Employee engagement

How to Foster Resilience as a Team Leader

David Brown
April 19, 2023
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As a business leader, you want to be ready to meet challenges as they arise and weather difficult times. But who could have predicted—let alone prepare for—the global events unfolding in recent years?

The pandemic and its economic reverberations reveal the limitations of even the best-laid plans. Forecasting is still important, but there’s simply no way you can ever fully gauge what lies ahead.

Instead, by building resilient companies and teams, you can help create an organization capable of adapting and thriving in the face of continuing change. Read on to find out why resilience is so important and how you can best support members of your team in developing it.    

Why does resilience matter?

When employees are resilient, they’re able to withstand and recover from challenging circumstances. They’re also more likely to be engaged in their efforts, which translates into greater productivity and a far happier workplace.

In short, engaged employees—those with a psychological commitment to a team, organization, and/or role—are a powerful engine for growth and a vital competitive advantage.

And when they aren’t engaged? It isn’t just costly in terms of organizational morale. Each year, companies spend trillions covering the costs of lost productivity and employee turnover.


Learn more about the connection between employee engagement and resilience:




What does resilience look like at work?

When it comes to resilience at work, you probably know it when you see it. But you may not be seeing it as much as you’d like. A recent research study by MIT Sloan Management Review categorized just 14% of participating workers as fully engaged and only 15% as highly resilient.

How can you, as a leader, encourage and nurture characteristics that are so vital for success but also so seemingly rare? Let’s start by exploring several key aspects of resilience and engagement at work: safety, trust, purpose, and progress.


1. Safety

An underlying sense of psychological safety is the critical foundation for resiliency and engagement on teams in the workplace. If employees don’t feel comfortable speaking up or taking risks because they fear negative consequences, they won’t sound the alarm when something is going wrong and they’re far less likely to develop innovative solutions.

When employees feel safe within a team, however, they feel free to:

  • Proactively bring up issues before they become larger problems.
  • Take smart risks to address challenges.
  • Learn from failure and continue moving forward.

2. Trust

The numbers are in: employees who completely trust their team leaders are 14 times more likely to be fully engaged in their work. And when they completely trust their colleagues, team leader, and senior leaders, they’re 42 times more likely to be highly resilient.

It makes sense, after all. If employees aren’t spending time and energy worrying about the direction their team is going or their place within it, they’re free to focus on the work at hand. And it’s far easier to endure challenging times and bounce back when they believe they can count on support from leadership.


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3. Purpose

It’s easy to understand why a sense of purpose is so essential in the workplace. Decades of research suggest that people have an inherent desire for significance and meaning in their work. And when they do believe that their efforts matter, they’re four times more likely to be engaged, motivated, and fulfilled.

Research also shows that, although most leaders understand just how important purpose is as a motivating factor, far fewer are actually fostering it on their teams. In a recent survey, 79% of participating leaders agreed that connecting people with an inspiring purpose is critical for success, but only 27% actively address it. 


4. Progress

A sense of progress might look slightly different for each member of your team, but it’s crucial. For one person, progress may mean advancing on a career path; for another, it may be developing new skills or facing a new set of challenges.

One thing is clear: employees feeling stuck in their roles aren’t engaged or resilient. Promotions are the most visible indicator of progress and they’re important in many environments. But opportunities for learning and development—including the chance to take on new projects or assignments—can also be key in fostering a sense of progress and growth within an organization.


Find out more about why safety, trust, purpose, and progress are so crucial in the workplace:


How can you foster resilience as a leader?

The good news? Resilience isn’t a trait that some people are born with and others aren’t. As a leader in your organization, you can support your team members in developing this quality over time.

The small things matter . . . a lot

To foster greater resilience on your team, you don’t have to launch a major initiative with quarterly check-ins and KPIs. Cultivating real resilience has more to do with small, meaningful moments: encouraging team members to take time off, letting them know that support is readily available, or recognizing hard work and adaptability, for example. 

Over time, these moments can help build a strong foundation of resilience, both within individual employees and your larger team. Think of it as putting deposits into a bank account for the future—when unforeseen challenges arise, you can draw on your team’s balance to help weather the storm.


Ensure diverse viewpoints and safety

When your team operates from a broader knowledge base, you can view problems from more angles and tap into a wider range of ideas to solve them, boosting overall adaptability and resilience.  

This means not only ensuring that your teams include employees offering diverse experiences and viewpoints—it also requires you to create the psychological safety necessary for all team members to fully participate and contribute. 




Workplace flexibility goes a long way

When a team has rigid policies dictating when and where employees need to be working, morale tends to suffer. Conversely, when a leader allows for greater autonomy, flexible hours, and remote work — trusting team members to get work done when and where they need to — employees are typically more empowered, energized, and ready to tackle whatever comes their way.  


Start where you are

If you’re not sure where to begin in fostering greater resilience, start by assessing your team:

  • Do team members regularly voice concerns and raise potential issues?
  • Are they comfortable taking measured risks when necessary?
  • Are they encouraged to learn from their mistakes and continue moving forward?
  • Do they know why their work matters in a larger organizational context?
  • Do they have opportunities for learning, development, and career advancement?
  • Can they count on you for support, encouragement, and recognition?
  • Do team discussions typically include a range of viewpoints and ideas?
  • Do team members have autonomy and flexibility in the way they work (flexible hours and remote or hybrid work options)?  

It may also be helpful to survey team members as part of your assessment to better understand ways for your group to evolve. For example, if learning and growth opportunities are important, find out what type of opportunities matter most. Classes? New projects? Assignments in different areas of your organization?




Drive greater employee engagement with Bonusly

No matter where you are on the path to a more resilient team, Bonusly can help. Our 360-degree platform makes it fun and easy for employees to recognize and award small bonuses to each other, adding up to meaningful rewards. And when you create a culture of recognition and rewards, you create a more engaged organization.  

Find out how Bonusly can boost your team’s engagement

Learn more about fostering resilience within your organization by downloading our complete guide today. 👇


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