4 Effective Ways to Build a Resilient Team

If there’s one thing that all of us know right now after the last few years of a global pandemic, the accelerated pace of technology, supply chain challenges, volatile markets, new and unique competitors entering our industries, etc, it’s that change is the only thing that’s going to stay the same in our lives, right? It’s ultimately how we and our teammates respond to times of challenge and change that creates our long-term success. 

So, how do we build and lead the kind of resilient teams that always find a way or make one and not only set out to *survive* times of challenge and change, but to embrace times of challenge as a springboard for future success? Let’s have coffee and talk about how to create team resilience in every aspect of your personal and business life and how to keep your world-class team inspired for the adventures that lie ahead! 


4 Ways to Build And Motivate a Resilient Team


1.  You build a more resilient team when you let others lead

You earned the title of leader with incredible skill and hard work. And you should be proud of that! But the best and brightest leaders understand that there’s a difference between management and leadership. As a manager, you’re always there to facilitate your team’s success, but you build a stronger, more resilient team when you’re not always the leader.  You’re surrounded by people who can be an incredible resource to you and who have strengths and experience to offer the team if you just ask for their opinion and accept their input.

The challenge is to recognize and differentiate when your team needs you as a resilient leader and when you can take a step back and just be the manager.

When done right, *not* being a leader all the time can be a positive thing! It allows your team to become more confident about making decisions, being innovative, and taking risks while you’re there for the team as a support system.

By not being (directly) in charge all the time, you’re allowing your team to build their confidence and team spirit so they can apply what they’ve learned when dealing with challenging situations or setbacks. Building resilient teams means giving every team member a voice and a platform to shine rather than potentially dimming their light with your desire to be in command at every turn.  

When you set out to inspire your teammates by letting THEM lead, versus impressing them with how well YOU lead, they’re going to be both inspired and impressed by you. :). And they’ll always be willing to go the extra mile. 


2. Resilient teams Give One Another Respect as A Gift, Not as A Grade

In the fire service and other similar top-down leadership cultures, the new people on the team are usually treated as brand-new infant firefighters, until proven otherwise.

Our Probies (probationary firefighters in their first year on the job) are constantly talked down to, made to eat on their own and not with the crew, drilled every day, micromanaged, and made to clean up after everyone. They are expected to cook all the meals, and nobody cares who they are or where they came from.

And for many Captains/Leaders, this attitude of anyone in a lower rank being an underclassman, unworthy of respect, extends in general to all of us backseaters, at least the first several years we’re on the job.

But I was lucky enough to have a Captain in my first year on the job who lifted me out of this torture and welcomed me as a valued member of his crew. From day one, he gave me the respect of being a real human being, with pre-fire department life experience, a sport I was passionate about, and valuable input to add to conversations.

And he not only became my hero and someone I was bonded to for years. I learned my trade so much more quickly and deeply because I wasn’t afraid to ask stupid questions I’d be judged for later; he never micromanaged me and he assumed the best of me. That was truly a gift that I try to pay forward to this day to my team.

The fact is, we all once started from somewhere. And there is no living soul that likes to be treated badly or differently just because they’re new at a job or position.

How we treat people in their lowest, most lonely moments matters. Especially when people are new or of a lesser “rank”. And it’s in those moments that you can make a memorable and positive impact as a leader just by giving your respect as a gift and not as a grade. When you respect your team members’ TALENTS versus just relying on titles or tenure, your team members feel worthy, valued, confident, and more capable of being part of the solution. 


3. Resilient Teams Lead Based on Need

A resilient, strong team needs a conscious and connected leader who knows exactly the kind of leadership required for the moment and the mission. 

For example, during a fire or medical emergency, our crew always expected (and honestly often appreciated) being told exactly what to do. Those were the times when we needed to act quickly and in unison according to a plan. So we needed our Captain to step up and take charge. But when we were at the station eating dinner or working out, we’d love the Captain to leave the badge behind and just be our friend.

You see, the key is to recognize when to act as a leader and when to leave all of the titles aside, and just act as your employees’ teammate. 

If you demonstrate that you care about the people on your team (and not just the process of day-to-day operations) by being responsive to their needs in the moment and not just your own favorite style of leadership, you’re going to build a strong and resilient team of individuals who trust you, who feel safe and confident with you, and who will be fighting to be on your crew/team your entire career.

4. Resilience is Inspired by a Higher Sense of Purpose 

In all of the teams I’ve been a part of throughout my career, from Adventure Racing to Firefighting, to pharmaceutical and hospital supply sales, there is one common theme that kept us motivated and inspired to continue moving forward toward our goals against ALL odds— and that is, doing something *for* someONE or someTHING greater than ourselves.

In Adventure Racing, we would rather be taken off the course on a stretcher than let our teammates down, so strong we’re our bonds after enduring these incredible 10-day-long, non-stop physical and mental challenges together; As Firefighters, every time the alarm sounded, we knew we were going to potentially save a life; In sales, we were facilitating the success and health of patients in every corner of the world.  All pretty darn good reasons to wake up every morning and take on the day’s challenges.

If you can find that special someone or something that your team can rally around when the going gets tough, and they’re not just striving for it WITH each other but FOR each other, there’s no challenge too big and no finish line that’s too far away for your super-resilient team!