Key Elements of High Performing, Resilient Teams

Strong team

by Jen Arnold, MS, RD/LDN

What does it mean to be resilient? When I ask this question in my corporate trainings I hear – bounce back, able to overcome adversity, manage change, etc. One definition of resilience is the ability for something to return to its original shape after it’s been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent etc. (Merriam Webster)


In my experience, resilience can be just that, an ability to return to the original shape. More often, I find resilient people have the ability to GROW from the stretch, press and pull because of their resilient habits.

If you think about a challenge you’ve been through, either positive (new job, marriage, birth of a child) or negative (loss of a job, death, serious illness) often we find that we return stronger, with more capacity, with wisdom and experience to face the next challenge.

So, how does individual resilience translate to being on a team? There are a lot of clichés around TEAM – there is no “I” in team, the fist is stronger than a pointed finger, we vs. me, etc. But really, what does it mean to be part of a team?

Shared vision and mission, healthy relationships and vested members are the central characteristics of a resilient team. And team is not just about your defined team; it’s about your bigger team, other groups in your organization and strategic partners outside the organization. It’s about culture, workload, work life synergy, health and happiness.

I’ve found that the six key elements to having a resilient team are:

Shared mission and vision. The compelling why of any task, menial or great, is the greatest driver of engagement for a team. Do you align with the company mission and have a mission and vision for your team to drive and compel performance when the going gets tough?

Healthy Relationships. Relationships within the team are obviously very important. Beyond that, what do the relationships look like with your partners in the organization, with key players and strategic partners outside the organization, with your customers?

Leveraging strengths. Is everyone on the team aware of each other’s strengths and areas for improvement? Do you leverage each other’s strengths and help to develop each other by sharing best practices, successes, what might have worked better or being willing to ASK FOR HELP?

Empowerment. Is your team vested in the outcomes? It’s not a manager’s job to protect their team from stress and pressure, but to stretch and develop the team. Team members who feel entrusted to make decisions and share in strategic planning will be much more likely to bring their best energy and engagement to any task. Are your team members held as creative and capable, able to make their own decisions?

Responsibility and Accountability. When things aren’t going well the conversation is about what can we do better to facilitate a different outcome, repair any damage, drive our business forward. How have we strayed from our mission and what course corrections can we make to align our best team again? Resilient teams find the answers to these questions and move forward having had an opportunity to grow and become a better version of the team.
What do your team meetings look like? Is there a lot of finger pointing and blame or are your meetings solutions focused, acknowledging the blocks but going beyond to solutions? Do the side conversations revolve around who has the most negative example or is putting up with the most, working the longest?

Healthy team habits. Do you support and encourage recovery? Recovery is where creativity resides and is critical not just during PTO but every day, throughout the day. Do you have self-awareness when you are feeling strained and overwhelmed and are you comfortable soliciting help from your team? Are you aware when others in your team are feeling strained and overwhelmed? Do you support and offer help?

In summary, resilient teams:

• Align with the company mission and often build a supporting team mission as well.
• Foster healthy relationships amongst their team and with their strategic partners within and beyond their organization.
• Leverage each other’s strengths.
• Hold themselves responsible for the outcomes.
• Ask what they can do to better facilitate a different outcome when things aren’t going well.
• Support and encourage recovery.

We know resilience is key to personal well-being and it’s also key to team and organizational performance and success. Constant change, challenge, raising the bar, doing more with less, all require resilience personally, within the team and throughout the organization.

The great news about resilience is that it can be developed and improved. Great teams drive healthy high performance by knowing how to build team resilience through shared vision and mission, productive energizing relationships, leveraging the strengths of each team member and holding themselves responsible and accountable.

About the author
Jen Arnold advises employers on how to build a culture of wellness that enhances the health of their employees. She has over 11 years of experience in the worksite wellness field and is a Registered Dietitian by training. Jen lives in Raleigh, NC USA with her husband, son and dog.