How Project Leaders Can Build Resilient Teams

Resilient teams face challenges head-on, but teams don’t become resilient overnight. Here are three ways project leaders can build resilient teams.

Organizations strive to build great teams.  Teams that are most successful — and deliver value through their projects as a result — can stay on track amid major obstacles or setbacks and stay focused while experiencing typical work stressors. The good news is that resilience is a learnable skill.

In a recent Projectified® episode, How to Build Resilient Teams, professionals shared the steps project managers can take to build resilience into team culture.

Empathy in project teams is key.

Project managers looking to build resilience need to be confident in their team’s abilities. Part of that includes being empathetic to where members are as well as ensuring team members are empathetic to one another. Ray Jones, a program manager at SMX Technology in San Antonio, Texas, USA, believes empathy plays a big role in team resilience.

“Empathy is key to this,” he explains. "For me, there’s a mindset that really makes a difference here. Someone gave it to me, but it’s the idea of ‘brave space’ instead of ‘safe space.’ Because the reality is, if we go back to this idea of adversity and the problems that are already in the room, even in the best environments, we have adversity. What that means for me is shifting into a different frame of mind [of learning]. Ultimately, this boils down to trust, empathy, connection.”

Identify must-have skills.

Resilient people are confident, flexible and have strong communication and problem-solving skills, which are some of the top power skills according to our latest Pulse of the Profession® research. Carlos Augusto Fernandes Filho, senior director for commercial aviation programs at Embraer in São José dos Campos, Brazil, seeks out these skills during the hiring process.

“It’s one of the aspects when you’re hiring people and putting people on the team. Personally, I like people who have collaborative skills because I think that builds adaptation, which leads also to resilience. I like people [who are] emotionally strong. They don’t fall back whenever there’s a loss. They adapt and they come back stronger. So those are some of the skills I look for.”

Jones added that it’s also important that team members understand their strengths and weaknesses and learn to tap into those strengths to drive project success.

“You need diversity of skills, of perspectives and that’s what makes us resilient. So, if PowerPoint is my strength, it’s going to take me five minutes to go and do something in PowerPoint. But if Excel is my weakness, it’s going to take me an hour to get the same thing done. And so, our time gets eaten up by that. But resilient teams begin to talk about those things and bring that stuff out into the open,” he said.

Work in core teams.

On the operational side of resilience, project leaders can build or improve resilience through processes. For Filho, core teams are the answer.

“One of the things that builds resilience and that makes things happen is when you build a core team. We work here in a core team — in a matrix organization where you have multidisciplinary people,” said Filho.

This makes everyone aware of the goals and exactly why the team wants to reach them.

“When that happens, you build resilience. When you divide into departments and split too much... then you lose a lot of efficiency. If you lose efficiency too much, people sometimes will just say: ‘Okay, I give up because I can’t run through this stone that is in front of me.’ I think that’s one of the keys in terms of structuring a company and processes. And the best reward is creating these — independently of the organization — multidisciplinary teams with people focused on the same objective and having all the information collectively,” concluded Filho.

To hear more from these project professionals and learn more about what it takes to build resilient teams, listen to How to Build Resilient Teams.


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