3 Winning Ways To Develop Resilient Teams


water glass

“The difference between winners and losers is how they handle losing.”

– Rosabeth Moss Kanter

With resilience high on many agendas right now, including at #CIPDNAP15, it is proving to be a positive, hopeful concept, to explore how individuals, teams and organisations can adapt when things don’t go as planned. Studies have emerged in recent years to indicate that resilience can be measured, predicted and crucially- developed. At last month’s CIPD L&D Show, Tesco group training manager Jeremy Howell described how resilience training has helped employees cope with uncertainty and market fluctuations.

And yet there is a danger that resilience (within the context of learning and development) is defined too narrowly. It’s not just about mental toughness, or bouncing-back from adversity, or optimism – although some may argue that each of these have a part to play. I’m a fan of Cooper, Flint-Taylor & Pearn’s (2013) working definition:

“Resilience is being able to bounce-back from setbacks, and to keep going in the face of tough demands and difficult circumstances, including the enduring strength that builds from coping well with challenging or stressful events.”

We all know a team who could use a boost of resilience. The modern team has a lot to cope with – disruptions, interruptions, setbacks – and whilst these issues can be ascribed to circumstances outside of most people’s control, teams can work hard to control (and develop) their reactions to them. Do they give up, or find a new path?

In our work at TMS Development International, we have consistently found that teams with high levels of resilience are able to quickly deploy various strategies to reinforce their work when things go awry. Here are three of them:

1) Build strategies to find pathways around obstacles

A defining feature of resilient teams is that they can quickly build pathways around obstacles when when they appear. What happens when the clear, obvious path disappears after an unexpected setback occurs? Resilient teams know that it’s not always possible to anticipate these obstacles, and use creative problem solving techniques to build multiple pathways around, over, or straight through them.

2) Recognise that resilience is not (just) about enduring optimism

Optimism (a psychological resource that gives us the expectancy that our endeavours will succeed) can be a simultaneously powerful and dangerous trait. Teams with high levels of optimism will demonstrate a number of qualities that will help enthuse others into believing that the future is an attractive place, and that no matter how badly things have gone – things will turn out for the better.

Consider the following two teams:

Team A Team B
Demonstrate unwavering self-belief Never taken on opportunities that haven’t been fully scenario planned
Exude high levels of confidence Carefully review and reflect on the significance of events
Choose to always focus on the best case scenario Work hard to always be mindful of the realities of the situation

Which team is the most resilient? Is it Team A, complete with bags of confidence and optimism, or is it careful, considered Team B? What about if both teams were senior government officials?

As accessible a term as optimism is, it is still something that may need to be defined within the context of your particular organisation (perhaps even the context of each specific team).

3) Initiate opportunities for collaboration

I’m a recent convert to the ‘Getting Things Done’ method advocated by David Allen, who proclaims that:

“You can do anything. But not everything.”

It’s a great motto in general, but a reminder that every problem collaborated-on is an opportunity to build team resilience. Supporting others in reaching a long-term goal is a key strategy to help underpin the resilience of people, teams and organisations. To help them when they occassionally stumble- to keep calm, rebuild, and carry on.

Mark Gilroy, Director, TMS Development International Ltd.


TMS Development International Ltd are distributors for a unique set of profiling tools known as Margerison-McCann Team Management Systems (TMS). Used by over 2 million people worldwide, the TMS suite of psychometric development tools offer an integrated perspective on personal, team and organisational performance. The Opportunity Orientation Profile is just one of a number of tools that can be used to assist with building resilience – visit http://www.tmsdi.com to learn more – or better still come and see them at CIPD NAP!!

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