, and local communities as the fire season escalated beyond any fire NSW had seen in a very long time. This openness and transparency not only ensured that everyone was on the same page but also established a broader team beyond the fire service itself.
Despite the hardships and losses of that year, the camaraderie of firies is something of Australian cultural lore. Sharing tales of close calls and successful saves as the weeks wore on, the often-innate humour of the volunteers offered a beacon of hope and a discharge of the stress amid the smoke, a demonstrated resilience in a time of uncertainty and risk.
Now, there are few challenges faced in the project world that come with the confronting reality of life-or-death consequences like those our firefighters braved for that 2019 summer. Any comparison or learning is taken with the utmost respect.
Considering all that they faced—searing heat, the deafening crackle of flames, the difficulty catching a breath as the fire consumed all around them—it’s fair to say that it would be a terrifying place to be. And those in amongst it would have to be resilient to remain in the fight. The shared sense of purpose, commitment and being there among peers no doubt contributes, perhaps even amplifies, the already resilient qualities of everyone giving their time. When the chips are down and times are tough, it may be the commitment to the team, the desire not to let down your mates, that is the difference between faltering or persevering.
While organisational change is rarely life-or-death, it does require a level of resilience from the people driving, impacted by, or collaborating to deliver a successful outcome.
So, how do leaders build and support resilient teams? What are the critical drivers that enable a team to foster collective innovation, problem-solving, and the ability to be agile, not to mention to develop the camaraderie needed to remain resilient during periods of change?
The Role of Teamwork in Building Resilience
Organisational project environments can often comprise internal bench teams augmented by external resources that fill the skill gaps or enable the organisation to temporarily scale to deliver its transformation. That’s ample opportunity for politics, misalignment, mistrust, or scepticism to surface, each of which can derail the organisation’s ability to transform.
There are some characteristics of high-performance teams that leaders should be able to sense-check in terms of the readiness of their teams to embrace change. The volunteer fire services is one of many examples that showcase the crucial role preparedness plays: creating a culture of skill diversity, respectful conflict management, and shared objectives can seem like something of a nirvana.
It’s this type of culture that is critical for equipping teams to weather internal and external storms encountered during transformation projects.
Three Pillars in Effective Team Environments
The pillars of such an environment are:
Trust is the glue that holds a team together, not reporting to the same person. When there is trust, members can rely on each other’s strengths and provide the confidence to take calculated risks, essential for innovation and growth. In the face of adversity, it’s the trust between team members that fuels perseverance and grit.
Open communication is the lifeblood of a collaborative environment. It ensures transparency and mitigates misunderstandings, thus fostering a climate where problems are faced head-on and solutions are developed collectively. When team members feel free to express their thoughts, ideas, and concerns, it enhances their ability to adapt and respond to changes, a fundamental aspect of resilience.
Shared leadership is the concept where leadership roles are fluid and depend on the team’s needs and individual skills at any given time. This decentralised approach to leadership promotes a sense of shared responsibility, empowering every member to contribute to the team’s objectives. This shared ownership strengthens the team’s resilience, enhancing its capacity to navigate challenges during transformation projects.
These components are intertwined and interdependent. Open communication doesn’t exist without trust, shared leadership requires open communication, and so forth.
Resilient Transformation in Any Business Environment is Deeply Rooted in Effective Teamwork
The pillars above combine to create a potent formula for establishing and building a collaborative environment that is robust, adaptable, resilient, and capable of spearheading successful transformation projects.
The dynamics of a collaborative environment, including open communication, trust, and shared leadership, are essential in fostering resilience. They ensure transparency, fortify relationships, and empower every team member to contribute towards the team’s objectives. The team members trust each other; they bond, become more invested in the team’s success, and become more resilient as a cohort.
As the business world continues to evolve in unpredictable ways, the role of teamwork in cultivating resilience in transformation projects will become increasingly paramount. Navigating constant change, disruption, and uncertainty will require adaptable, innovative, and resilient teams, underscoring the importance of building strong, collaborative teams in the face of future transformation challenges.
Quay Consulting has more than 17 years’ experience in project delivery, including the often-complex transformation.
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