Jobs and the Future of Work

5 ways to create team resilience in the era of hybrid work 

Here are five high-return practices that can create greater team resilience despite a hybrid work environment.

Here are five high-return practices that can create greater team resilience despite a hybrid work environment. Image: UNSPLASH/Jenny Überberg

Keith E. Ferrazzi
Founder and Chairman, Ferrazzi Greenlight
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  • In a hybrid work world, it is more difficult for organizations to create a positive work culture and for teams to stay resilient as challenges arise.
  • The success, energy and resilience of a team should be seen as a collective responsibility that everyone works towards.
  • Here are five high-return practices that can create greater team resilience despite a hybrid work environment.

At a time when the pressure for teams to be resilient is more urgent than ever as organizations face an unprecedented series of challenges, research shows that the answer for leaders may be to give up some of the responsibility for team resilience to the team itself.

Have you read?

Building team resilience: A collective responsibility

In the hybrid work world, high-performing teams have committed to building each other’s resilience: a commitment that has been dubbed co-elevation. They work to a new social contract that explicitly acknowledges that leaders can no longer play the traditional caretaker role but rather see the success, energy, and resilience of peers as a collective responsibility of the team.

However, many teams aren't there yet. Our research, based on more than 1,000 team diagnostic assessments, shows that in most teams:

Only 41% of team members believe caring, trusting and supportive relationships exist with other team members.

Only 14% feel they have a collective responsibility to lift each other's energy and mental wellbeing.

5 methods for a strong team and better resilience

Our research has led to the creation of a suite of high-return practices (HRPs) based on high-performing teams. HRPs that boost team resilience in the era of hybrid work include:

1. Serve, Share and Care

Personal trust is built on values and structural trust builds on organizations, positions, and hierarchies. The critical components are openness and empathy with the bridge being vulnerability and sharing. The methodology we use is called Serve, Share, and Care.

Serving is a team agreeing to be committed and to be of service to each other. Leaders must open generosity among the team—being generous to others is the fastest way to accelerate your own success.

Sharing taps into one another's humanity. We work so much better as tribes, a tribe of people that are truly committed to each other. I may not be exactly like you, but if I walk in your shoes through sharing, I can be empathetic. Empathy is what builds that relationship.

The last one is care. What's most important is that you tell your team that caring about each other is really a choice. And it's something that if everybody says that they will grow to care about each other, that means that they will grow to ask questions and be curious.

You can make this method systematic with a practice called Sweet and Sour. Ask everyone before the meeting begins to share something sweet and something sour in their lives. The sweet you share could be something simple, like an achievement by a child or anticipating a friend's visit from out of town. The sour could push for greater vulnerability, like a challenge with a spouse or child.

2. Asynchronous work improves team resilience

Resilient teams know that collaboration doesn’t mean meetings. An April 2021 survey of 1,000 full-time remote workers found that 69% of respondents said their meetings had increased since the pandemic started, and 56% said schedule overload was damaging their job performance. By one estimate, up to $283 billion is lost annually from unproductive meetings.

Resilient teams understand that effective collaboration can start asynchronously. Our data reveals that asynchronous collaboration can reduce meetings by up to 30%. We’ve also found that asynchronous collaboration can lead to better decision-making, as it allows people more time and space to think about their contributions.

Asynchronous work allows more people to contribute, as compared to face-to-face meetings, in which it’s easier for a few people to dominate a conversation. One powerful asynchronous practice is the decision-board. Using a collaborative online tool, ask team members to answer these questions on their own time:

  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • What bold solutions are we considering?
  • Where will progress get stalled?
  • Who should be invited into this discussion?

The team’s answers to these questions can then be circulated more widely to encourage challenge and debate among collaborators and stakeholders.

This collaborative approach is more inclusive than a in-person meeting. More insights, ideas, and constructive comments are bound to emerge from a week of three or four dozen people deeply engaged in reading each others' ideas and contributing their own thoughts than from the handful of people who might have spoken up in the course of a 50-minute meeting.

Teams are often surprised by the level of candor found in the decision-board process as compared to a synchronous meeting format. Sitting in meeting after meeting and not feeling heard is a sure-fire drain on team resilience. What most people think of as the primary cause of fatigue is often missed: how the way we work can be one of the greatest contributors to mental stress and emotional exhaustion.

3. Independent observers and bulletproofing

To help team members embrace frank assessments of their work, resilient leaders invite outside experts to offer an objective perspective on issues within the team.

One way of doing this is a HRP called bulletproofing. Most teams in the hybrid work environment coexist and only collaborate when they need to get something from one another and slip back into co-existence. In response, bulletproofing makes the team sit up and listen intently because they would all have to break into smaller groups to challenge and point out risks, offer innovations, offer help.

Bulletproofing is when one team member presents a business strategy to the team for feedback, constructive criticism and support. In a virtual world, it is simple and easy to do this. At the push of a button, teams can be sent into groups of three for 5-8 minutes in which they write down feedback.

4. Candor breaks

Candor breaks are the best way to discover what is being held back. Pause the meeting during brainstorming sessions to ask the team, "What's not being said?" Ask for a candor break, then go into breakout rooms to ask that same question. Breakout rooms are one of the most powerful tools of video call and conference platforms. Open a collaborative document in each breakout room, then share what was written down with the whole group when you meet with the whole group again.

5. Energy checks

At the beginning of every meeting, ask everyone to state their energy levels on a scale of low to high using a scala of one to five. It’s best for the leader to start and to open up with vulnerability. This simple and fast exercise will quickly determine whether there is someone who needs attention or is outside their normal range of fatigue and frustration. Once the team is aware of issues, they can follow up after the meeting with support.

Ultimately, team resilience is like a battery. It needs to be restored and recharged regularly. Teams that put in place measures to do that will find that they are better equipped and – more importantly – willing to undertake any challenge.

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