The year 2020, with all of its layers of complexities and challenges, has pressed even the strongest person and the most prepared businesses. It has also provided us with a great example of why it is so important to learn how to survive – and thrive – in the face of adversity. There are many helpful resources to guide us towards personal resiliency, but cultivating resiliency for an entire team or organization demands more from leaders. Resiliency is a skill that can be developed, but it requires leaders to be intentional and consistent in setting a clear path for the team.

A first step in moving your team towards resiliency is to empower your team to make decisions – and to make those decisions without fear of repercussions. Repercussions can be big things like being fired or demoted, but they can also be subtleties like being overlooked for a promotion or not being asked to lead a special project. As a leader, you can show your team that repercussions are not an automatic result of a poor decision – instead, setbacks and successes can be viewed as positive learning experiences. You can begin to model this by openly discussing your own mistakes and sharing lessons learned.

Support your teams’ ability to make good decisions by teaching them best practices and important things to consider when making decisions. Sometimes making a decision for your business will mean taking a risk or making a choice with uncertain outcomes. Critical situations – a pandemic, a data breach, or loss of a key team member – will not allow weeks or months of time for deliberation. Encourage your team members to be confident enough to make a decision and move forward.

When you know what’s going on, and know how people are truly feeling and responding, you have an opportunity to influence change and take action. So, a second important step towards resiliency is to seek feedback and be intentional about follow up. Pursue feedback both internally (your team) and externally (your customers, vendors, business partners). Plan and schedule follow up after every change, implementation, or project. Your team can also plan for a mid-action review of projects, goals, and new procedures. Find out what’s working and what needs to change.

When you are intentionally building a resilient team, your team will learn to successfully navigate challenges by first understanding what is going on – and if they don’t know, they will seek input and feedback. This creates an opportunity for your team to take stock of a situation and identify solutions, instead of just treading water in survival mode.

A third important practice in developing resiliency for your team is to encourage regular dialogue around the “what ifs”, “what’s next” and “what’s possible”. The first several months of 2020 have already shown us that disaster planning is an essential part of managing a business. Discussing the what’s next and what’s possible are also a part of building the future for your team and your business…succession plans, mergers, key partnerships, upgrades, and expansions. These exploratory conversations are critical to building a team that knows to expect the unexpected.

This year we’ve seen resiliency in businesses that shifted client engagement into virtual formats, restaurants that swapped dining room service for takeout and delivery, and medical facilities that incorporated telemedicine and drive-thru testing. Thinking creatively as a team about future possibilities will help your team consider other ways to get things done, and you will be able to respond and pivot quickly when a challenge does arise.

Defining values and priorities for your team is the fourth – and most critical – part of cultivating resiliency for your team. Communicating priorities such as a quarterly sales goals or an annual strategic plan is an important function in business. Even more important is showing your team how to do these things. What are the values and behaviors you want your team to display? Is it outstanding client service? Giving and philanthropy? Honesty or integrity? The list does not have to be long. It just needs to be the truth.

When you define values and priorities, they should also show through you as the leader in the way you conduct yourself, make decisions, and manage your time. As a leader, what you establish and model as priorities and values will be the road map your team follows in difficult or uncertain times.

Cultivating a resilient team will not happen overnight, but your intentional efforts as a leader will move your team in the right direction. Resiliency is a journey that will create value and sustainability for your team and your business.


Cheron Smalls

Cheron Smalls

Cheron Smalls, SPHR SHRM-SCP has over 20 years of experience in human resources management across a variety of industries and is the Director of Human Resources & Talent Management at RiverFront Investment Group ( RiverFront has a values-based culture driven by their vision of being the most caring organization in the investment industry.

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