Let’s not create a dichotomy – we need both!

There has been recent commentary that when it comes to creating stronger organisational resilience, the focus needs to be on creating resilient teams rather than resilient individuals.

In our view, this dichotomy is not helpful. We need to create both. Fostering resilience in organisations is achieved by strengthening resilience at the individual, team, and organisational levels.

The inherent interconnections between these levels determine that resilience is not only an individual characteristic but also a group quality.

A strong team will provide an environment that fosters and supports individuals to enhance and maintain their resilience. For instance, a robust body of research highlights that the single most powerful predictor of personal resilience is interpersonal support. A strong team can provide this support. A strong team can also carry people when their personal resilience wobbles. Up to a point, but not indefinitely. It is impossible to build team resilience unless the individuals within a team hold robust resilience skills.

We know that people with stronger resilience:

  • show greater flexibility and creativity
  • see change as less threatening, and therefore are more adaptable
  • make more positive judgements about others
  • get sick less often.

Therefore, when combined at the team level, higher levels of individual resilience help the team as a whole to bounce back and to thrive under pressure.

With skilled leadership, individuals and teams can then develop a culture of resilience within the organisation as a whole.

This culture of resilience “manifests itself as a form of ‘psychological immunity’ to, or the ability to rebound from, the untoward effects of adversity” (George Stalk, of the Boston Consulting Group). He’s talking about organisational adversity, too; such as the need for rapid change, or the impact of economic constraints and significant marketplace shifts.

At Umbrella, we work with organisations to create what we call Organisational resilience transformation. Resilience transformation occurs when resilience frameworks and habits become integrated into business as usual for individuals, teams, and the organisation itself – “This is the way we do things around here”.

Resilience integration includes identifying and reporting against resilience competencies:

  • For individuals – maintaining personal resilience and managing impact on others
  • For leaders – maintaining personal resilience and managing sources of pressure for team(s) (including your own impact as a leader)
  • For leadership teams – maintaining personal resilience and sources of pressure across the organisation (including the combined impact of the leadership team).

When these resilience competencies are in place, teams will adapt and thrive, and organisational resilience transformation occurs. We can “test” for transformation by assessing if the organisation, and teams in the organisation, can:

  • Meet key objectives while facing challenges
  • Respond positively to change
  • Adapt and recover faster from adversity
  • successfully during transitions
  • Turn crises into opportunities.

These hallmarks of a resilient organisation hold true for teams, and for individuals.

Back to our starting point then, rather than taking a singular focus, let’s create more resilient teams, let’s better understand how we can best support individuals to hold their resilience, to help teams maintain resilience over time, and to foster organisational resilience transformation.

In particular, let’s better understand how we can enable all three levels (that is, the whole system) to adapt and thrive!